Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs H.B. 1034 on March 21, a law making two-person freight crews required on the state’s rails.
On March 21, 2019, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation into law that requires that all freight trains in the state are operated by a crew of at least two individuals.
The signing of H.B. 1034 caps a massive effort by SMART Transportation Division members that spanned years in the face of carrier opposition.
“It was a long haul and took a lot of time and energy on the part of many, many people,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said. “Our concerted efforts did pay off, and it will ensure that the state’s railways stay safe with two crew members in each freight train’s cab.”
Smith and the Colorado State Legislative Board had an earlier two-person crew bill die in the state Senate in 2016, but tenaciously renewed their efforts early this year by gathering a broad group of supporters that included members from the six TD locals in the state, retirees, the Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado Professional Firefighters, Conservation Colorado and American Federation of Teachers.
H.B. 1034 was first introduced by state Reps. Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar on Jan. 4, passed committee and was initially passed, 39-23, on Feb. 5 by the full House. State Sen. Jessie Danielson was the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, where it passed, 19-15, on Feb. 25 after amendment. The House passed the amended bill again March 4 by an identical 39-23 vote, putting the bill on Polis’ desk.
“Without these legislators’ understanding of the importance of this issue to the safety of our state’s railways, this would not have been possible,” Smith said.
Also helping the cause was strong public recognition by Colorado residents and legislators that train crew size is a safety-oriented issue.
On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey that showed strong support among Coloradans for a law requiring two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – Jan. 5, asked 550 random Colorado residents older than 18, using both cell phones and landlines, about issues centered around railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that, given the chance, they would vote in favor of a two-person crew law.
A website (www.corailsafe.org) established by the state legislative board and a coalition of TD members and members of other unions also assisted in spreading understanding about the importance of the two-person legislation in Colorado, which joins Arizona, California, West Virginia and Wisconsin as states that have legislation requiring two people to operate freight trains.
“I am very pleased that Colorado has adopted this sensible requirement,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch said. ”This is a matter of public safety, plain and simple. Freight railroad operations are complex and often entail the transport of highly hazardous materials; two crew members are vital to ensuring that these trains are operated safely and that our communities are secure.”
Pursuant to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 211.45, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Ronald L. Batory has determined that the extreme flooding currently occurring throughout the Midwest United States constitutes an “emergency event” as related to railroad operations.
In making this determination, the Administrator notes that the National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for areas throughout the Midwest and documented historic flooding throughout the region with rivers rising to historic levels in over 40 locations, causing power outages and breached dams and levees. The large amounts of snow and ice resulting from the region’s recent winter weather have melted and swelled rivers, creeks and other inland bodies of water throughout the region.
The Administrator also notes that a multitude of local governments have declared emergencies related to the flooding. Therefore, the Administrator has activated the Emergency Relief Docket (FRA-2019-0001) as of March 19, 2019 and the emergency relief provisions of 49 CFR § 211.45 are in effect.
To better understand and evaluate the use of certain technologies implemented by carriers, SMART Transportation Division is seeking information regarding the operation of the technologies such as Positive Train Control, Trip Optimizer/Leader and others.
In order for our organization to formulate a plan to protect members and the general public and to ensure the safety of the nation’s infrastructure, we are asking members to provide information when incidents or events occur that involve these technologies.
“By reporting these events, we can track these instances and find any trends that may be occurring with these technologies,” said Jared Cassity, alternate director — East for the SMART TD National Safety Team and Kentucky’s state legislative director.
Reports submitted through this form go to union safety leadership for collection. These reports are not a substitute for filling out a report to a carrier or to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced March 18 that the 31 State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs in 30 states have been certified in advance of the April 15, 2019, safety deadline.
“Safety is the department’s top priority, and we are pleased that all states have met certification requirements and are providing more rigorous state safety oversight of federally funded rail transit systems,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
Changes in federal public transportation law required states to strengthen the oversight of rail transit systems. The SSO Final Rule included a three-year compliance deadline and applied to federally funded rail fixed guideway public transportation systems such as heavy rail, light rail, monorail and streetcar systems.
“The hard work of state agencies and our shared commitment to improving the safety of our nation’s rail transit systems has been a driving force to establish stronger state safety oversight,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams.
To assist states in meeting the enhanced safety provisions, federal law authorized a formula grant program. Since 2013, FTA has provided approximately $136.1 million to eligible states to develop and implement a SSO Program compliant with federal requirements.
To achieve FTA certification, a SSO program had to meet several federal statutory requirements, including establishing a SSO agency that is financially and legally independent from the rail transit agencies it oversees. In addition, a state had to ensure that its SSO agency adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has investigatory authority, and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within the state’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, SSO agency personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities had to be appropriately trained.
If a state had failed to meet the deadline, FTA would have been prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state until certification was achieved.
The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has announced its schedule of pre-retirement seminars for March – June 2019. The RRB hosts these seminars for rail employees and spouses who are within five years of retirement.
The board recently combined their traditional informational conference program with their pre-retirement seminars to ensure their outreach efforts fulfills current needs. Henceforth, these seminars are open for those nearing retirement, all local union officers, auxiliary members and spouses.
While most of the program focuses on various aspects of Railroad Retirement benefits, each seminar closes with a brief presentation on railroad unemployment and sickness benefits to help prepare union officers for sharing reliable information with their members.
To RSVP for one of the seminars, visit rrb.gov/prs and select your local seminar from the scheduled list, enter your information and hit submit. To RSVP on paper, use the PDF registration form posted at the bottom of the pre-retirement seminar webpage and print it and complete. Then mail or fax your completed form to your local field office. Contact information for each office hosting a seminar can be found by clicking here. Online registration will be available approximately 60 days before the date of each seminar. Registration will close for any seminar that reaches capacity.
Unless otherwise noted, seminars begin at 8:30 a.m. and are held over the course of four hours. Doors open 30 minutes prior to start time. Security screening will be required for seminars hosted inside any federal buildings and photo ID will be required. No weapons are permitted in federal buildings. Attendees are encouraged to bring original records (or certified copies) of documents required in order to file a Railroad Retirement application (such as proof of age, marriage or military service) along with an additional copy of each item to leave with field service staff. Please let the RRB know if you have signed up for a seminar and are unable to attend.
Schedule March – June 2019:
March 22: George H. Fallon Federal Building. 31 Hopkins Plaza,Room G-33 (ground level), Baltimore, Md.*
March 22: West Covina Library, 1601 West Covina Parkway, West Covina, Calif.* (9:00 a.m. start time)
March 29: Birmingham/Jefferson Convention Complex, 2100 Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard North, East Meeting Rooms D/E, Birmingham, Ala.*
March 29: Maidu Community Center, 1550 Maidu Drive,Roseville, Calif.
April 5: Country Inn & Suites, 4500 Circle 75 Parkway, Atlanta, Ga.
April 5: Hilton Garden Inn (Richmond Airport), 441 International Center Drive, Sandston, Va.
April 12: Ronald V Dellums Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street – North Tower, 5th Floor (Room H), Oakland, Calif.*
April 12: Drury Inn & Suites,St Louis Forest Park,2111 Sulphur Avenue,St. Louis, Mo.
April 26: Holiday Inn Plainview – Long Island, 215 Sunnyside Boulevard, Plainview, N.Y.
April 26: Patrick V McNamara Federal Building,477 Michigan Avenue,Suite 1180, Detroit,Mich.*
May 3: Hilton Garden Inn, 2465 Grant Avenue,Billings, Mont.
May 3: Richard Bolling Federal Building, 601 East 12th Street, Room G-41 (Dogwood Conference Room), Kansas City, Mo.
May 10: Holiday Inn Denver Lakewood, 7390 West Hampden Avenue,Lakewood, Colo.
May 17: Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, 12515 Corporate Drive,Parma, Ohio
May 17: Jacob K Javits Federal Building,26 Federal Plaza,6th Floor Conference Room, New York, N.Y.*
June 7: Hilton Garden Inn Portland Airport, 12048 NE Airport Way, Portland,Ore.
June 7:La Quinta Inn & Suites Indianapolis S, 5120 Victory Dr., Indianapolis,Ind.
June 14: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 West Park Hwy, Ashland,Neb.*
June 14: Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential,707 Interstate 30, Little Rock,Ark.
June 21: Post Office Federal Bldg, 657 Second Ave. N Room 319, Fargo, N.D.
June 21: Fritz G. Lanham Federal Bldg, 819 Taylor St., Room 4Al4H,Fort Worth,Texas
June 28: Holiday Inn Huntington-Barboursville,3551 Rt. 60 East, Barboursville,W.Va.
June 28: Tinley Park Convention Center,18451 Convention Center Drive, Tinley Park, Ill.
There is a parking fee required for seminars marked with an *.
In a victory for safety, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) denied a request by Kansas City Southern Railroad (KCSR) to outsource brake inspections to Mexico, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) reports.
“In its decision, the FRA correctly told KCSR that their request – which TTD and our rail unions strongly opposed – was ‘not in the public interest or consistent with railroad safety.’ We could not agree more,” said TTD President Larry I. Willis.
In 2008, the FRA granted KCSR conditional regulatory relief of 49 C.F.R. § 232.205 (a)(1) and 49 C.F.R. Part 215. In lieu of conducting the required inspections at the International Bridge interchange, the FRA allowed KCSR to move freight cars received in interchange from KCSR’s Mexican operations across the U.S./Mexico border to KCSR’s yard in Laredo without performing a full Class I brake test at the border. One of the conditions set by the FRA was that KCSR must perform Class III brake tests (set and release) at the International Bridge interchange. In their petition to the FRA, dated May 31, 2018, KCSR requested that the Class III brake tests be performed at their Mexican Nuevo Laredo and Sanchez Yards instead of at the interchange.
In their request, KCSR maintained that it would be safer to perform the tests at the Mexican yards due to vandalism while the trains are stopped and blocked Mexican crossings, however, KCSR offered no specific evidence demonstrating any safety or security risks of performing the Class III tests at the interchange.
“FRA cannot approve KCSR’s request to move the test to its affiliate KCSM’s (Kansas City Southern de México Railway) yards 9 miles across the border within Mexico. …The Board is denying KCSR’s May 31, 2018, request to modify the existing relief in this docket because KCSR has not demonstrated that a modification is in the public interest or consistent with railroad safety,” the FRA’s Robert C. Lauby, associate administrator for railroad safety, said in his response letter to KCSR, dated March 8, 2019.
“The FRA’s decision is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough,” Willis said. “Last year, the FRA granted KCSR permission to operate trains with crews from Mexico to Laredo, nine miles across the border. This decision was made without input from the public or any guarantee U.S. safety standards are being met.”
SMART TD and BLET sent a joint letter to U.S. DOT opposing the decision to allow KCSR to operate Mexican train crews within the United States.
The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) on March 11 announced the railroad industry issues that the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, will prioritize in the coming months.
Of the highest importance, the policy statement identified continuing the progression of safety measures, including national legislation.
“More can and must be done to further improve safety, minimize risk on railroads, and ensure frontline workers and the communities they operate in are fully protected,” the TTD said in its policy statement. “By reauthorizing the now-expired Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), closing perilous loopholes in existing regulations, and advancing common sense safety regulations that prioritize a vibrant and healthy rail workforce, Congress and the administration have an opportunity and obligation to ensure that the future of rail is safer than ever before.”
The policy statement also identified five key points of focus:
Addressing Fatigue with Common Sense Solutions
Single Crew Member Trains are Unsafe
Protecting Rail Workers from Assault
Ensure Cross Border Safety and Security
Working Together for a Safe and Risk Free Rail Industry
“Rail workers cannot be expected to do more with a reduced workforce, fewer resources, and less sleep while simultaneously improving safety and minimizing risks,” the TTD concluded. “Rail labor will work vigorously with Congress to ensure adequate safety measures are implemented through the reauthorization process and will challenge any attempts that are made at the expense of safety, workers’ rights and their jobs.”
The policy statement was released in conjunction with the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.
The Washington State Legislative Board had some good news to report this week about its effort to get two-person crew legislation passed in the state.
“For six consecutive years, we have doggedly pursued passage of this critical public safety bill. Today, for the first time we advanced train crew size legislation to the floor of the full House for a vote,” Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn reported. “House Speaker Frank Chopp personally presided over the chamber for this historic vote.”
The bill, H.B. 1841, passed, 72-24 (with two excused absent members), on March 13, marking the first time the Washington House of Representatives has OK’d final passage of train crew size legislation, Krohn said.
The passage marks the halfway point of efforts to get the legislation passed in Washington state. It next needs passage in the state’s Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.
“This year, the carriers have waged the most aggressive campaign ever against all of our rail safety bills,” Krohn said. “We can expect they will turn the heat up even higher and expend even greater resources in opposition as the bill is considered by the state Senate.
“It will continue to require dogged persistence along with considerable efforts on our part to overcome the organized business coalition the railroad carriers have strung together in their quest to block us from moving crewing legislation across the finish line into state law.”
Among other priorities, the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, is calling for operators to remain on board automated vehicles to ensure safety, respond in emergencies and provide backup in case of technological failure, and for Congress to establish a fund that would supplement wages, health care costs and training or retraining programs of workers affected by automation.
“Driverless technology is coming at a time when the economy is balanced against working people, wages are stagnating, and workers are finding it harder and harder to get by. Not only do transit workers stand to see their jobs changed dramatically or automated away, but serious concerns about safety remain. So far, elected leaders do not seem to be taking these threats seriously,” said TTD President Larry I. Willis. “We cannot allow safety to be compromised or the good jobs in this sector to be steamrolled just so tech companies and Wall Street investors can have their way.”
The eight key policies are as follows:
Transit agencies must give workers advance notice before deploying automated vehicles (AVs).
The collective bargaining rights of transit workers must be preserved. Additionally, transit agencies must negotiate the use of automated technologies with their unions.
Automated transit vehicles must adhere to strict federal safety standards.
Drivers must remain onboard on automated vehicles, regardless of how far technology develops, to ensure safety, respond in emergencies and provide backup in case of technological failure.
Congress should establish a transportation workforce fund to help cover wages, health care costs, unemployment benefits and training or retraining programs for workers affected by driverless technology. This fund will be paid for through a mileage-based user fee of highly or fully automated transit vehicles.
Transit agencies wishing to use AVs must examine the impact they will have on transit workers and issue a report.
The U.S. Departments of Labor and Transportation should also examine the impacts automation has on transit ridership, capacity and employment. This includes examining the direct and indirect impacts automated ride-sharing or ride-hailing services have on transit services.
Before transportation agencies implement automated technology, they must issue a workforce training plan.
These policies on AVs and driverless technology were laid out at the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.
Every three years, the Railroad Retirement Board’s chief actuary conducts a study of the longevity of its annuitants, as part of a valuation of future revenues and benefit payments. The following questions and answers summarize the results of the most recent longevity study.
1. What were the study’s findings on the life expectancy of retired male railroaders?
The most recent data reflected a continued improvement in longevity. Using data through 2016, the study indicated that, on the average, a male railroader retiring at age 60 can be expected to live another 22.5 years, or 270 months. Studies done three, six and nine years ago indicated life expectancies of 22.4, 21.9 and 21.3 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary. The study also indicated that a male railroader retiring at age 62 can be expected to live another 20.8 years (approximately 250 months), while the previous three studies indicated life expectancies of 20.7, 20.1 and 19.6 years, respectively. A male railroader retiring at age 65 can be expected to live another 18.3 years (approximately 220 months). The previous studies indicated life expectancies of 18.2, 17.7 and 17.1 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary.
2. How did these life expectancy figures compare to those of disabled annuitants?
As would be expected, disabled annuitants have a shorter average life expectancy than those who retire based on age. At age 60, a disabled railroader has an average life expectancy of 18 years, or 4.5 years less than a nondisabled male annuitant of the same age. Studies done three, six and nine years ago indicated life expectancies of 17.7, 17.2 and 16.4 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary. Nonetheless, the difference in life expectancy at age 60 between disabled annuitants and annuitants who retire based on age has remained relatively stable, ranging between 4.5 and 4.9 years.
3. Are women still living longer than men?
In general, women still live longer than men. This is shown both in the Railroad Retirement Board’s life expectancy studies of male and female annuitants and by other studies of the general United States population.
For example, at age 60 a retired female railroader is expected on the average to live 25.6 years, 3.1 years longer than a retired male railroader of the same age; and at age 65, a retired female railroader is expected on the average to live 21.1 years, 2.8 years longer than her male counterpart. Spouses and widows age 65 have average life expectancies of 21 years and 19 years, respectively.
4. Can individuals use life expectancy figures to predict how long they will live?
Life expectancy figures are averages for large groups of people. Any particular individual’s lifetime may be much longer or shorter than the life expectancy of his or her age and group.
According to the study, from a group of 1,000 retired male employees at age 65, 933 will live at least 5 years, 822 at least 10 years, 658 at least 15 years and 448 at least 20 years. Of female age annuitants at age 65, 578 will be alive 20 years later.
5. Where can I access the Railroad Retirement Board’s longevity study?
Registration is open for the 2019 SMART Transportation Division regional meeting to take place July 1 to 3 in San Diego, Calif., at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.
Members can expect a full slate of informative workshops and many chances to build camaraderie with your fellow union brothers and sisters over the three-day meeting, which will be the lone regional meeting of the year because of the August SMART Transportation Division and general conventions.
A completed registration form and payment must be received by no later than June 17, 2019, to be considered pre-registered. The price for registration for pre-registered guests is $150 per guest. Registration for children ages 11 and under are complimentary. Registrations received after June 17 will be charged an on-site registration fee of $200. Additional fees apply for tours.
The registration fee covers all workshop materials, a welcome reception, three lunches and one evening meal. Those wishing to attend only the workshops do not need to register or pay the $150 fee.
You may cancel your meeting registration 10 days prior to the first day of the meetings without penalty. Call the Transportation Division at 216-228-9400 or email email@example.com immediately regarding changes or cancellations to your registration.