Archive for the ‘Engineer & Conductor Certification’ Category

FRA grants unions’ request for longer-term extension to file certification petitions

CLEVELAND, Ohio, February 12 — In response to a series of joint petitions by the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on February 11 granted a longer-term waiver, providing a 60-day extension to time limits in which certain petitions for review must be filed with the Operating Crew Review Board (OCRB). Previously, the unions had secured a series of waivers, which date back to April 7, 2020.

Under FRA regulations governing certification of locomotive engineers and conductors, a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification, or to revoke certification, must be filed with the OCRB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision. That 120-day time limit now has been extended by an additional sixty (60) days.

In granting the relief under FRA’s standard, non-emergency authority, the Agency stated, “[d]ue to the ongoing and unpredictable nature of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), FRA finds that extending the requested relief is in the public interest and consistent with railroad safety.” The waiver granting a 60-day extension for all petitions for review will expire February 11, 2022, unless subsequently extended, or three (3) months after the FRA Administrator rescinds the existing Emergency Declaration related to COVID-19, whichever is sooner.

A copy of the FRA waiver extension is available here (PDF).

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Court vacates FRA approval of KCSM engineer certification

WASHINGTON, D.C., (August 28, 2020) — A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has vacated Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approval of the Kansas City Southern Railway (KCSR) certification program under which locomotive engineers employed by a contractor of Kansas City Southern de México (“KCSM”) have been permitted to operate over Texas Mexican Railway (Tex-Mex) tracks in the United States since July 10, 2018. Under the decision, the matter has been remanded to FRA “either to ‘offer a fuller explanation of the agency’s reasoning at the time of the agency action,’ or to ‘deal with the problem afresh by taking new agency action.’”

This ruling followed a challenge by the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (“SMART–TD”) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) to the agency’s actions in approving the certification program.

The court agreed with the unions’ position, holding that FRA “fail[ed] to provide a reasoned explanation for its approval of the materially altered engineer certification program administered by one of the railroads.” The court further held that KCSM was under a statutory and regulatory obligation to have its own engineer certification program, which requirements FRA failed to enforce, finding that:

“By virtue of the Railroad Administration’s passive approval system and the complete absence of any accompanying explanation for the agency’s approval of [KCSR’s] modified engineer certification program, the administrative record is devoid of any explanation or reasoning for the administrative steps taken and legal determinations made by the agency in approving the engineer certification program. Likewise, in searching the administrative record for the rationale by which the agency allowed [KCSR] to certify the engineers of another railroad, despite the former’s apparent lack of control over [KCSM’s] crew members, we come up empty-handed. And in a hunt for the reason that service under a foreign regulatory system was credited to allow an abbreviated certification program, we hear only crickets.

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“… what we confront in this case is a total explanatory void. There is no reason — not one word — in the administrative record for the Railroad Administration’s material and consequential decisionmaking on important matters of railroad safety. Not even [KCSR’s] certification program itself, as submitted to the agency, provides an explanation for the relevant determinations that the Agency presumably reached.”

However, the Court declined to rule on several other objections made by the unions that related to conductor certification, transfer of the air brake testing waiver in place for northbound trains, and inadequacy of hours-of-service recordkeeping, finding that there had been no final agency action so the Court lacked jurisdiction to address these objections. In doing so, the Court acknowledged FRA’s “shadowy and unwritten processes make it difficult for aggrieved parties to navigate the … jurisdictional constraints.”

SMART–TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce applauded the decision.

“We congratulate the court for exposing just how much FRA has become captive to the railroad industry,” the presidents said. “This is a significant victory for Tex-Mex crewmembers, but is just one skirmish in the war to preserve well-paying American jobs. We also thank all the counsel who worked so hard on this case, especially Special Counsel Kathy Krieger for an outstanding job.”

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Facts about the INVEST in America Act’s 2PC provision

To help combat the spread of misinformation concerning the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity has provided the following facts regarding the two-person crew provision in the bill.

The INVEST Act delivers on Two-Person crews

The INVEST Act, as written, requires a certified locomotive engineer and certified conductor on most freight trains. According to the bill, there are instances that a train may be operated with a reduced crew. Exceptions are listed below:

A freight train may be operated with a reduced crew, if:

  • The train operations are within a rail yard, terminal area, or on auxiliary or industry track
  • It does not exceed a maximum speed of 25 mph on territory with an average track grade of less than 2% for any segment of track that is at least two continuous miles
  • The locomotives are performing assistance to a train that has incurred mechanical failure or lacks the power to traverse difficult terrain, including to or from the location where assistance is provided
  • The locomotives are not attached to any equipment (except a caboose) and do not travel further than 30 miles from a rail yard
  • A location where one-person operations were being utilized one year prior to the date of enactment of this bill, only if the DOT Secretary determines that the operation achieves an equivalent level of safety (Note: The Secretary of the DOT is appointed by the President of the United States)

SHORT LINE EXCEPTION

In addition to the above, a train may be operated with a reduced crew, if:

  • The carrier has fewer than 400,000 total employee work hours annually and an annual revenue of less than $20,000,000

A TRAIN MUST BE OPERATED BY A TWO-PERSON CREW (NO EXCEPTION), IF:

  • It is transporting one or more loaded cares carrying material toxic by inhalation
  • It is carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block
  • It has 35 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid throughout its consist
  • It is 7,500 feet in length or longer

The INVEST Act is poised to be the most significant piece of rail-related legislation this generation of railroaders has seen since the passage of the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970.

FRA grants unions’ request for extension to file certification petitions

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 15) — On April 7, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) granted a joint petition filed by the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) to extend time limits in which certain petitions for review must be filed with the Locomotive Engineer Review Board (LERB) and the Operating Crew Review Board (OCRB).

Under FRA regulations governing certification of locomotive engineers, a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification must be filed with the LERB no more than 180 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision, and a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to revoke certification must be filed with the LERB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision. Similarly, under FRA regulations governing certification of conductors, a petition seeking review of a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification, or to revoke certification, must be filed with the OCRB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s denial decision.

SMART-TD and BLET filed their joint petition on March 30. FRA had previously granted, on March 25, an identical extension for railroads to respond to petitions for review filed with the LERB and the OCRB.

Under the terms of the April 7 waiver, FRA granted temporary emergency relief from the 180- and 120-day filing deadlines, so that the deadline for any petition for review that becomes due to be filed during the duration of the waiver is extended 60 days.

A copy of the unions’ joint petition is available here (PDF).

A copy of the FRA waiver is available here (PDF).

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The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Union leaders demand clarification from FRA on waivers

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce sought clarification today from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) after the agency granted 60-day emergency waiver requests to railroads on March 25, ostensibly to maintain their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As you are already aware, SMART Transportation Division, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and other rail labor Organizations take strong exception to certain aspects of FRA’s seemingly absolute and unconditional approval of such requests,” the presidents wrote in a letter to Administrator Ron Batory. “We find the sweeping nature of these approvals alarming, especially in view of the fact that the rules waived are written with the safety of our members, and the general public, in mind.

“Notwithstanding the unfounded nature of some of the carriers’ claims in their applications, our immediate concerns are founded in our firm belief that if the carriers understand and apply FRA’s waiver to be carte blanche invitation to ignore rules, it will have a substantial chilling effect on safety.”

The waivers, granted by Batory and signed by Karl Alexy, associate administrator for railroad safety for FRA, were held for a number of days by the agency, which limited the ability of labor organizations to comment and seek a public hearing.

Meanwhile, an emergency order request sought by SMART-TD and the BLET seeking sanitation of areas frequented by frontline rail workers through the course of performing their “essential” duties remains under consideration on the desks of FRA officials.

The waivers grant the Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as well as other railroad entities the ability to temporarily circumvent established federally mandated requirements for:

  • Track inspection
  • Operational tests and inspections
  • Restrictions on utility employees
  • Locomotive and conductor certifications
  • Territorial qualifications

The reason cited by carriers in their petition was to cope with potential workforce shortages the railroads may experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Petitioners assert that a reduction in availability of employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect railroads’ ability to keep freight trains carrying critical goods and materials necessary for the country’s welfare operating during this emergency, and that compliance with all Federal railroad safety regulations, with the expected workforce shortage, would significantly hinder railroads’ ability to operate,” the FRA said in its response granting the waivers.

But thanks in part to their adoption of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) practices since 2017, the total employee headcount for Class I freight carriers – including administration/management, maintenance and transportation crew, as reported by the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB), has been axed by roughly 14,000 people in 2019 and by 33,000 since 2000.

STB says that in February 2020 that Class Is had 56,767 transportation crew employees, down from a three-year peak of 68,980 in November 2018.

“There is also a concern that the carriers would use the excuse of a ‘downturn in business’ to artificially create a shortage of manpower to exploit the use of the waivers,” Ferguson and Pierce wrote.

Numbers provided to the union show that approximately 15 percent of T&E personnel are furloughed at the time. SMART-TD leader also have knowledge that carriers recently contacted the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) in anticipation of offering voluntary furloughs to employees during the pandemic, which incidentally would make the employee ineligible for RRB unemployment benefits.

Among the most-dangerous aspects of this set of waivers is carriers being permitted to allow employees who are unqualified in the territory and uncertified to operate trains as long as Positive Train Control (PTC) technology is present and engaged.

The federally mandated deadline for full PTC implementation is Jan. 1, 2021, and full interoperability among railroads has not been achieved, yet these waivers make the assumption that PTC functionality is sufficient to allow for unqualified crew members to operate over America’s railroads.

The union has received numerous reports of the technology not working as intended and top FRA leadership has indicated in a conversation that PTC was in a “shakedown” phase.

Information provided by the railroads in December 2019 to FRA reported Class I PTC system interoperability at 48 percent.

The FRA waivers of regulations also allow for:

  • Verbal quick tie-ups
  • Shortened time intervals for required locomotive maintenance and inspections
  • The movement of defective equipment to the “nearest available” repair location
  • 95% operative brakes to be permissible for trains leaving their initial terminal
  • Trains can travel 1,200 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake inspection
  • Extended haul trains can travel 2,000 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake test
  • The four-hour off-air time is extended to 24 hours and 48 hours with FRA permission
  • Transfer test requirements are relaxed
  • The ability to combine two operating trains without additional inspections other than a Class III brake test
  • Relaxation of yard air source testing and calibration requirements and of requirements for single-care air brake tests
  • Relaxation of required testing and calibration of telemetry equipment

“These regulations were written with the public’s safety in mind,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “A number of these waivers are not in the interest of safety and could be creating a recipe for disaster to rail workers and for the public.”

If particular properties do not have a demonstrated reduction of personnel directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, illness or self-quarantine, and these waivers are being employed, members are asked to report it to union leadership immediately.

Read the unions’ letter to FRA.

Read FRA’s letter that grant the waivers to the railroads.

SMART-TD serves Section 6 notice on carriers

On November 20, SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) General Chairpersons served on railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) the SMART-TD’s intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions.

Such notices are required by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act to reopen agreements. With this notice to the NCCC, and the NCCC’s earlier notice, the parties are set to begin the next round of bargaining.

While the national rail contract between the SMART-TD and railroads represented by the NCCC becomes amendable on January 1, 2020, the existing contract will remain in force until it is amended and ratified by SMART-TD members under the craft autonomy provisions of the SMART Constitution’s Article Twenty-One B (21B).

During this round of national contract negotiations with the SMART-TD, the NCCC will be the chief bargaining representative for matters pertaining to rates of pay, rules, and working conditions on behalf of BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads. Other railroads, including Amtrak, negotiate individually with the SMART-TD.

More than 40,000 SMART-TD members are affected by these national contract talks with the NCCC, and the resulting agreements frequently set patterns for other negotiated rail agreements.

SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson will lead the SMART-TD negotiating team. Members of the negotiating team will be selected early next month.

As noted in a press release on November 1, 2019, the SMART-TD will be joining with nine (9) other rail labor organizations who are participating in coordinated bargaining in this round of national negotiations.

Major elements of the SMART-TD’s Section 6 notices include:

  • Complete and permanent elimination of existing service scale (entry rates of pay);
  • A series of general wage increases, effective Jan. 1, 2020, and every six months thereafter;
  • Cost of living adjustments;
  • Shift- and weekend-differential pay;
  • Paid sick leave for all crafts, without censure or discipline;
  • Technology pay for daily required utilization of all in-cab and handheld reporting devices;
  • Additional rest opportunities and ability to miss work for family needs, quality of life, and doctor visits;
  • Additional training pay for all crafts, including compensation for qualification, re-qualification, and familiarization trips;
  • Carriers to give first-employment consideration to qualified conductors furloughed from other railroads;
  • Furloughed employees called back to work will be guaranteed a minimum of 60 days of work and pay;
  • Increased meal allowances;
  • Restrictions on transferring, consolidating, combining or centralizing yardmaster assignments;
  • Establishment of a formula for yardmaster extra boards; and
  • Enhanced benefits under the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan and the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000).

SMART-TD Section 6 notices were developed beginning with recommendations offered by SMART-TD members. A committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, reviewed and fine-tuned those suggestions, which were then approved by the entire Association of General Chairpersons, District 1.

To view the SMART-TD Section 6 notice, click here:
https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/2019+National+Rail+Contract/112019+–+Section+6+Notice.pdf

To view the carriers’ Section 6 notice, click here:
https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/2019+National+Rail+Contract/110119+–+NCCC+Section+6+Notice+-+SMART+TD.pdf

SMART TD, TTD ask nation’s trade representative to protect U.S. rail jobs

A letter co-signed by SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Larry Willis asked the United States’ chief trade representative to re-examine policies that leave American rail workers at a disadvantage.

The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), planned to be a trade pact to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), does not address certain issues covering cross-border traffic between Mexico and the U.S., the union leaders wrote.

Since 1931, Mexican railway companies have had a policy that they only employ Mexican rail workers. This policy has endured through the decades and was “enshrined” through NAFTA in the mid 1990s.

In the summer of 2018, Kansas City Southern began to allow Mexican crews to cross the U.S. border and operate within the country’s borders, drawing strong objections from both SMART TD and the TTD.

“Allowing workers from Mexico to operate in the United States while U.S. workers are prohibited from operating in Mexico is a direct and existential threat to the jobs of thousands of conductors and locomotive engineers represented by SMART TD,” the letter stated.

A reciprocal measure requiring U.S. crews to operate the trains was not included in the USMCA amid objections from the Mexican government, Ferguson and Willis stated.

“Without its inclusion, the agreement fails domestic rail workers and their sector, and further fails to uphold principles of parity between the U.S. and Mexico on the issue of rail service,” they wrote, calling upon Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to fix the disparity.

“SMART TD and TTD strongly agree with the Administration that NAFTA has failed working people and that the impacts of a trade agreement that was not written for their benefit are still being felt,” they stated. “We call on you to not abandon freight rail workers.”

Read the letter in its entirety (PDF).

FRA announces notice of proposed rulemaking revising locomotive engineer regulation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) May 8 announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to update the regulation that governs locomotive engineer qualification and certification to make it consistent with the corresponding regulation for conductors.

“The proposed revisions would modernize locomotive engineer certification regulations to match those for train conductors, and provide regulatory efficiencies and cost savings without compromising safety,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. “The proposal would streamline the engineer certification process, and reduce paperwork burdens for the responsible parties.”

The proposed rule would adopt the conductor certification regulation process established in 2012 by making conforming amendments to the engineer certification regulation, which was first issued in 1991 and last amended in 2000. Consistent with Executive Order 13771, the proposed rule would reduce overall regulatory reporting and cost burdens for railroads and locomotive engineers. Harmonization of the conductor and engineer regulations would also provide greater clarity to locomotive engineers.

The NPRM includes the following five proposed changes to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 240:

  • Clarifies locomotive engineer certification requirements (Part 240) and aligns them with conductor certification requirements (Part 242) to make it easier for railroad certification managers to become familiar with and administer both regulations.
  • Reduces the reporting burden of a person’s former employer to clarify that only certain listed information in the individual’s railroad service record that directly relates to FRA’s requirements in the certification regulation needs to be shared.
  • Defers the requirement for railroads to seek a waiver from annual testing of certified locomotive engineers when individuals take an extended absence from performing service requiring certification.
  • Modernizes the dispute resolution process by reducing the paperwork burdens for both employees and railroads and allowing for web-based dockets.
  • Simplifies the submission process by which qualification and certification programs are modified by allowing electronic submissions.

The proposed revisions for locomotive engineer qualification and certification ensure that certain provisions are consistent, to the extent possible, with those for conductors. FRA is seeking comments on the proposed rule, and will address comments received when preparing a final rule. Comments may be submitted to the docket for the proceeding FRA-2018-0053, and are due by July 8, 2019. Read the full proposed rule here.

FRA chief of safety Bob Lauby retires

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will have some major shoes to fill with the April 13, 2019, retirement of Robert “Bob” Lauby, the agency’s chief safety officer.

Lauby had served in that capacity for FRA since September 2013. He was a frequent presenter at SMART Transportation Division regional meetings and worked to provide regulatory oversight for rail safety in the United States while overseeing the development and enforcement of safety regulations and programs related to the rail industry.

Lauby

“Serving as the associate administrator for Railroad Safety and FRA’s chief safety officer is one of the highlights of my career,” Lauby said. “The job has been both challenging and fulfilling.

“Over the years, we grappled with many important issues and have significantly changed the industry for the better.”

Lauby had a hand in several regulatory safety efforts at FRA such as Positive Train Control, conductor certification, training requirements, drug and alcohol testing for maintenance of way employees, roadway worker protection, passenger equipment standards, system safety and others.

Other safety oversight improvements happened as a result of major accidents. Some of the major ones included crude-oil accidents at Lac Megantic, Ontario, Canada; Mount Carbon, W.Va.; and other locations; commuter train accidents at Spuyten Duyvil and Valhalla, N.Y.; and Amtrak passenger train accidents in Philadelphia and Chester, Pa.; Dupont, Wash.; and Cayce, S.C.

“No matter the challenges swirling around him, Bob had safety in mind,” said National Legislative Director John Risch. “He’s been great to work with and one of the most committed, level-headed professionals in the rail industry.”

Lauby said that he treasured any interaction he could have with members of rail labor as these helped to broaden his perspective about whom he was working to protect.

“I always took time to talk to the SMART TD membership to get their complaints, opinions, and perspectives on the latest industry issues,” Lauby said. “I often left enlightened or with a new perspective.

“Railroad managers are experts on what is supposed to happen. SMART TD members are experts on what actually happens. They always know what works and what does not work.”

In his more-than-40-year career, Lauby’s railroad and transit experience included safety, security, accident investigation, project management, project engineering, manufacturing and vehicle maintenance.

He joined the FRA in August 2009 as staff director of its newly established Passenger Rail Division in the agency’s Office of Safety and was later promoted to deputy associate administrator for regulatory and legislative operations at FRA. One of his responsibilities in that role was to oversee the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).

Prior to his time at FRA, Lauby was director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Railroad Safety, overseeing hundreds of rail accident investigations for NTSB and coordinating with our union’s Transportation Safety Team in many investigations. He was NTSB’s representative on RSAC.

Lauby addressed SMART TD members in a workshop at the 2018 Seattle, Washington, regional meeting.

“At our regional meetings, I would introduce Bob and tell the troops that Bob was the big gun and can handle all the tough questions, which he always did,” Risch said at a party celebrating Lauby’s retirement in late March.

Lauby said he took his multiple presentations at TD regional meetings, including at the Seattle regional meeting last July, seriously — he felt he owed it to the attendees to give them useful information.

“I looked forward to the meetings each year and spent hours preparing my presentation and preparing for the questions I would get at the end – during the Q and A session,” he said. “I wanted the material I presented to be timely and useful to the membership, and I always tried to include the inside scoop – the stuff nobody else would talk about!”

But the benefits from his visits and interactions went both ways, he said, and showing up at the meetings gave him a fresh perspective on the industry.

“I always enjoyed speaking to the SMART TD membership – both at the Regional Meetings and when they were on their jobs,” Lauby said. “Whenever I traveled by train, I tried to spend time with the train crew or ride the head end to find out the issues of the day.

“I learned more about railroading from the working men and women of the railroad industry than from anyone else.”

Lauby’s departure is leaving a vacancy that FRA will have a difficult time filling, Risch said.

“No one will really fill your shoes because there is no one with the knowledge and experience to do that,” he told Lauby at his retirement party. “You committed your working life to rail safety, you have been a good friend of mine and a good friend to railroad workers everywhere.

“We wish you all the best as you enter this next stage of your life.”

Lauby said his career leaves him with a sense of gratitude.

“I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the industry I love, in a role where I felt I could make a difference,” Lauby said. “I will miss the thousands of people I interacted with each year. That includes the FRA employees and railroad industry labor and management … all the folks I dealt with at the various RSAC meetings. People are the most important part of any organization and the railroad industry is no different.”

U.S. Senators call on DOT to investigate NJT

In light of the deadly NJT September 29th transit crash in Hoboken, NJ, that killed one person and injured more than 100, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate subcommittee that oversees passenger rail safety, and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate mass transit subcommittee, submitted a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx , calling for DOT to investigate the long list of safety violations, accidents and apparent systemic failures that have plagued the  NJT in recent years. The NTSB is currently investigation the crash. Read the complete article posted in NJ.com, here.

SMART leads coalition to stop CSX from removing MI track signals

On Friday, October 14, 2016, SMART Union united with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), in a joint statement to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that voiced their collective opposition to a recent CSX petition requesting permission from the FRA to remove approximately 125 signals from a stretch of track in Michigan.

Citing reasons of crew safety and public safety, SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) President, John Previsich and SMART TD Michigan State Legislative Director, Jerry Gibson, worked with SMART and SMART TD’s legislative offices and and leaders from the BLET, BWED and BRS in requesting that the FRA deny CSX’s request.

“Considering the number of residents, homes, schools and churches along this line, and the safety risk involved if these signals are removed, we oppose this request and ask the FRA to deny this wavier,” stated SMART Transportation Division President, John Previsich.

Gibson emphasized safety concerns and also connected the dots between the outcome of the presidential election and future decisions made by the FRA and other president-appointed federal industry boards.

“The SMART TD Michigan State Legislative Board opposition is based on the reason signal systems are put into place: Employee and public safety. As a former qualified engineer and conductor on this line, the territory has a winding path with poor long distance sightlines, making the operable signal system that is currently in place critical to crew and public safety.

“While many may not see the direct correlation between this issue and voting for those candidates endorsed by the SMART TD National Legislative office and State boards, it is a great example. The President of the United States appoints the Director of the Federal Railroad Administration, Surface Transportation Board, Railroad Retirement Board, Department of Labor, and Department of Transportation, to name a few – all of which have the power to determine if these requests are approved or denied,” he stated.

Gibson also added: “If we cast our vote in the wrong direction, the outcome of many issues that directly affect rail labor and their families with be compromised,”

To read the joint labor statement to the FRA, please click here.

 

Now Is the Time

We are one month out from election day. Now is the time to get involved. Visit www.SMARTVote2016.org to sign up or text SMART to 90975 (message and data rates may apply).  Click on image to play the video.

 

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