Archive for the ‘Hours of Service’ Category

The INVEST in America Act and how it protects TD members

A surface transportation reauthorization bill introduced June 4 by chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has a wide-reaching positive impact for members of the SMART Transportation Division.

Mostly mirroring the identically named INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last summer but died in the Republican-held Senate, the 2021 version known as H.R. 3684 is a $547 billion five-year surface transportation bill with a two-person freight crew provision and encompasses other issues important to all TD members.

“Chairman DeFazio, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Donald Payne once again proved that they are receptive to the safety of and the needs of all SMART Transportation Division members,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Every one of our members has a stake in this bill and in the protections and actions this legislation puts forth. We are thankful for the representatives’ work, and we support this effort to move the transportation industry ahead.”

The bill directs federal investments in roads, bridges, transit, and rail, re-imagines national transportation policies and helps put President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan that invests in American workers and communities into motion.

“The benefits of transformative investments in our infrastructure are far-ranging: we can create and sustain good-paying jobs, many of which don’t require a college degree, restore our global competitiveness, tackle climate change head-on, and improve the lives of all Americans through modern infrastructure that emphasizes mobility and access, and spurs our country’s long-term economic growth,” DeFazio said.

Of particular importance to TD members are the portions of the INVEST in America Act that cover bus, transit and freight rail.

“This bill is all-encompassing — seeking redesigns of bus operator compartments so that drivers are more protected, protecting transit workers from assault and looking into school bus safety. The representatives also heard our voices regarding almost every one of the concerns we have about the current state of the railroad industry — crew size, train length, the utility of Positive Train Control and safety investigations — to name a few,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Elections have consequences, and with this legislation, we now have an avenue where many matters that are important to us can be resolved.”

What follows is a recap of some of the provisions within the bill most important to SMART-TD members:

Amtrak

  • The bill triples funding for Amtrak to $32 billion, allowing for enhanced service, ADA upgrades, and investments to renew and support service on the Northeast Corridor and long-distance and state-supported routes.

Bus

  • Creates a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) training center modeled on the successful National Transit Institute, but with a frontline employee mandate to focus on training for new technologies, safety and emergency preparedness.
  • Expands FTA’s safety plan to include a focus on passenger and personnel injuries, assaults, and fatalities; a risk management process to address transit worker assaults; a joint labor/management safety committee empowered to approve the safety plan; and a comprehensive frontline workforce training program on safety and de-escalation.
  • Prevents a transit agency from deploying an automated vehicle that duplicates, eliminates, or reduces the frequency of existing public transportation service or a mobility on demand service. Transit agencies considering transit automated vehicles and mobility on demand service are required to develop a workforce development plan describing how the automated vehicle will affect transit workers. Ensures transit workers are given fair notice if their job is jeopardized by a transit automated vehicle or mobility on demand service.
  • Authorizes FTA research on redesigning bus driver compartments to improve driver visibility, expand driver functionality, and reduce driver assault.
  • Directs the Transportation secretary to review the costs and benefits of requiring lap/shoulder belts in large school buses and to consider requiring seat belts in newly manufactured school buses. Requires newly manufactured school buses to be equipped with automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control systems. Directs the secretary to conduct research and testing on fire prevention and mitigation standards—including firewalls, fire suppression systems, and interior flammability and smoke emissions characteristics—for large school buses and consider issuing updated standards.

Freight rail

  • Requires the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) rescind any special permit or approval for the transport of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail tank car issued before the date of enactment. Also prohibits DOT regulations on the transport of LNG by rail tank car from taking effect until DOT conducts a further safety evaluation. Directs the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to initiate an evaluation of the safety, security, and environmental risks of transporting LNG by rail.
  • Improves rail safety by addressing highway-rail grade crossing needs.
  • Requires a study on the effects of long trains.
  • Requires FRA to increase its roster of rail safety inspectors by 20 percent.
  • Requires FRA to collect data on train length and crew size when an accident occurs.
  • Requires the creation of a standardized FRA safety investigation process.
  • Requires FRA to engage in a public process before granting waivers from, or suspensions of, railroad safety standards and regulations.
  • Creates a federal blocked crossing program to collect data and enforce a 10-minute blocked crossing limit.
  • Has a two-person crew freight train mandate that, like the 2020 bill, has some exemptions for short lines and train length. These are:
    • The train operations are not on a main line.
    • The train 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.

    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.
  • Has a cross-border provision for the southern border of the U.S.
  • Makes yardmaster employees subject to FRA’s hours of service protections.
  • Directs the FRA to take such actions as are necessary to ensure that certain older air brake control valves are phased out on rail cars operating in cold regions of the United States, an issue brought to light by SMART-TD leadership in 2019.
  • Directs the DOT to require railroad carriers to regularly report on failures of positive train control (PTC) systems.
  • Directs the Secretary of Transportation to issue a final rule on fatigue management plans within one year.

Transit

  • Establishes a working group to improve the musculoskeletal health of transit and commercial vehicle drivers by developing stronger ergonomic seating standards in transit and commercial vehicles. Requires the working group to compare design standards for women to those for men.
  • Provides funding for corridor planning and development of high-speed rail projects, reducing traffic congestion and shortening travel times.
  • Requires passenger and commuter railroad carriers to implement response plans and employee training in order to address assaults against both passengers and employees. The section also requires railroads to report annual assault data to FRA.

The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the U.S. House on June 9.

Read a section-by-section summary of the 2021 INVEST in America Act. (PDF)
Read the bill. (PDF)
Read a fact sheet about the bill. (PDF)

FRA roundup – several actions published in Federal Register

Over the past 1.5 weeks, the Federal Railroad Administration has published several notices in the Federal Register. Below are portions of those postings, including: Drug and alcohol testing: Determination of minimum random testing rates for 2021 (notification of determination); Qualification and certification of locomotive engineers – miscellaneous revisions (final rule); Positive train control systems (notice of proposed rulemaking); and Fatigue risk management programs for certain passenger and freight railroads (notice of proposed rulemaking).


Drug and alcohol testing: Determination of minimum random testing rates for 2021 (notification of determination) – (published 12/15/2020)

Supplementary information:

FRA is announcing the 2021 minimum annual random drug and alcohol testing rates for covered service and MOW employees. For calendar year 2021, the minimum annual random testing rates for covered service employees will continue to be 25% for drugs and 10% for alcohol, while the minimum annual random testing rates for MOW employees will continue to be 50% for drugs and will be lowered to 10% for alcohol. Because these rates represent minimums, railroads and contractors may conduct FRA random testing at higher rates.

Discussion:

To set its minimum annual random testing rates for each year, FRA examines the last two complete calendar years of railroad industry drug and alcohol program data submitted to its Management Information System (MIS). FRA has also, however, reserved the right to consider factors other than MIS-reported data before deciding whether to lower annual minimum random testing rates. See 63 FR 71789 (Dec. 30, 1998).

Random testing rates for covered service employees

The rail industry’s random drug testing positive rate for covered service employees (employees subject to the Federal hours of service laws and regulations) remained below 1.0% for 2018 and 2019. The administrator has therefore determined the minimum annual random drug testing rate for the period January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021, will remain at 25% for covered service employees. The industry-wide random alcohol testing violation rate for covered service employees remained below 0.5% for 2018 and 2019. Therefore, the administrator has determined the minimum random alcohol testing rate will remain at 10% for covered service employees for the period January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021.

Random testing rates for MOW employees

MOW employees became subject to FRA random drug and alcohol testing in June 2017. See 81 FR 37894 (June 10, 2016). FRA now has MIS data for two full consecutive years of the industry-wide performance rates for MOW employees, 2018 and 2019. While FRA may lower the minimum random drug testing rate to 25% whenever the industry-wide random drug positive rate is less than 1.0 percent for two consecutive calendar years while testing at the 50% rate, FRA has reserved the right to consider other factors before deciding whether to lower annual minimum random testing rates. See 63 FR 71789 (Dec. 30, 1998).

As illustrated in the figures in the appendix below, in contrast to the drug testing positive rate for covered service employees that remained substantially below 1.0% for 2018 and 2019, the random drug testing positive rate for MOW employees is not only trending upwards, but also approaching the 1.0% positive rate threshold at which point the administrator will raise the drug testing rate under 49 CFR 219.625(d)(2). Specifically, the industry-wide random drug testing violation rate for MOW employees increased from 0.69% in 2018 to 0.8% in 2019, and MOW employees continue to have a higher positive testing rate than covered service employees.[1The Administrator further notes that MOW employees who were performing duties for a railroad before June 12, 2017, were exempted from the pre-employment drug testing requirement. See 49 CFR 219.501(e). As such, some MOW employees may remain who have never been subject to FRA drug testing because they have not yet been randomly selected.

Taking these factors into consideration, the administrator finds it is currently not in the interest of railroad safety to lower the random drug testing rate for MOW employees. Therefore, for the period January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021, the administrator has determined that the minimum annual random drug testing rate will continue to be 50% for MOW employees.

Because the random alcohol testing violation rate for MOW employees remained substantially below 0.5% for 2018 and 2019, and has been trending downwards, the administrator has determined that the minimum annual random alcohol testing rate will be lowered to 10% for MOW employees for the period January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021.

 Click here to read the full notice as published in the Federal Register.


Qualification and certification of locomotive engineers; miscellaneous revisions (final rule) – published 12/15/2020

Summary:

FRA is revising its regulation governing the qualification and certification of locomotive engineers to make it consistent with its regulation for the qualification and certification of conductors. The changes include: Amending the program submission process; handling engineer and conductor petitions for review with a single FRA review board (Operating Crew Review Board or OCRB); and revising the filing requirements for petitions to the OCRB. To ensure consistency throughout its regulations, FRA is also making conforming amendments to its regulations governing the control of alcohol and drug use, and the qualification and certification of conductors. The changes would reduce regulatory burdens on the railroad industry while maintaining the existing level of safety.

Dates:

This regulation is effective January 14, 2021.

Executive Summary

On May 9, 2019, FRA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 240, Qualification and Certification of Locomotive Engineers (part 240).[1In response to that NPRM, FRA received three written comments.

This final rule responds to those comments and amends part 240 by: Making part 240 more consistent with the language in 49 CFR part 242, Qualification and Certification of Conductors (part 242); creating two provisions under which railroads may issue temporary locomotive engineer certifications; merging FRA’s locomotive engineer and conductor review boards; adopting aspects of part 242 for locomotive engineer certification; providing labor representatives with the ability to provide input on a railroad’s part 240 program; and allowing for and encouraging the use of electronic document submission of a railroad’s part 240 program. This final rule also makes technical amendments to part 242 to: (1) Make the requirement for calibration of audiometers used during hearing tests for conductors the same as the requirement in part 240 for locomotive engineers; and (2) conform the definition of “main track” in part 242 to the definition of “main track” in part 240.

Additionally, this final rule makes conforming amendments to title 49 CFR part 219, Control of Alcohol and Drug Use (part 219) to update two cross-references to part 240. Updating these references is necessary to ensure consistency between part 219 and part 240, as amended.

The final rule will create new costs. First, each locomotive engineer certification manager will need to review the amendments made to part 240 to ensure compliance is maintained. Second, amendments to part 240 will require each railroad to provide a copy of its part 240 plan to the president of each labor organization whenever the railroad files a submission, resubmission, or makes a material modification to its plan. Third, a railroad will need to maintain service records for certified locomotive engineers who are not performing service that requires locomotive engineer certification. For the 20-year period of analysis, the cost of the final rule will be $233,779 (undiscounted), $171,764 (PV 7%), and $200,775 (PV 3%).

The final rule will also create cost savings. First, adding clarity in part 240 and conforming language in part 240 to part 242 will reduce stakeholder burden related to review and compliance with part 240. Second, it will reduce the burden on a railroad when providing another railroad with information about a former employee’s prior service records. Third, it will update the program submission process to allow for electronic document submission, which will reduce stakeholder paperwork and submission costs related to part 240 program submissions and locomotive engineer certification petitions. Fourth, it will remove the requirement for railroads to obtain a waiver from the annual testing requirements for certified locomotive engineers who are not performing service that requires certification. For the 20-year period of analysis, the cost savings of the final rule will be $12.3 million (undiscounted), $6.9 million (PV 7%), and $9.4 million (PV 3%).

As shown in Table ES.1, the regulatory evaluation quantifies the economic impact of the final rule in terms of cost savings and new costs accruing to stakeholders. For the 20-year period of analysis, the final rule will result in a net cost savings of $12.0 million (undiscounted), $6.8 million (PV 7%), and $9.2 million (PV 3%). This final rule is an Executive Order (E.O.) 13771 deregulatory action. Details on the estimated costs of this final rule can be found in the rule’s economic analysis.

(Click here to view table).

The final rule will create benefits. First, the final rule will amend the part 240 program submission process to require railroads to solicit labor input, providing for fully informed decisions by railroads. Second, it affords railroads additional time and flexibility to comply with some regulatory requirements. Third, it creates certain provisions that allow for temporary locomotive engineer certificates. Fourth, electronic filing will make information more accessible to interested stakeholders and the public. Because FRA lacks sufficient information related to these four benefits, this analysis could not accurately quantify these benefits. Therefore, the rule’s economic analysis qualitatively explains benefits.

The final rule will also reduce Governmental administrative costs, including mailing, filing, and storing costs related to amendments to part 240, by allowing the Government and stakeholders to transmit and store documents electronically.

This is just a small portion of the actual notice in the Federal Register. Click here to read the full final rule as published in the Federal Register.


Positive train control systems (notice of proposed rulemaking) – published 12/18/2020

Summary:

FRA is proposing to revise its regulations governing changes to positive train control (PTC) systems and reporting on PTC system functioning. First, recognizing that the railroad industry intends to enhance further FRA-certified PTC systems to continue improving rail safety and PTC technology’s reliability and operability, FRA proposes to modify the process by which a host railroad must submit a request for amendment (RFA) to FRA before making certain changes to its PTC Safety Plan (PTCSP) and FRA-certified PTC system. Second, to enable more effective FRA oversight, FRA proposes to: Expand an existing reporting requirement by increasing the frequency from annual to biannual; broaden the reporting requirement to encompass positive performance-related information, not just failure-related information; and require host railroads to utilize a new, standardized Biannual Report of PTC System Performance (Form FRA F 6180.152). Overall, the proposed amendments would benefit the railroad industry, the public, and FRA, by reducing unnecessary costs, facilitating innovation, and improving FRA’s ability to oversee PTC system performance and reliability, while not negatively affecting rail safety.

Dates:

Written comments must be received by February 16, 2021. FRA believes a 60-day comment period is appropriate to allow the public to comment on this proposed rule. FRA will consider comments received after that date to the extent practicable.

Addresses:

Comments: Comments related to Docket No. FRA-2019-0075 may be submitted by going to http://www.regulations.gov and following the online instructions for submitting comments.

Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name, docket number (FRA-2019-0075), and Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) for this rulemaking (2130-AC75). All comments received will be posted without change to https://www.regulations.gov;​ this includes any personal information. Please see the Privacy Act heading in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document for Privacy Act information related to any submitted comments or materials.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to https://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for accessing the docket.

This is just a small portion of the actual notice in the Federal Register. Click here to read the full notice of proposed rulemaking as published in the Federal Register.


Fatigue risk management programs for certain passenger and freight railroads (notice of proposed rulemaking) – published 12/22/2020

Summary:

Pursuant to the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, FRA proposes to issue regulations requiring certain railroads to develop and implement a Fatigue Risk Management Program, as one component of the railroads’ larger railroad safety risk reduction programs.

Dates:

Written comments must be received by February 22, 2021. Comments received after that date will be considered to the extent practicable without incurring additional expense or delay.

Addresses:

Comments related to Docket No. FRA-2015-0122 may be submitted by going to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name, docket name and docket number or Regulatory Identification Number (RIN) for this rulemaking (2130-AC54). Note that all comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided. Please see the Privacy Act heading in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document for Privacy Act information on any submitted comments or materials.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov.

Introduction and Executive Summary:

Purpose of Rulemaking

This proposed rule is part of FRA’s efforts to improve rail safety continually and to satisfy the statutory mandate of Section 103 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA).[1That section, codified at 49 U.S.C. 20156, requires Class I railroads; railroad carriers with inadequate safety performance (ISP), as determined by the Secretary; and railroad carriers that provide intercity rail passenger or commuter rail passenger transportation to develop and implement a safety risk reduction program to improve the safety of their operations. The section further requires a railroad’s safety risk reduction program to include a “fatigue management plan” meeting certain requirements.

This proposed rule, if finalized, would fulfill RSIA’s mandate for railroads to include fatigue management plans in their safety risk reduction programs by requiring railroads to develop and implement Fatigue Risk Management Programs (FRMPs).[2As proposed, a railroad would implement its FRMP through an FRMP plan.

Under this proposed rule, consistent with the mandate of Section 20156, an FRMP is a comprehensive, system-oriented approach to safety in which a railroad determines its fatigue risk by identifying and analyzing applicable hazards and takes action to mitigate, if not eliminate, that fatigue risk.[3As proposed, a railroad would be required to prepare a written FRMP plan and submit it to FRA for review and approval. A railroad’s written FRMP plan would become part of its existing safety risk reduction program plan. A railroad would also be required to implement its FRA-approved FRMP plan, conduct an internal annual assessment of its FRMP, and consistent with Section 20156’s mandate, update its FRMP plan periodically. As part of a railroad safety risk reduction program, a railroad’s FRMP would also be subject to assessments by FRA.

This is just a small portion of the actual notice in the Federal Register. Click here to read the full notice of proposed rulemaking as published in the Federal Register.

 

Union leadership: Rail bosses are tightening the screws on workers, representatives

CLEVELAND, Ohio, (August 21, 2020) — As freight rail traffic levels rebound strongly from the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, railroad management has unleashed an unprecedented barrage of measures to manipulate recalls from furloughs, make already draconian attendance policies even more punitive and interfere with union representatives who fight to protect their members from this abuse.

SMART Transportation Division and the BLET’s National Division both have received multiple reports from their General Committees of Adjustment on various Class I railroads indicating two specific types of recall-related conduct that could jeopardize tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits. These benefits are paid pursuant to the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA), which is administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

At least one carrier is disputing unemployment claims for all days later than the date of a recall notice, regardless of when the furloughed worker actually received the notice and irrespective of collective bargaining agreement provisions that provide the employee with a certain number of days within which to report. These provisions allow furloughed railroad workers to make necessary arrangements to settle personal and family obligations, such as child care, to accommodate a return to work without being penalized economically for the position in which the carrier’s furlough originally placed them.

The GCAs have also reported that one or more carriers have recalled furloughed employees who, after reporting for work, are then furloughed for a second time. In at least one instance, an employee quit other employment he had found, only to be kicked to the street again by the railroad without ever having performed service. And, for workers receiving RUIA benefits, a one-week waiting period during which no benefits are paid could be triggered, depending upon the timing and duration of this second furlough.

The leaders of both unions expressed outrage over these actions.

“Just when one thinks the carriers can’t possibly stoop any lower, they try to game the RUIA system to their benefit,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce. “Since RUIA tax rates are experience-based, maybe the carriers are looking to minimize next year’s hit. But cutting their losses on the backs of union members and their families in this fashion is reprehensible.”

In an August 14 letter, SMART-TD and BLET General Chairpersons jointly blasted BNSF management for changes to that Carrier’s attendance policy. According to the letter, the changes would be implemented via a blitz of threatening letters to workers who took off from work on what are now, but were not then, viewed by the Carrier as being “high impact” days. Most of these are family-friendly days, including national holidays, and letters apparently are being sent even in cases where permission to take the time off had been granted to workers.

“The Carrier continues to remain inflexible when it comes to respecting workers’ attempts to have lives outside of work,” the union presidents said. “If a worker happens to have chosen to engage in a family event, to enjoy a holiday or some sort of emergency cropped up on one of these unknown-until-now ‘high-impact’ days, he or she can now expect to receive a threatening letter and have a watchful eye just waiting to issue punishment if they dare have off time that coincides with another of these days.”

The unions’ General Chairpersons also pointed out that thousands of BNSF operating employees remain furloughed, and that this reserve is more than sufficient to meet any service needs on “high impact” days while, at the same time, allowing reasonable time off from work. Further, they report that the Carrier continues to do nothing to address long-standing problems with poor lineups, denial of reasonable vacation and personal leave requests, excessive held away-from-home terminal times during holidays, excessive on-duty times and denied holiday pay claims. As a reminder, even in the midst of a pandemic-stricken U.S. economy, BNSF reported second-quarter earnings of more than $1.13 BILLION in net earnings and a 61.1% operating ratio thanks to the essential work done by employees who are being targeted for discipline and punishment by this policy.

BNSF also is attempting to pressure working local union representatives to not take time off from work to represent their members. In some cases, local representatives are invited to conferences with the railroad, then are denied the time off work to attend the conference, forcing them to mark off for union business. When they do so, the railroad warns that their use of union business mark-offs is excessive and they, too, may fall subject to that Carrier’s intensified attendance policy.

“Shame on BNSF for expanding their anti-worker attendance policy in a way that is plainly anti-family,” Ferguson and Pierce said. “In no event will our union representatives be intimidated into not performing the duties of their offices. Our members should keep in mind that Election Day in November will determine whether these examples of unconscionable corporate misbehavior will continue to receive the approval of federal government officials at the highest levels.”

The joint letter from the SMART Transportation Division and BLET General Chairpersons to BNSF objecting to that Carrier’s attendance policy changes is available here.

###

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.

House Committee sends INVEST Act to full House for consideration

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act passed through the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee late June 18 by a party-line vote of 35-25.

The legislation, which contains provisions that affect the safety and well-being of all members of the SMART Transportation Division, now moves to consideration by the entire U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is another step in what has been a years-long journey,” National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said. “We are now farther than we have ever been in regard to having national two-person freight crew protections made into law thanks to our members’ action and advocacy.”

“But we will need to keep the pressure on members of Congress in both the Senate and in the House so that this and other parts of this regulation are not casually tossed out in accordance with the carriers’ will as the scheduled July 1 floor vote approaches.”

The union has rolled out contact forms on its Legislative Action Center for members and concerned parties to reach out to their U.S. representatives as the INVEST Act is considered by House members. These links will be accessible through the main SMART-TD web page as well.

A coordinated informational campaign also has been launched to educate members on what the act provides. While not perfect, this legislation represents a step to shoring up a craft that has been under siege for years, SMART-TD leaders say.

“There are some people in our union who misunderstand the intent of the bill because they might support the Republican Party or the president. They degrade the union on social media or say that this attempt at legislation is a giveaway or too weak in protecting conductors because there are some exceptions in it,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “It establishes protections where there are NONE. Your union is not the enemy — the carriers want to eliminate even more jobs and lay waste to the people and families who kept the freight industry going through a pandemic. The battlefield is in the halls of Congress and passage of the INVEST Act, with the protections intact, would be a victory.”

The INVEST in America Act contains provisions on:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Blocked Crossings;
  • Sleep Apnea for Commercial Drivers;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service;
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

During the two days and more than 24 hours of committee consideration in the House on June 17 and 18, four Republican representatives proposed amendments attempting to remove the portions of the INVEST Act covering freight rail: two-person crews, yardmaster hours of service, blocked crossings and the “cross border” fix, making President Ferguson’s prediction about the legislation become true.

“There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out,” he wrote June 3.

For example:

Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California proposed Amendment 43, which requires the federal DOT to study, establish standards and come up with a final rule regarding untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which affects many transportation workers. The amendment succeeded and was passed by voice vote.

In contrast, four Republican representatives attempted to attack provisions important to our members.

  • Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania proposed Amendment 125, which attempted to remove two-person crew protections. That amendment was defeated by a voice vote after Perry in his argument parroted talking points rolled out by rail industry groups including the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas proposed Amendment 41, which attempted to remove the cross border fix proposed in the act, but later withdrew his amendment before it could be voted upon.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio proposed Amendment 25, which attempted to remove the yardmaster hours of service rules proposed in the act, but later withdrew his amendment before it could be voted upon.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson of Ohio proposed Amendment 23, which attempted to remove the blocked-crossing rule proposed in the act. That amendment was rejected by voice vote as part of an en bloc package of amendments.

The actions of these legislators will be remembered in November, but we have bigger concerns as we approach a scheduled July vote on the bill. Use the Legislative Action Center to contact your members of Congress and let them know that the INVEST in American Act deserves their support, keeps communities safe and protects American workers and their jobs!

National Legislative Director Hynes speaks out in Trains Magazine about railroad issues

SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes

In an interview to appear in the April edition of Trains Magazine, SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes was interviewed about key issues and industry trends including Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), two-person crews, autonomous trains and the effect presidential elections have on the railroad industry.

In the interview, Hynes spoke about how PSR is a threat to jobs, the industry and the public because fewer safety inspections are being performed with fewer people and that there is a blatant disregard by Class I management toward fatigued and ill individuals who aren’t being allowed time off.

When asked if autonomous train technology could come to the U.S., Hynes responded:

“Where they have the autonomous trains out in Australia is on a route that doesn’t have any grade crossings, there are no people nearby, and it’s basically out in the middle of nowhere. But if you try to do that in the United States, where you have thousands and thousands of grade crossings, it will be a really bad thing. The people on a train are the first responders in every crossing incident. You won’t have that with an autonomous train.”

Trains closed the interview asking how the 2020 presidential election will impact railroads and unions. Hynes noted that whoever is in the White House determines who runs the FRA.

“If we see a continuation of what we have right now, it will not be good for rail safety or labor. This current administration has not been friendly to labor at all. Rail safety is not their primary function anymore, as we saw in their decision to not implement a national crew-size rule. How is that in the best interest of safety? It’s all about protecting the railroads’ bottom line, but that’s not the FRA’s job.”

To read the full interview, check out the April print issue of Trains Magazine.

SMART-TD announces national bargaining team and dates

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — The team negotiating the next National Rail Contract which will affect more than 40,000 SMART Transportation Division members has been finalized by the union’s leadership.

The team will be led by TD President Jeremy Ferguson with the assistance of Vice Presidents Brent Leonard; John J. Whitaker III; Chadrick Adams; Jamie C. Modesitt; Joe M. Lopez and David B. Wier Jr.

Also part of the team are five General Chairpersons, Mike LaPresta (BNSF); Gary Crest (Union Pacific); Roger Crawford (Illinois Central); Thomas Gholson (Norfolk Southern) and Christopher Bartz (yardmasters).

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the most out of this round of national contract talks,” President Ferguson said. “It will be a challenging process and it could be quite contentious at times. However, we on the negotiating team are confident that as we work through the process we can achieve a positive result.”

The opening meeting of negotiations is scheduled for February 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C., with talks occurring in Cleveland, Omaha, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, as the year progresses.

SMART-TD is part of a Coordinated Bargaining Coalition that consists of it and nine other unions representing rail labor. Carriers BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads are represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) during negotiations.

In related news, CSXT will not be part of national bargaining, except for health and welfare issues. For the wages and rules portion, SMART-TD and CSX have agreed to begin bargaining locally on behalf of trainmen starting Jan. 21, 2020.

A joint meeting for the negotiating parties regarding facilitated bargaining is scheduled in Jacksonville, Fla., on January 22 and 23.

Additional meeting dates for these negotiations are currently under discussion, and a tentative schedule will be set in the near future. Neither the SMART-TD nor CSX have exchanged any proposals, and an agenda for the subjects to be discussed during these contract talks, which are separate from the National Rail Contract negotiations, has yet to be finalized.

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

Reminder: Section 6 proposals due by Sept. 30

ATTENTION: All SMART Transportation Division members employed by rail carriers negotiating under the umbrella of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

As you are likely aware, on August 16, 2019, the SMART Transportation Division began the process of formulating Section 6 notices to be served on rail carriers represented by the NCCC, which will include proposals to increase wages, benefits and improve working conditions. In our communications, all officers and members were invited to submit proposals for the Section 6 notices to the SMART TD headquarters.

For those members who have already submitted proposals, we thank you for providing your invaluable input.

Members who have not yet responded are reminded that proposals are being cataloged through the month of September, and in October a committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, will review the proposals and begin to fine-tune those suggestions into the notices to be served on the carriers.

In order for your proposal to be cataloged and considered by the Section 6 review committee, your proposal must be received in the Transportation Division office by September 30, 2019.

As a reminder, members may submit their proposals by email (preferred), fax or U.S. Mail:

Email – Section6@smart-union.org
Fax – (216) 228-5755,

or by writing to the attention of the SMART Transportation Division President at

24950 Country Club Blvd. Suite 340
North Olmsted OH 44070

Following this review process, the full Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, will be convened to review and finalize the union’s Section 6 notices. Soon thereafter, the Section 6 notices will be reproduced and mailed to all U.S. general chairpersons for serving on the affected railroads on or about Nov. 1, 2019, with changes to become effective no earlier than Jan. 1, 2020.

In addition to membership submitted proposals, SMART Transportation Division will conduct a membership survey to help define the issues for prioritization during negotiations.

“All affected members will be kept informed regarding the Section 6 notices and developments in negotiations, when possible, through the SMART Transportation Division News and the SMART TD website,” said Transportation Division President John Previsich.

The serving of the Section 6 notices is the first step in reaching a new national agreement with railroads represented by the NCCC. The carriers represented by the NCCC also have been working on their own wage and rule notices that they will serve at or about the same time the SMART-TD notices are served.

Under the Railway Labor Act, the current national agreement between SMART TD and NCCC will remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.

Seeking proposals for Section 6 notices

The SMART Transportation Division is beginning the process of formulating Section 6 notices to be served on rail carriers negotiating under the umbrella of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which will include proposals to increase wages, benefits and improve working conditions.

As mandated by the Railway Labor Act and the current national agreement, these Section 6 notices will be served on most of the nation’s rail carriers on or about Nov. 1, 2019, with changes to become effective no earlier than Jan. 1, 2020.

The serving of the Section 6 notices is the first step in reaching a new national agreement with railroads represented by the NCCC. The carriers represented by the NCCC also have been working on their own wage and rule notices that they will serve at or about the same time the SMART TD notices are served.

All officers and members are invited to submit proposals for the Section 6 notices to the SMART TD headquarters. In addition, SMART Transportation Division will conduct a membership survey to help define the issues for prioritization during negotiations.

Members may submit their proposals by email (preferred), fax or U.S. Mail:

Email – Section6@smart-union.org

Fax – (216) 228-5755

or by writing to the attention of the SMART Transportation Division President at:

24950 Country Club Blvd., Suite 340
North Olmsted OH 44070

The proposals submitted by members will be catalogued during the months of August and September. In October, a committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, will review the proposals submitted and begin to fine-tune those suggestions into the notices to be served on the carriers.

The full Association of General Chairpersons, District No. 1, will then be convened to review and finalize the union’s Section 6 notices. Soon thereafter, the Section 6 notices will be reproduced and mailed to all U.S. general chairpersons for serving on the affected railroads on or about Nov. 1.

“All affected members will be kept informed regarding the Section 6 notices and developments in negotiations, when possible, through the SMART Transportation Division News and the SMART TD website,” said Transportation Division President John Previsich.

Under the Railway Labor Act, the current national agreement between SMART TD and NCCC will remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.

Updated books spell out federal laws for rail and bus members

Larry Mann, rail safety coordinator to SMART TD’s Designated Legal Counsel.The safety coordinator to the SMART Transportation Division Designated Legal Counsel has updated a pair of publications that offer comprehensive surveys of federal laws that cover TD members who work in the rail industry and who work as bus operators.

“What Every Railroader Should Know About the Federal Railroad Safety Laws and Regulations,” by Larry Mann, has been updated with changes that have occurred since the 2014 version’s release and contains detailed information about how federal railroad safety law pertains to railroad workers.

“What Every Bus Driver Should Know,” also by Mann, does the same for bus members and is essential reading for TD members concerned about how the law protects them.

Mann, who has served as DLC rail safety coordinator since the position was created in 2008, has extensive legal experience in the transportation industry and has given SMART Transportation Division permission to distribute both the updated rail book and the updated bus book via PDF on the TD website.

What Every Bus Driver Should Know
(June 2019)
What Every Railroad Worker Should Know
(June 2019)

President Previsich testifies before House subcommittee

    SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich testifies Thursday afternoon before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich appeared before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials to testify on the state of the railroad workforce.

Rather than use his prepared written testimony, he delivered a statement in response to the testimony given earlier in the hearing by Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Ron Batory. In his statement, President Previsich told the representatives about issues crucial to the rail labor workforce, including what he described as FRA’s “abdication” of its safety oversight duties in the wake of its withdrawal last month of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding a minimum train crew size.

He also addressed questions posed by subcommittee members on subjects including Congress’s role in helping to ensure a safe working environment for rail workers, the national Safe Freight Act two-person crew legislation and the role of technology, including automation, and its effects on the rail labor workforce.

A video of President Previsich’s testimony and responses is embedded below.

Video of the full hearing containing President Previsich’s testimony as well as that of other railroad labor leadership in attendance is available here on YouTube.

Legislative update: Where national bills of importance stand

Here’s a quick update on where legislation important to SMART Transportation Division members stands on a national level:

The Safe Freight Act in the U.S. House (H.R. 1748), national two-person crew legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young in March, has 60 co-sponsors consisting of 56 Democrats and 4 Republicans. It has been referred to the House’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act has versions in both the U.S. House (H.R. 1139) and in the U.S. Senate (S. 436). It is intended to protect bus and transit operators from assault through various strategies and requires that both rail and bus transit agencies (those not covered by the FRA) create risk-reduction plans to protect operators and that the agencies submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval. The Senate version has 13 co-sponsors since its introduction in February, while the House version has 145 co-sponsors since its February introduction. The Senate version has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, while the House version has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

The Railroad Yardmaster Protection Act of 2019 (H.R. 2449), which covers yardmaster hours of service, was introduced in early May and has two co-sponsors. It has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Remember that your elected officials need to hear from you about these issues that matter to your safety in the workplace. An easy way to do this is by emailing your legislators through the SMART TD Legislative Action Center, but phone calls and face-to-face meetings help drive the point home even more.