World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
“Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
“Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
“Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated: “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”
In 1958, the White House advised VA’s General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee’s chairman.
The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.
Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
This is an important year for the direction of our country, and as we do on the roads and on the rails of these great United States, SMART Transportation Division will lead the way.
With your vote comes the chance to shape where the future of the transportation industry will go by selecting those candidates who support issues, such as two-person crews, the safety of our bus operators and yardmaster legislation, that are important to us.
Not registered? Voters in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and Wyoming can still register and vote today!
Before heading to the polls, see for yourself the positions elected officials in your area have taken on important issues, visit our Legislative Action Center, where you can find out your current senators’ and representatives’ voting records before you hit the voting booth.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Oct. 30 ruled that flaws in Union Pacific’s approach to inspecting, maintaining and repairing defects on the Estherville Subdivision helped to cause a March 2017 derailment that resulted in multiple tank cars spilling undenatured ethanol in Graettinger, Iowa.
A rail near a transition onto a bridge broke, causing 20 tank cars to derail in the accident that happened at 12:50 a.m. local time March 10, 2017. Fourteen of the tank cars spilled 322,000 gallons of ethanol, causing a fire that burned for more than 36 hours. Three nearby homes were evacuated as a result of the accident, which caused an estimated $4 million in damage, including the destruction of 400 feet of track and a 152-foot railroad bridge.
NTSB investigators survey the March 2017 derailment of a Union Pacific train carrying undenatured ethanol in Graettinger, Iowa.
During the NTSB hearing, board member Jennifer Homendy said she made a review of a decade’s worth of accident data for UP and the numbers showed one thing in common.
“Every year, track defects are the chief cause of accidents with UP,” she said.
Along Estherville’s 79-mile stretch, Homendy said that 102 defects of “marginal” and “poor” crossties were identified over a two-year period from 2015-17.
After the carrier received the reports of rail or crosstie defects, chief accident inspector Michael Hiller said UP didn’t take enough steps to fix the problems prior to the accident.
“The inspectors were going out and they were doing their inspections, and they were reporting the conditions of the tie,” Hiller said. “In many cases – more than 100, as member Homendy pointed out – there were remediation efforts, and it’s clear based on our observations post-accident that the remediation efforts restored the track back to its minimum condition that it needed to sustain traffic.
“We’re looking to see that things are not just restored back to the minimum…we know that doesn’t work. If you’re finding 10 or 12 crossties in a 39-foot section of track that are defective, it’s not a good practice to go in and replace two or three just to restore the track.”
Also contributing to the accident was what NTSB described as “inadequate oversight” on the part of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
While FRA inspectors raised the carrier’s attention to track defects — the agency had just initiated a compliance agreement in late 2016 as a result of a fiery oil train derailment in Mosier, Ore. — and some action was taken, Hiller said not all enforcement measures, such as civil penalties, were used.
NTSB investigators also noted that FRA inspectors neglected to report some defective crosstie conditions.
After the Graettinger accident, Hiller said that the carrier has shown “very good response” to reports of tie defects and maintenance and has performed twice-weekly inspections on the subdivision in a post-accident agreement with FRA.
However, the NTSB did note that there was one week where the carrier inspected the subdivision only once.
“The extent of post-accident actions, while welcome, hints at the inadequacy of UP’s pre-accident maintenance and inspection program,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “The railroad is supposed to look for and fix unsafe conditions as a matter of course.”
Finally, the use of U.S. DOT 111 tanker cars to transport the ethanol also worsened the environmental impact of the accident, investigators said.
Hiller said that 10 of the 14 tankers that breached met old DOT 111 specifications “identified as having a high probability of releasing hazardous materials.”
DOT 117 specifications established by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Agency (PHMSA) add reinforcement and other design features to cars transporting both crude oil and ethanol.
“The tougher design would have prevented the release,” Sumwalt said.
FRA identifies ethanol as the most hazardous material that is transported by rail in the United States. The denaturing process adds toxic compounds to make it unfit for human consumption and also lessens the tax burden for the carriers transporting it because it is not a beverage.
In the Graettinger accident, the ethanol was undenatured, meaning that the toxins were not added to the alcohol being transported.
“This seems to have had a beneficial effect on safety,” Sumwalt said. “Investigators found milder damage in this accident than in previous accidents with the same type of tank cars, but those involved denatured alcohol.”
It was suggested that a safety benefit might be achieved by getting rid of denaturants when transporting ethanol.
“Never before have I seen a regulation to make a hazardous material more hazardous,” Robert Hall, an expert in hazardous materials transport, said of the denaturing process. “It doesn’t make sense.”
A May 1, 2023, regulatory deadline has been set for all DOT 111 tank cars that carry ethanol to be changed over or retrofitted to meet the higher DOT 117 standards. In order to achieve that deadline, about 350 tank cars per month must be changed over.
At the hearing, NTSB issued three new safety recommendations and reiterated one safety recommendation to the FRA, PHMSA and UP. They address training on safety standards and available enforcement options for federal track inspectors, the need for research to determine if safety would be improved by transporting ethanol in an undenatured state, and the need for Union Pacific to re-examine track maintenance and inspection program standards on all routes carrying high hazardous flammable materials.
“The recommendations just issued, if acted upon, will result in better training for FRA track inspectors and clear guidance involving available enforcement options,” Sumwalt said. “They will result in UP re-examining its track maintenance and inspection program standards. Today’s recommendations will result in research by PHMSA into whether alcohol — ethanol — should be transported in an undenatured state and furthermore, a recommendation first issued in 2015 and reiterated today will result in progress milestone schedules for the phasing out of the DOT 111 tank cars for ethanol service by 2023, if acted upon.
“Otherwise, we risk a so-called sudden realization that isn’t sudden at all. We could have seen this train coming down the track.”
NTSB’s report states alcohol or drug use, and cell phone use were not factors in the accident, nor was the mechanical condition of the train, the performance of the train crew or the emergency response a factor. The full report will be available on the NTSB website when finalized.
As mandated by its drug and alcohol regulation, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will increase the minimum rate of random drug testing from 25 percent to 50 percent of covered employees for employers subject to FTA’s drug and alcohol regulation, effective January 1, 2019. This change is due to an increase in the industry’s ‘‘positive rate’’ as reflected in random drug test data for calendar year 2017.
The required minimum rate for random alcohol testing is unaffected by this change and will remain at 10 percent for 2019.
The funding levels that was in effect for the 2018 fiscal year for both the National Mediation Board (NMB) and for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) remain steady for the 2019 fiscal year in the “minibus” budget bill that was signed by President Donald Trump.
The RRB will receive $123.5 million — $113.5 million will go to administrative costs with the $10 million balance funding RRB’s initiative to improve its information technology structure.
“Based on the last cost estimate provided by the RRB, with this funding level, the agency will have received nearly half of the total cost of its IT overhaul,” National Legislative Director John Risch said.
Funding also held steady for the NMB, which provides dispute-resolution processes between rail unions and carriers through mediation, representation and arbitration between labor and management.
The board last fiscal year received a boost in its funding to $13.8 million in part to help it work through a number of pending Section 3 cases. That funding level stays, although not all those Section 3 cases were heard — the board made a move over the summer to close many cases that were unfunded, more than three years old and had not advanced in the process.
Those cases could be reopened if a party involved in the aged-out cases writes a letter to the NMB’s director of arbitration services.
NMB had about 6,400 cases to deal with overall at the end of October.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced Oct. 23 that California and Oklahoma have obtained federal certification of their rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs.
Federal law requires states with rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their SSO programs by April 15, 2019. By federal law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.
Twenty-seven of 30 states have received approval of their plans.
“FTA is pleased that California and Oklahoma have developed safety oversight programs that meet federal certification requirements and will strengthen rail transit safety,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “With certification, transit agencies in California and Oklahoma can continue to receive federal funding.”
The California Public Utilities Commission is responsible for providing safety oversight of the following rail transit agencies:
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District heavy rail, light rail and automated guideway systems;
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency light rail, cable car and streetcar systems;
Sacramento Regional Transit District light rail system;
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail system
San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System light rail system;
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority light rail and heavy rail systems; and
North County Transit District light rail (trolley) system.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is responsible for providing safety oversight of the Oklahoma City streetcar system.
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Legislative Director Greg Hynes was appointed to the federal Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking (ACHT) in early October.
“Your experience and leadership as a representative of rail and labor will add valuable insights that will help further ACTH’s mission,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a letter announcing Hynes’ appointment.
The committee, required by the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act, consists of stakeholders from trafficking advocacy organizations, law enforcement and trucking, bus, rail, aviation, maritime and port sectors, including industry and labor.
“Members of this committee have extensive experience in combating human trafficking, and the Department looks forward to receiving their recommendations and reports,” Chao said in a DOT release.
According to the release, the new 15-member committee is to provide recommendations to Chao before July 3, 2019 on:
Strategies for identifying and reporting instances of human trafficking.
Recommendations for administrative or legislative changes to use programs, properties, or other resources owned, operated, or funded by the Department to combat human trafficking.
Best practices for state and local transportation stakeholders based on multidisciplinary research and promising evidence-based models and programs, including sample training materials and strategies to identify victims.
The committee’s first meeting will be announced at a future date.
A member of Local 1031, Hynes has served as alternate legislative director since 2014 and has served on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). His complete biography is here.
Come Nov. 7, Macon County, Ill.’s county government could be getting a SMART influx with two candidates with Transportation Division ties seeking office in the Nov. 6 elections.
Lloyd Holman, a member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, is seeking a seat on the Macon County Board in his first run for office.
Lloyd Holman, a SMART TD Alumni Association member, is seeking a seat on the Macon County (Ill.) Board.
“My union experiences have provided me with a wealth of knowledge on contracts, legislation, safety and healthcare,” Holman said. “I have chosen to use that energy, experience and knowledge to help build a stronger community.”
He said he decided to run in November 2017 after receiving requests from Macon County board members and other community leaders.
“Although I have never considered myself a politician, apparently others feel I could make a positive contribution,” Holman said.
As the LCA 453 legislative representative for nearly three decades (1983-2011) and a former Illinois State Legislative Board chairperson for 16 years, Holman has said his experience with UTU/SMART TD helped to lay the groundwork for his run. Holman said the Macon County board chairman even helped to circulate his nominating petitions while Holman was incapacitated briefly during recovery from neck surgery.
“I have had the privilege and honor to work with and around some very dedicated and amazing union brothers,” Holman said. “Being part of the union has provided me with a very diverse education and support, even after my retirement.”
That support has extended to his campaign, where he’s received support from his union brothers and sisters.
“Finances are paramount in getting your name, face and position into the public eye,” Holman said. “My union brothers and sisters have been helpful in that area as well.”
He encourages union brothers and sisters to get informed on the issues that matter to them and get involved by voting and campaigning if possible.
“Remember that voting is a right and a privilege,” he said.
Also running in Macon County, Ill., is April Kostenski, wife of SMART TD member David Kostenski, who is treasurer of Local 768 (Decatur, Ill.).
April Kostenski, the wife of SMART TD Local 768 Treasurer David Kostenski, is running for Macon County, Ill., treasurer.
With three years’ experience as a treasurer for the Macon County Democratic Central Committee, April chose to seek the county government post.
“I knew with my education and background, I could offer our residents a positive change in the treasurer’s office that will promise a better tomorrow for future generations,” she said. “I know that I can do a better job serving my community — I decided I needed to be a small part of the solution.”
The mother of 14-year-old son Dawson and 12-year-old daughter Olivia said the time factor is a big challenge in running the campaign she wants to run.
“Sometimes I just need more hours in a day!” she said.
However, SMART TD has helped by providing support to her campaign.
“The Illinois Legislative Board and Bob Guy particularly, do a great job of keeping us informed,” Kostenski said. “Since I announced my candidacy, being a SMART TD family member has opened doors to the other labor organizations. The support from SMART TD and all organized labor is very humbling.”
Kostenski encourages SMART TD members and their families to get involved, volunteer and know their candidates as the election approaches. State legislative boards are great resources to provide information about candidates and donations to the UTU Political Action Committee helps candidates such as April make their runs for local office, she said.
“Running for public office has been a positive experience,” Kostenski said. “I have had many new experiences, met a lot of great people and learned a lot along the way. Sometimes you don’t know what you are capable of until you try.”
And lastly, members need to show up Nov. 6 or beforehand.
“Every vote counts and makes a difference where you live,” Kostenski said.
Right next door in Indiana, Jessica Bailey is seeking the office of Porter County clerk.
Jessica Bailey, wife of SMART TD Local 1383 Legislative Representative Ryan Bailey, is running for clerk in Porter County, Ind.
The wife of Local 1383 (Gary, Ind.) Legislative Representative Ryan Bailey, Jessica is on the Portage Township school board.
Ryan Bailey is a 14-year railroad veteran who works at Canadian National’s Kirk Yard in Gary and is secretary on the SMART TD Indiana State Legislative Board’s Executive Committee.
Jessica and Ryan live in Valparaiso, Ind., with their two children, Bryce, 17, and Emma, 14.
“Jessica’s race is going to be a battle of shoe leather,” said Indiana State Legislative Director Kenny Edwards. “No donation is too small.”
To donate to her campaign, send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Jessica Bailey
641-1 Old Forge Road
Valparaiso, IN 46385
The Bellingham Herald reports that last week the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) decided to repeal a rule that required electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking systems be installed on all oil trains.
The original rule was intended to increase safety and help prevent the derailment and puncturing of cars. DOT’s original analysis of ECP brakes found that they “can reduce the number of cars in a derailment that puncture and release their contents by almost 20 percent compared to other braking technologies.”
With conventional air brakes, the braking message must go through each car individually before moving on to the next car; this process can take up to two minutes for the brake application to reach the back of a freight train. ECP braking uses electronic controls that applies the brakes to all cars consistently and at the same time, providing more control and shortening the stopping distance, which leads to a lower risk of derailment or coupling breakage.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee criticized the repeal, saying in a press release that the decision to repeal is a “reckless disregard for the life and property of all who live or work along the rail tracks.”
“I fear the day we witness a destructive or deadly derailment that could have been prevented with readily available technology,” he said.
The PHMSA cited a reduction in benefits to the rail carriers from $254 million in benefits to businesses and $215 to $358 million in savings related to safety when the first analysis of ECP braking was done, down to $131 to $198 million in total benefits, as the reason for their repeal of the rule. PHMSA said the lower estimates stem from a decrease in the amount of oil being transported by rail.
The Association of American Railroad (AAR), an organization representing rail carriers, praised the repeal, while Inslee, environmental groups and unions protest this reduction in safety.
Click here to read the full story from the Bellingham Herald.
During a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee hearing on the implementation of positive train control (PTC) among U.S. railroads Oct. 3, an Amtrak executive said that the carrier plans to continue operating the Southwest Chief passenger route through at least the 2019 fiscal year.
Amtrak Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek told U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico that the route, which various reports had said would get a 500-mile “bus bridge” from Dodge City, Kan., to Albuquerque, N.M., to avoid non-PTC trackage, would be operated as usual once the Dec. 31, 2018, PTC deadline passes.
“We plan on running the Southwest Chief as-is through fiscal year 2019. We are well aware of the Senate’s directive,” Naparstek said. “We await Congress’s dealing with the Southwest Chief during the (budget) conference as well as in the fiscal spending bill.”
The president of the Rail Passengers Association was pleased with the outcome.
“This is a huge win for our association, for passengers, and for the states that rely on the Southwest Chief,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “It shows that advocacy works, and I want to thank every person who took part in our campaign in defense of the national network. Now, we need to take that energy and turn it towards the coming reauthorization where we can make a positive vision for passenger rail in the U.S.: fast and frequent trains, 21st century equipment, and on-time service that passengers can count on.”
The Southwest Chief runs daily from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Two legislative priorities gained support in early October.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas (Dist. 30) is the latest legislator to sign up to support H.R. 6016 — the Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act, which was introduced over the summer.
The bill requires transit agencies to develop Bus Operations Safety Risk Reduction Programs by implementing physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for bus drivers, driver-assisted technology to reduce accidents, and modified bus specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments.
It has gained 50 Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors since its June introduction by U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (Dist. 32 – Calif.) in the U.S. House. A companion bill in the U.S. Senate (S. 3215) has two Democratic co-sponsors.
S. 2360 — The Safe Freight Act requiring a minimum of two-person crews on freight trains in the United States — also gained a new co-sponsor in early October in Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
The addition of Merkley brings the total number of co-sponsors of the bill, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota early this year, to 13. All of the co-sponsors are Democrats with the exception of independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine.
The House version of the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 233), which was introduced by Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska, has 119 bipartisan co-sponsors at last count.
The Railroad Yardmaster Protection Act (H.R. 3148), introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D) of Minnesota, gained a pair of new co-sponsors in late September, with Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill. – Dist. 13) and Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn. – Dist. 7) signing on to sponsor the bill. That bill now has 23 bipartisan cosponsors.
The Seattle Times reports that a Seattle man who took advantage of the Railroad Retirement disability program for decades will receive prison time and have to pay back double the more than $177,000 he took.
Paul LaMarche, 67, claimed disability in 1988 and began receiving RRB annuities, the paper reported.
The paper said that inspectors from the RRB, along with the Coast Guard, began an investigation and found that LaMarche had started a charter boat service and claimed no disability on forms submitted to the Coast Guard to establish that business.
In addition, pictures and videos surfaced of LaMarche doing physical activities, such as paddleboard yoga, to promote his boating business, the paper reported.
He was sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to pay back $354,738.