Archive for the ‘Washington’ Category

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.

NTSB member displeased FRA omitted fatigue in risk-reduction rule

Jennifer Homendy, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) final rule for Class I railroads and certain smaller railroads to establish risk-reduction safety plans issued Feb. 18 falls well short of the intent of the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) that was passed by Congress in 2008.

NTSB member Jennifer Homendy

“As the lead @TransportDems staffer who drafted the Act, I’m glad the rule’s out but it doesn’t comply with the RSIA,” Homendy said on Twitter. “It leaves out commuter and passenger railroads (that rule has been stayed 9 or 10 times now) and it fails to require freight railroads to implement fatigue management plans as part of their risk reduction program (which was required in RSIA).”

Later in her Twitter thread, she cited five accidents investigated by NTSB involving both freight and passenger rail that were linked to fatigue and reminded her followers that fatigue management is on the NTSB’s most-wanted list in preventing railroad accidents.

She also mentioned that FRA has seemed to reverse course over the years as in 2015, agency leadership had told NTSB that fatigue management would be addressed in a final rule.

The final rule as published requires Class I railroads to compose an FRA-approved RRP plan.

“These comprehensive, system-oriented safety plans are required to identify and analyze hazards and their associated risks, and develop and implement plans to eliminate or mitigate those risks,” FRA said in a release announcing the final rule. “An RRP is designed to improve operational safety, complementing a railroad’s adherence to all other applicable FRA regulations. Each railroad must tailor an RRP for its individual operations, and the RRP must reflect the substantive facts on any hazards associated with each railroads’ operations.”

“Railroads’ ongoing evaluation of their asset base and employee performance associated with operations and maintenance, under FRA regulations, can now follow a more uniform path of standardization, towards further reducing risks and enhancing safety,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said in the release.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the final rule will improve freight rail safety in America in the same release.

It remains to be seen whether fatigue management will be addressed in a future rulemaking.

Read FRA’s final rule on risk-reduction programs as published in the Federal Register.

Former NLRB head talks about lasting damage to labor from admin’s policy rollbacks

Wilma Liebman, a former chief of the National Labor Relations Board for three terms and a member of the board for more than a decade, described what she termed “a stacked deck” against American workers that has been assembled by the current presidential administration in an op-ed column published by The Morning Consult.

The term of the lone Democrat on the NLRB expired in December, and there currently are three Republicans on the board.

“There is no one still inside the board with power to defend the statute that protects the right of American workers to improve working conditions by joining together,” Liebman wrote.

Under President Donald Trump’s administration, Liebman describes a board that has reversed decades of precedent, been ignorant of ethics rules, put aside the advice of experienced staffers and has been hostile to the expansion of workers’ rights in favor of big business.

“If the past predicts the future, then even worse things are coming for workers and their unions,” Liebman wrote.

Read the full column at The Morning Consult.

DOT clarifies marijuana testing rule

The U.S. Department of Transportation clarified what is classified as marijuana for testing purposes in a release dated Feb. 18, 2020. Below is the release from DOT.

DOT OFFICE OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL POLICY AND COMPLIANCE NOTICE

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334, (Farm Bill) removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Under the Farm Bill, hemp-derived products containing a concentration of up to 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are not controlled substances. THC is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. Any product, including “Cannabidiol” (CBD) products, with a concentration of more than 0.3% THC remains classified as marijuana, a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

We have had inquiries about whether the Department of Transportation-regulated safety-sensitive employees can use CBD products. Safety-sensitive employees who are subject to drug testing specified under 49 CFR part 40 (Part 40) include: pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, transit vehicle operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, fire-armed transit security personnel, ship captains and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others.

It is important for all employers and safety-sensitive employees to know:

  1. The Department of Transportation requires testing for marijuana and not CBD.
  1. The labeling of many CBD products may be misleading because the products could contain higher levels of THC than what the product label states. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently certify the levels of THC in CBD products, so there is no federal oversight to ensure that the labels are accurate. The FDA has cautioned the public that: “Consumers should beware purchasing and using any [CBD] products.” The FDA has stated: “It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.”*  Also, the FDA has issued several warning letters to companies because their products contained more CBD than indicated on the product label. **[i]
  1. The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation, Part 40, does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason. Furthermore, CBD use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed marijuana positive result. Therefore, Medical Review Officers will verify a drug test confirmed at the appropriate cutoffs as positive, even if an employee claims they only used a CBD product.

It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana. Since the use of CBD products could lead to a positive drug test result, Department of Transportation-regulated safety-sensitive employees should exercise caution when considering whether to use CBD products.

The contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. This policy and compliance notice is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the Department as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Conformity with this policy and compliance notice is voluntary only and nonconformity will not affect rights and obligations under existing statutes and regulations. Safety-sensitive employees must continue to comply with the underlying regulatory requirements for drug testing, specified at 49 CFR part 40.

___________________________

[i]* What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD: The FDA is working to answer questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, particularly CBD.” https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis

** https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/warning-letters-and-test-results-cannabidiol-related-products

Trump budget proposal cuts Amtrak, FRA and shorts RRB

If approved as-is, a federal budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year released Monday, Feb. 10, by President Donald Trump would reduce funding for Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and underfund the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).

Amtrak, the national passenger rail carrier, would see a 50 percent reduction in funding from the 2020 budget, with long-distance routes again in jeopardy of losing federal funding.

“Despite Amtrak’s success and the critical service it offers to so many, President Trump’s budget would slash funding for Amtrak by more than half,” the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), of which SMART-TD is a member, said on Twitter. “These proposed cuts would apply to the Northeast Corridor, the busiest rail corridor in the country, and Amtrak’s broader national network, which serves low population areas.”

The low-population areas would include Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, and Arizona and, according to the administration, “would be better served by other modes of transportation like — wait for it — intercity buses,” TTD tweeted.

Amtrak has been a frequent target of the administration, with Trump seeking to cut funding for the national rail carrier every year he has been in office. The future of long-distance routes such as the Southwest Chief was jeopardized in 2018, and it took an outcry by legislators in both houses of Congress to preserve the routes through the 2019 fiscal year while the FAST Act, which expires this autumn, preserved it in fiscal year 2020.

The FRA, which has received about $3 billion in the past two Trump-era budgets, is targeted for nearly $1 billion in reductions.

In contrast, funding for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would increase by $300 million to $13.2 billion.

Finally, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) would be underfunded if Trump’s proposed budget goes through, board sources say.

The RRB requests $141,974,000 for administrative costs and $13,850,000 to help fund its IT upgrade efforts for a total of $155,824,000. The request will support 880 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff.

However, the president’s budget requests $114,500,000 for administrative and $5,725,000 for IT for a total of $120,225,000. The President’s budget would only support 672 FTE, which is 208 less than the agency’s request level and 119 less than the current level of 791 FTE.

The agency’s budget through the Trump administration’s term has remained flat at $113.5 million annually with an additional $10 million provided each year to help RRB’s efforts to modernize its IT infrastructure. Trump proposes to allocate $120.225 million to the agency in the next fiscal year.

“RRB needs a minimum of 880 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff to sustain mission critical operations. Stagnant administrative budgets coupled with cost-of-living salary increases for Federal employees have resulted in severe understaffing,” a message from RRB’s Office of the Labor Member said. “The impact of this understaffing is being felt in the agency’s customer service and its ability to accomplish mission critical goals.”

It stands to note that presidential budget proposals typically serve as a starting point for Congress as its members begin the task of setting the fiscal course for the country in an election year and rarely, if ever, are approved without alterations.

“The good news about the president’s budget would be that it will most assuredly be dead on arrival in the U.S. House,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said.

However, the proposed budget does serve as an indicator of where the administration’s budgetary priorities are.

SMART-TD files suit challenging NMB’s decision regarding crew consist

On January 23, 2020, SMART Transportation Division and nearly two dozen General Committees brought suit against the National Mediation Board (NMB) challenging its 2-1 decision which granted a National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) request to appoint an arbitration board member concerning crew-consist moratoriums in local agreements. The NRLC acts as the representative of the carriers.

The carriers, through the NRLC, took the position that the moratoriums do not bar service of Section 6 bargaining notices regarding crew consist and urged the NMB, through a little-used provision of the Railway Labor Act (RLA) that allows the NMB to appoint a board member to an arbitration panel, to appoint a SMART-TD member to an arbitration board.

The SMART-TD rejected earlier attempts by the carriers to arbitrate the moratorium issue, noting that the language clearly bars any bargaining over crew consist and, moreover, that such matters can only be handled locally. Despite the organization’s numerous arguments that such action was clearly improper, the NMB’s majority, along party lines, named TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson as the union member of the board.

Through this action, the carriers are trying to force a single arbitration over more than two dozen crew-consist agreements that have been locally negotiated by the various General Committees.

According to the suit, “The NMB has unlawfully and without authority initiated an arbitration process involving the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers -Transportation Division (“SMART-TD”) and multiple rail carriers, contrary to the provisions of the RLA.”

The NMB majority consisted of Kyle Fortson and Gerald Fauth, Republican appointees of President Donald Trump. Chairwoman Linda Puchala dissented in the decision.

Puchala, in her dissent, said the decision by the two other board members circumvents decades of RLA precedent in how these disputes are handled.

Federal agencies announce random testing rates for 2020

Federal agencies have announced their random drug testing rates for the new calendar year.

In December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a test rate increase from 25 percent to 50 percent of the average number of driver positions because of an increased number of positive test results in 2018.

In January, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that the minimum random drug testing rate will remain unchanged at 50 percent.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s minimum drug test rate remains at 25 percent for workers, excluding maintenance-of-way employees.

The random alcohol testing rate has been set for all three agencies at 10 percent.

Railroad maintenance-of-way employees are tested at a higher rate: 50 percent for drugs and 25 percent for alcohol.

Click here for a chart from DOT detailing the 2020 random testing rates. 

FRA’s own report blows hole in arguments against two-person freight crews

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in a 41-page report released Jan. 13th by its Office of Research, Development and Technology said what railroaders already know.

Researchers at the Volpe Center over a period of years performed cognitive task analyses (CTAs) that examined the mental demands placed on rail workers, including operating personnel, as they engaged with technology and performed their jobs.

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson

“Results from the locomotive engineer and conductor CTAs indicate that train crews, a primary example of an elemental team in railroad operations, exhibit characteristics of high performing teams that are found across industries,” the report said. “These include mutual performance monitoring — to catch and correct errors — and active support of each other’s activities.”

“These teamwork activities went beyond the requirements of formal operating rules and were not explicitly covered in training,” the report states.

The Volpe Center has even received accolades from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao herself, who praised its work at enabling safety and innovation for the nation in regard to transportation and infrastructure during the center’s groundbreaking in Oct. 2019.

“It has worked to reduce rail-grade crossing accidents, improve vehicle safety, and better manage the airspace…. The Volpe Center continues to provide important contributions to our national transportation system. Especially now, when we have entered a historic period of transportation innovation that promises to boost economic growth and improve quality of life. These innovations are occurring in all modes of transportation, including roads, rail, maritime, and aerospace…. All these innovations are exciting, but they can be disruptive. This is where Volpe’s contribution plays an important role. Volpe’s data and analysis provides trustworthy information that helps us distinguish between ‘High’ and ‘Hype’ performance innovations. Volpe’s data helps build confidence among stakeholders, including the public whose acceptance is critical to realizing the potential of ground-breaking innovations.”

So, when a facility respected for its research of transportation issues provides evidence in an FRA report saying that cooperative efforts and communications exhibited by the two operating crew members help keep railroad operations safe beyond the baseline training that every rail worker receives upon hire, it blows a hole in the argument that “rail safety data does not support a train crew staffing rulemaking” from FRA Administrator Ron Batory last May in withdrawing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on two-person crews.

There’s the old saying that “two heads are better than one.” Railroaders live this life, especially when coping with the unimaginable fatigue being an over-the-road crewmember brings. The ability of two people to work together and their collected experience helps them to react to unexpected and potentially dangerous situations as they happen, preserving the safety of the crew and others while crossing the country.

Earlier research from the Volpe Center released in December 2013 also proves this:

“The locomotive engineer and conductor function as a joint cognitive system, meaning that conductors and locomotive engineers jointly contribute to the set of cognitive activities required to operate the train safely and efficiently.”

“While each crew member has a distinct set of formal responsibilities, in practice they operate as an integrated team, contributing knowledge and backing each other up as necessary.”

“When operating on the mainline conductors not only serve as a ‘second pair of eyes’, alerting the locomotive engineer to upcoming signals and potential hazards (e.g., activity at grade crossings; people working on or around the track), they also contribute knowledge and decision-making judgment.”

“Conductors also serve an important, redundant check and backup role, reminding locomotive engineers of upcoming work zones and speed restrictions.”

“If necessary, they will also handle unanticipated situations and activate the emergency brake, in cases where the locomotive engineer has not responded quickly enough.”

“Conductors have developed a variety of skills and strategies that enable them to handle non-routine situations safely and efficiently.”

But whether FRA’s Batory and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) continue to cling to this argument that keeping two people on the train crew has no effect on the safe operation of railroads in America when FRA research reports and plain common sense say the opposite is anybody’s guess.

They’re fighting tooth-and-nail in court against keeping two people on freight rail crews when laws passed by seven states and public opinion have expressed that a reduction in crew size would add risk and danger to an industry that hauls hazardous and nuclear materials through our cities, suburban neighborhoods and rural areas alike.

It truly is puzzling. Both AAR and Batory’s agency tout safe operations as a primary goal on their websites, and they praise the efforts of railroad workers in keeping operations safe in public testimony. Then they simultaneously argue in court and in state legislatures against keeping those personnel working on America’s railroads because maintaining two on the crew might crack some fragile egg of future technological advancement.

By the way, Volpe research says Positive Train Control (PTC), will not provide all of the cognitive support functions the conductor currently provides to the locomotive engineer.

Technology does not need to be approached with the final goal of slashing a workforce to save costs and thus fill the pockets of those at the top in the form of higher share prices and lower operating ratios. The FRA Office of Research, Development and Technology report even suggests that new technologies can be layered atop current personnel configurations that carriers operate under, and that approach would make sense from a workers’ safety and public safety standpoint.

Technological advances will not deliver first aid to the person whose vehicle has been struck by a train and is trapped and injured after an accident at a rail crossing. Technological advances will not perform CPR on the co-worker in the cab who suffers a medical event while the train is being operated. Technological advances will not physically assist a co-worker in evacuating when a locomotive has derailed into a river.

That people have survived the above scenarios that have occurred on the nation’s railroads are examples of safe operation as well. Unexpected events and calamities do happen. But definitive data aren’t kept by the FRA or the railroads about accidents that are prevented by worker intervention or assistance that is provided. How can you really track what might have happened if the incident is avoided?

What we can look at what is in the here and now. The level of worker and public safety that the railroad industry has achieved is a result of the collaboration of engineers and conductors and all other employees out in the field. Yes, there are still fatalities — our union lost three members in 2019 — and safety performance can still be improved by adding technology without a further reduction of on-train personnel.

FRA’s research on rail worker teamwork, made and released by the agency in charge of regulating the nation’s railroads and performed by the Volpe Center, indicates cutting the in-cab crew to one person for the sake of profitability (the railroads continue to make billions, even with rail traffic down) jeopardizes the status quo of safe rail operations. If you ask the AAR, they’ll tell you that working on the railroad these days is safer than working at a grocery store.

So with rail carriers being profitable and safe and two on the crew, it looks like America’s railroad workers must be doing something right.

The full FRA report, “Teamwork in Railroad Operations and Implications for New Technology,” is available here.

Jeremy R. Ferguson,
President, Transportation Division

Texas TD member runs for Congress on his own terms

His hands are rough. His boots are dirty. He has the resume to prove it.

Vance Snider is a SMART Transportation Division member out of Local 1313 in Amarillo, Texas, a veteran of the U.S. Army, a father of two and a BNSF conductor.

He’s also running for Congress to represent Texas’ 13th District, an open seat with the announced retirement of Rep. Mac Thornberry at the conclusion of the 116th Congress.

“My hands are rough, my boots are dirty, and I’m not a career politician” is the quote that introduces his biography on his campaign website.

He has the background to prove that — working his way up from sweeping floors in his dad’s parts shop in Texas and fighting for our country on foreign soil.


Vance Snider, a member of Local 1313 in Amarillo, Texas, is running in the Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives in Texas’ 13th District.

Snider, 30, served in Afghanistan after enlisting in the Army in December 2007 after his high school graduation. After completing his service, he hired on to the Texas Northwestern Railway in 2013 and later moved on to become a conductor for BNSF.

He’s been a TD member since April 2015 and is running as a first-time candidate as a Republican to represent the 13th District, which is home to hundreds of SMART-TD members and retirees and their families. He will need their support to win in the crowded 15-candidate primary that takes place March 3, and he plans to fight for our members and the people in the district if elected.

It’s a challenge to be sure. The 13th is a vast district that has more ground to cover than 13 U.S. states and one of the most Republican. The winner of the Republican primary is practically a shoo-in to win in November and move on to D.C. — Thornberry won his last re-election bid with 81 percent of the vote.

And Snider is doing his best to break the typical red-blue stereotype. He’s a registered Republican because his values align most with the pro-life and pro-Second Amendment stance of the party. But when out talking to prospective voters, he said that sometimes people who identify as Republican get hung up on the fact that he’s a proud union member.

“Republicans are typically associated with big business,” Snider said. “They forget about the little people who made them the millions of dollars.”

So he’s trying to change that by infusing some youth into the party and to break some of the typical set-in-stone party preconceptions by running for the House.

The 2018 election and the hyperpartisanship in D.C. is what inspired him to run – he’s tired of seeing people staying in Congress for decades but then ignoring important issues such as railroad safety.

“I want to go forth and create a revolution – bring regular people to the House and Senate. Get rid of the incumbents,” Snider said. “It’s about taking action and doing something about it.

“I got tired of the political BS going between the two parties. That’s what really annoyed me.”

Since officially becoming a candidate on the ballot in early October and even before then, Snider has been campaigning on his own terms. He’s found that some of the 14 other Republicans competing for the chance to appear on the November 2020 ballot have been following his lead.

“I’m actually out there hitting the pavement – I was one of the first ones to put the name on the ballot and put out yard signs,” he said. “They’re all copying my campaign. I’ve been hand-delivering yard signs – the campaign seems to be going really well. I ain’t scared to get up at 6 in the morning and drive across the country, so putting a few miles on my truck doesn’t bother me.”

Vance Snider, a member of Local 1313 out of Amarillo, Texas, places a yard sign while campaigning for Congress.

He doesn’t usually put on a suit and tie on his visits — he just goes out as he normally dresses from his Texas upbringing, cowboy hat on his head, and a message that he is going to represent people from all over the district, not just the people in its two major cities of Amarillo and Wichita. It means a lot of mileage on his Ford F-250 (he estimates he’s put 8,000 miles on it criss-crossing the district) and dirtier boots, but it shows his commitment to his beliefs.

“Politicians need to start working for the people,” he said. “They need to elect a like-minded individual who thinks about the people in the district first, then the rest of the country. I want to start a revolution – show I’m a normal Joe Blow guy like you — and can get out and do something.”

After Thornberry, who’s held the seat in the 13th District for 25 years, announced his retirement, Snider fully committed the run and he’s had 100% support from his wife, Christy, and the rest of his family.

His platform includes a commitment to being pro-life and defending Second Amendment rights. He also counts rail safety as an issue in his campaign, which sets him apart from others in his party and has led to the backing of his campaign by SMART TD PAC and others associated with rail labor.

The number of co-sponsors show that current incumbent Republicans have been slow to come around in supporting the two-person freight crew legislation (H.R. 1748 in the House and S. 1979 in the Senate). Thornberry has not signed on to the Safe Freight Act, and so far only 10 GOP reps have signed on as co-sponsors compared with 124 Democrats.

But Snider sees hope that rail safety and having two on the crew will eventually be recognized as a non-partisan issue that goes beyond red or blue.

“We need to get Republicans aboard,” he said. “I’ve had national support from all over the country – I’ve got donations from Democrats and Republicans. It’s about being working class, a working person – making sure we’re all taken care of.”

“We need to give the honest truth – make the public aware of it. A lot of them think we still have five people on the train,” he said.

The public also does not recognize that there are safety and environmental factors to railroad accidents that would be worsened by going from two to one person in the cab, he said, pointing out that a Jan. 1 derailment into the Kootenai River in Idaho could have easily resulted in a fatality had there not been two people aboard to assist one another to survive in their BNSF locomotive that was partially submerged during the accident.

“It’s about informing the public. It’s about safety. And public awareness — that’s what it comes down to,” he said.

Moreover, the work schedule of a railroader does not help matters when it comes to rail safety, and having two aboard is an important check, even with Positive Train Control.

“Whenever you’re working an extra board, you’re fatigued,” he said. “There’s been issues where a signal drops from clear to red—there’s more going on out there than people think. When you have those instances when you have to have someone out there, two sets of eyes are better than one.

“There have been times when guys have missed a signal, and you have to speak up.”

There are a number of ways rail workers and union members can speak up – one of them is by running for public office, as Snider is.

“It took me two weeks to get through the red tape. If I can do it, you can do it too,” he said. “Once you get through the red tape, find a good campaign consultant and an election lawyer who can tell you what can and can’t be done – those are the two key things. Then put your nose to the grindstone and start campaigning.”

A second way that isn’t as time intensive, but helps just the same is by donating to the TD PAC.

“I would encourage people to donate to PAC. You really can help by donating to the PAC fund, no matter what the level,” he said. “It really helps out and allows candidates like me to go forward. It is bipartisan and goes to both Republicans and Democrats. This money doesn’t come from union dues.”

Snider is looking to change things for people in his congressional district, his fellow union members and in Washington, D.C. To find out more about him and how you can help our union brother in his campaign, visit www.vancesniderforcongress.com search Vance Snider for U.S. Congress on Facebook or email vancesniderforcongress@gmail.com.

For more information about how to contribute to SMART TD PAC, email TDPAC@smart-union.org or visit https://smart-union.org/td/washington/tdpac/

Rally Sunday in Iowa in support of Safe Freight Act

Legislative Representative Jordan Boone of Local 445 (Niota, Ill.) reports that National Legislative Director Greg Hynes will be speaking Sunday at a rally in support of the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748/S.1979) national two-person crew legislation.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. local time at the Keokuk Labor Temple at 301 Blondeau St. in Keokuk, IA 52636. Members from the region are invited to attend to show their support for the legislation.

Representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen also are expected to be in attendance to speak as are politicians including Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Iowa. Rep. Jeff Kurtz and Iowa House candidate Emiliano Vera.

Sanders is expected to publicly endorse S.1979 during an event at the Keokuk school complex, 2001 Orleans Ave., Keokuk, 52636, to take place at 12:30 p.m. local time.

H.R. 1748 currently has 133 co-sponsors while the Senate version of the bill has 15.

Representatives protest PHMSA’s granting of special LNG transport permit

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has granted Energy Transport Solutions LLC of Doral, Fla., a special permit that allows for the transport of liquid natural gas (LNG) on a route from Wyalusing, Pa., to Gibbstown, N.J.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, both members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, responded with disappointment to the PHMSA announcement Dec. 6.

“News of PHMSA’s decision to jump ahead of its notice of proposed rulemaking on moving LNG by rail and grant a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions, LLC to move LNG by rail tank car is deeply disturbing,” DeFazio said. “This reckless move by the Administration puts communities in harm’s way. For months I have been sounding the alarm on this dangerous plan. Not only has PHMSA failed to take the proper steps of testing, analyzing or reviewing this unprecedented plan, it failed to provide Congress and the public the opportunity to consider whether the permit’s operating conditions sufficiently address the potential safety implications — an opportunity that’s required by law. The agency rushed its job, spending a measly six months considering this petition and the nearly 3,000 public comments it received.

“In June, Congress passed my amendment to prohibit DOT from finalizing the LNG by rail rule that President Trump intends to rush through in 13 months. I urge the Senate to work with us to put a stop to these irresponsible actions.”

Malinowski said the agency has ignored safety concerns expressed by multiple groups.

“The movement of LNG by rail tank car presents unique and substantial risks to public safety and the environment. This decision by the Department of Transportation to allow LNG to move in large volumes without adequate safeguards is irresponsible, and yet another example of the Administration putting corporate interests over the safety of the American public,” he said.

The north-to-south route is about 175 miles. It runs from fracking shale wells in northern Pennsylvania to a port in New Jersey and likely will be served by Norfolk Southern, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The permit expires in November 2021 and allows for no intermediate stops on the route when the LNG is being transported.

Read an article about the permit from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Read the special permit issued by PHMSA.

CDL holders: Registration open for FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse database

Voluntary registration with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is open and available online.

The Clearinghouse was created as part of new CDL employer background check requirements to take effect Jan. 6, 2020. The Clearinghouse is a database maintained by FMCSA that will hold real-time information about any reported violations of drug and alcohol prohibitions in 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals, for prospective employers to access.

In addition to employers, consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs), medical review officers (MROs), substance abuse professionals (SAPs) and law-enforcement personnel all will have access to this database containing operator data.

“Drivers are not required to register for the Clearinghouse,” FMCSA said. “However, a driver will need to be registered to provide electronic consent in the Clearinghouse if a prospective or current employer needs to conduct a full query of the driver’s Clearinghouse record.”

After registration with the Clearinghouse, CDL holders will be able to:

  • View their own driver record electronically.
  • Provide electronic consent to release detailed drug and alcohol program violation information to a current or prospective employer.
  • Identify a substance abuse professional (SAP) so the SAP may enter specific information regarding the driver’s return-to-duty (RTD) activities.

Even if a CDL holder has not registered for access to the Clearinghouse, the Clearinghouse still will associate any alleged drug or alcohol violation that has been reported with a CDL holder’s information. Any changes to the CDL holder’s record in the Clearinghouse will be relayed via the preferred method the holder indicated during registration or, if the holder is not registered to access the database, via mail to the address associated with the CDL.

FMCSA’s final rule for the Clearinghouse was published Dec. 5, 2016.

FMCSA says that implementation of the Clearinghouse “will improve roadway safety by identifying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who have committed drug and alcohol violations that render them ineligible to operate a CMV.”

FMCSA’s guide for CDL holders to the Clearinghouse registration process (PDF)

View Frequently Asked Questions about the Clearinghouse.

For more information or to register, visit https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov.