Posts Tagged ‘Freight rail’

We need your comments on 2-person crews -Deadline extended to June 15

On March 15th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a long overdue proposed regulation requiring that most trains in America have a minimum of two crewmembers. While SMART TD supports the core requirements of the rule, we believe that it can be strengthened and improved before this proposed regulation becomes final. We also expect the railroads to do everything in their power to weaken the rule. That is why we need your help. As a railroad worker, you have firsthand knowledge of the importance of two-person crews and the dangers of single-person operations. That is why the FRA needs to hear your voice on this critical safety issue. Please follow this link to submit your own comments on the rule, citing your personal experiences and expertise in operating trains. The most effective thing you can include in your comments is a personal story of how having two people on your crew prevented an accident from happening. It is not necessary to include all the details like train numbers or dates; just an overview of the incident and how having the second crew member made a difference. Examples of how the second crew member cleared a blocked crossing for an emergency vehicle or dealt with emergency responders during a derailment would also be very beneficial. No one can make a stronger case for two-person crews than those who work — or have worked — on the front lines operating trains every day. The deadline for comments has been extended to June 15, 2016 – more time to get your co-workers, friends, family members and community leaders to comment! Thank you for your help with this critically important issue. Below is an excellent example of a comment submitted by retired member Daniel Potaracke from Wisconsin: Agency: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Document Type: Rulemaking Title: Train Crew Staffing Document ID: FRA-2014-0033-0001 Thank You for this opportunity to comment on this important issue. I started on the BNSF RR in 1972 and retired in 2013 after 42 years of service. In 1972, I was one of 5 crew members on a train. When I retired, there were just 2 people on a train, the engineer and I the conductor. I’ve seen lots of changes on the railroad and that is putting it very mildly. With all the technology, you would think it would be safer but, I believe it has actually gotten less safe for a number of reasons. The railroads went from handling and hauling basic cargo and smaller trains to now handling much bigger trains with lots more dangerous cargo in increasing amounts. I remember having “a few” dangerous shipments but, when I retired, I was responsible for having LOTS of dangerous and hazardous cargoes. Just before I retired, I had to sift through lots and lots of paperwork to make sure I had ALL the information and redundancy so if there was a problem, I had some solutions for emergency workers and whomever needed it. I’m not saying it is bad but, making sure I had the paperwork and having someone else to count on made it somewhat better; and, how else are shippers going to transport these dangerous cargoes other than the nations highways? From what I’ve read about the trucking industry, with one person driving a huge truck with dangerous materials and the fatigue the truck drivers put up with, I’m amazed there aren’t more crashes. Having 2 people on a train is definitely much more safe! Having two sets of eyes and ears on the front end of ALL trains is essential for safety for everyone including the public, the employees and the railroads themselves. As a retired BNSF RR conductor, I’ve personally witnessed many “emergency” type incidents that warranted immediate attention and I’m not at all sure that they would have been caught by just one person. Splitting duties in such a way that there are two people onboard makes it easier for one of them to catch a problem vs having one person having so many things to be aware of and all at the same time. I know from personal experience that I’ve averted a few derailments or possible derailments because I’ve caught a problem on either my train or another passing train be it sticking brakes, cracked wheels or hot bearings and shifted loads or other problems. As you know, the railroads carry so many commodities that are very hazardous including oil trains that will burn out of control for days at a time, nuclear waste, chemicals that are certain death with contact or inhalation and munitions and explosives. Having two people on a train can catch a problem before a derailment with any of the above cargoes in a city or even out in the country where winds can blow dangerous inhalations to a city or town. Imagine a burning and exploding oil train in a congested city as big as Chicago or Minneapolis or even a small town where the entire population could be wiped out! We have all seen the images of burning oil trains; now imagine that in the middle of a city with populations living within a few hundred feet! I sometimes wonder if the railroad companies are like the automobile companies that work out the risks or odds of a derailment or toxic release or something similar where they cross their fingers and hope nothing happens but, if something did happen, the chances are 1 in X amount of percent, they could live with that and the resulting monetary damages…or deaths…or whatever. Please keep America safe with the railroads running safe with two people!

CP withdraws NS merger bid; SMART TD reacts

In a press release dated April 11, 2016, Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) announced that it has terminated its efforts to merge with Norfolk Southern (NS). CP has also withdrawn its resolution asking NS shareholders to vote in favor of good-faith negotiations between the two companies. “No further financial offers or overtures to meet with the NS board of directors are planned at this time,” CP said in their statement. CP CEO E. Hunter Harrison said, “…with no clear path to a friendly merger at this time, we will turn all of our focus and energy to serving our customers and creating long term value for CP shareholders.” SMART TD President Previsich came out against the merger in a letter addressed to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in January of this year. “We strongly opposed the merger when it became clear that CP’s takeover of NS would cost U.S. jobs as well as have a negative impact on those who sought to ship by rail” said Previsich, who further commented: “Having long opposed the negative impact that mergers and acquisitions such as this have on our members, we are extremely pleased to hear that CP has officially terminated their quest to takeover NS.” SMART TD first reported CP’s interest in a merger with NS in November 2015. It soon became clear that NS was not interested when the railroad rejected all three of CP’s offers for unification. CP, however, continued to push for a takeover by trying to bypass the NS board of directors’ decision by going directly to the shareholders for a vote. “They don’t merge these big railroads to create job opportunities,” said SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch. “CP’s plans were to essentially pillage NS’s infrastructure, claiming they could save $1.8 billion a year in costs. A CP/NS merger would not just be bad for rail workers, it would be terrible for America’s freight rail infrastructure.” Additionally, in a letter dated March 2, CP further sought to circumvent U.S. merger regulations by seeking declaratory action from the STB that would give them the power to essentially take over NS without a review from the STB or a yes-vote to merge from NS. This blatant scheme to evade U.S. regulatory requirements and assert control over NS before receiving regulatory approval did not sit well with SMART TD who joined with five other unions to write a response letter to the STB asking them to reject CP’s request. “…The Board should not entertain a request from this, or any carrier, for an advisory opinion on a hypothetical transaction. CP’s Petition is both inappropriate and untimely; it should be dismissed,” said SMART’s Associate General Counsel Erika Diehl-Gibbons and Attorneys Michael Wolly and Carla Siegel in their letter to the STB on behalf of SMART TD, BLET, IBEW, ATDA, NCFO and TCU/IAM. “The work and solidarity of SMART, BLET, TTD, AFL-CIO and all of our union brothers and sisters to raise this issue onto a public platform and to have our voices heard from the halls of Congress to the offices of the STB and FRA, had a direct impact on breaking CP’s attempt to continue its takeover bid–that if left to proceed, would have undoubtedly caused a major job loss, service disruption and a destructive domino effect throughout the industry. We look forward to our continued work and solidarity in supporting laws and provisions that protect our members –and all workers, from get-rich-quick schemes that are harmful to working men and women throughout our country,” said Previsich. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also filed its own request to the STB that CP’s request be denied. “Canadian Pacific’s voting trust proposal would compromise Norfolk Southern’s independence and effectively combine the two railroads prior to completion of the STB’s review,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “That makes no sense. We urge the STB to preserve its ability to review the impact of the proposal on competition and consumers before Canadian Pacific starts scrambling the eggs.” ______________________________________________________________________ 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.    

Freight rail accidents fall, despite recent derailments

railyard1-150pxDespite high-profile train derailments in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, railroads remain relatively safe transportation for people and freight, federal statistics show.

A derailment late Wednesday near Maryville, Tenn., of a CSX freight train carrying acrylonitrile, a hazardous material used to make plastics, rekindled attention in rail safety. So did the derailment May 12 of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia that killed eight people.

The number of freight train accidents dropped nearly in half during the last decade, to 1,644 last year from 3,094 in 2005, according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics.

Read more from USA Today.