Posts Tagged ‘H.R. 1748’

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.

Two-person crew bill passes Nevada Senate

The Nevada State Legislative Board reports that A.B. 337, legislation requiring two people in the cab of freight trains in the state, passed in the state Senate on Tuesday by a 13-8 party-line vote.

The bill is in the process of enrollment — receiving signatures from both the Senate and General Assembly leadership — and is expected to be on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) desk for his signature in the coming weeks, Nevada State Legislative Director Jason Doering said.

If the bill is signed by Sisolak, Nevada would become the second state this year to successfully enact two-person crew legislation. A bill in Colorado was signed into law on March 21.

A bill in Maryland (H.B. 66) has successfully passed both houses of its Legislature and is awaiting action by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Two-person crew legislation also is progressing in Minnesota (part of H.F. 1555, an omnibus transportation bill) and in Illinois (S.B. 24). The support of members in both states is important for both pieces of legislation to be passed.

Minnesota residents can contact these legislators to show support for the Minnesota bill.

If you are a resident of Illinois, follow this link to find your state legislators and help to keep up the momentum for S.B. 24.

The national two-person crew bill, the Safe Freight Act (H.R.1748), introduced in March has 38 co-sponsors.

Follow this link to send an email to your representative in support of the national Safe Freight Act.

Two-person crew bills advance in Illinois and Nevada

Two-person crew legislation endorsed by our union progressed ahead in two state legislatures late last week.

In Illinois, S.B. 24 was passed by the state Senate by a party-line 36-19 vote on Thursday. The state House of Representatives’ Rules Committee has received the bill, which establishes a minimum crew size of two individuals, and will consider it. The bill’s primary sponsor in the Illinois House is state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D – Dist. 113).

“Thanks to everyone who contacted their state senator, this couldn’t have been done without you,” The Illinois State Legislative Board said in a post on its Facebook page. “The General Assembly will now go on a two-week holiday break so please be ready to reach out to your State Representatives in their district offices.”

If you are a resident of Illinois, follow this link to find your state legislators and help to keep up the momentum for S.B. 24.

As previously reported here, the Nevada State Assembly’s Committee on Growth and Infrastructure passed A.B. 337, 8-4. The bill now moves to the full Assembly for consideration.

If you are a Nevada resident, you can find your state legislators by following this link.

A two-person crew bill also has been passed in Maryland and awaits the action of Gov. Larry Hogan.

Nationally, the Safe Freight Act two-person crew bill introduced in the U.S. House (H.R. 1748) by U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska continues to gain sponsors through the vocal support of SMART Transportation Division members and retirees alike, the national legislative office in Washington reports.

National Legislative Director John Risch said that more than 1,500 messages from members and retirees have been sent to members of the House in support of the Safe Freight Act and the bill has been gaining co-sponsors.

“Hearing from their voters goes a long way to opening the door to our message in the halls of Congress,” Risch said. “This is a team effort, so keep up the emails and phone calls.”

To send an email in support of the national Safe Freight Act, follow this link.

Two large U.S. rail unions announce national two-person crew legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 22, 2019) – Two large railroad unions in the United States have pledged their joint support for the Safe Freight Act legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young (R – Alaska).

The Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748) requires that two certified crew members operate freight trains on U.S. rails and has the backing of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).

“SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry, and there is no doubt that the only safe rail operation is one that includes at a minimum a certified conductor and a certified locomotive engineer,” SMART TD President John Previsich said. “A clear message must be sent to our lawmakers and to the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Congressman Young for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue to improve safety on our nation’s railroads for both our members and for the general public.”

“This is necessary safety legislation to protect railroad workers and the American public,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “While the railroad industry talks of one-person train crews and even autonomous trains, the 2013 tragedy of Lac-Megantic is justification enough that we need two sets of eyes and ears in the locomotive cab.”

Recent well-publicized rail accidents in other nations involving trains with one or no crew members show how smaller crews increase the risk of catastrophe in railroad accidents.

In September 2018, an autonomous runaway TasRail train reached speeds of 31 mph before it derailed in the Tasmanian city of Devonport, injuring two people. The train had become unresponsive to remote control commands, including the train’s emergency stop feature.

On Nov. 5, 2018, a runaway BHP ore train of 268 cars with no one aboard reached speeds of 62 mph before it was forcibly derailed in Western Australia. The approximately 1.9-mile-long train loaded with iron ore was operated by a lone crew member who had left the locomotive to inspect an issue with the brakes when the train began moving.

And finally, an oil train with a single-person crew in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, rolled into the center of the town July 6, 2013, after its brakes disengaged. The resulting derailment touched off an inferno that killed 47 people and destroyed the town center.

In the United States, labor unions and others concerned with safety on the United States’ 140,000 miles of rail are seeking to prevent such events from happening. Legislation setting crew size at two people aboard has passed in five states. A two-person crew bill backed by both the SMART TD and BLET unions (H.B. 1034) was signed into law March 21 by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

“Automation of cars, buses, aircraft and trucks are being addressed by legislation and in regulation by the federal government and many states. It’s time the federal government provided some oversight on railroads,” SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch said. “Congressman Young’s bill is a first step, and we thank him for his leadership on this. The safety of the public and our members depend on this.”

“Safety is non-negotiable, and this legislation is about railroad safety,” BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman said. “The members of the BLET and SMART TD are highly trained professionals who have dedicated their lives to performing their jobs as safely as possible, and we thank Congressman Young for his ongoing support and for introducing H.R. 1748.”

This national legislation introduced by Young, a longtime advocate of railroad safety, is a common-sense step toward making our nation’s rails safer for workers and the public alike. It has the full endorsement of both unions.

H.R. 1748 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

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

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.