Nevada State Legislative Director Jason Doering and his BLET counterpart Matthew Parker explain why two-person crews are necessary in an op-ed on the website of The Nevada Independent.
In the article, Doering and Parker refute some of the carriers’ most common arguments as to why two-person crews should not be legislated. They specifically mention a letter in support from Larry Mann, who helped to draft the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 and is SMART TD’s rail safety coordinator to the designated legal counsel.
“‘The FRSA has been in existence since 1970, and no court has ever ruled that collective bargaining agreements or any rights under the Railway Labor Act preempted a safety law,’ Mann wrote. … Mann pointed out that Wisconsin enacted two-person crew legislation in 1997 and had the law challenged by four rail carriers. The law was upheld in 1999 by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.”
The Assembly Growth and Infrastructure committee recently voted on April 11 to send Assembly Bill 337, the state’s two-person crew bill, to the Assembly floor and recommended that it be passed as amended.
Nevada Senate Bill 427 (S.B. 427), sponsored by Nevada State Senator Mark Manendo (D – Dist. 21), seeks to restore a requirement in Nevada’s laws regarding the minimum number of persons operating freight trains in the state.
The bill comes in response to interest expressed by freight railroad carriers nationwide in reducing the current crew size for most cross-country freight trains from two persons to a single operator. Railroad workers oppose such action, citing what they see as a compromise in safety with regard to further crew size reductions.
“In an incident such as a derailment resulting in the release of hazardous materials, the elimination of a crew member from freight trains would cause delay in notification to emergency responders. That creates an unacceptable risk to the public,” said SMART TD Nevada State Legislative Director Jason Doering.
“The desire to pursue single-person operations of freight trains clearly represents placing cost reduction and profits ahead of responsibility for ensuring that movement of freight by rail through the communities of Nevada takes place in the safest possible manner,” added Matt Parker, chairman of the Nevada state legislative board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).
Nevada law previously specified a minimum crew size for freight trains in the state. The crew size requirement in that law was repealed in 1985 to accommodate changes to collective bargaining agreements negotiated between rail carriers and the labor unions representing their transportation craft employees.
“Had we foreseen the day that rail carriers would seek single-operator crews, we most certainly would not have supported repeal of Nevada’s previous crew consist requirements, instead insisting upon a modification to the law,” said retired UTU Nevada State Legislative Director Rodney Nelms, who participated in the 1985 legislative action.
A special thanks goes out from Doering to Sen. Manendo for sponsoring S.B. 427. Doering asks that members contact their Nevada state senators and ask them to support S.B. 427. Members can contact their state senators directly by visiting the Nevada State Senate website.