Class I carrier Union Pacific announced Monday that it has completed implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on all federally mandated freight and passenger routes requiring the collision avoidance technology.
The carrier still must achieve full interoperability, that is, its PTC system must be able to successfully interact with those systems used by other carriers.
The carrier reports that 16 of 25 railroads it hosts are compliant, encompassing 85% of Union Pacific’s interoperable PTC train miles, and says that full interoperability in conjunction with the other carriers is expected by mid-2020.
PTC is designed to prevent:
Derailments caused by excessive speed;
Accidents that can occur if trains are routed down the incorrect track;
Unauthorized train movements on tracks undergoing maintenance
New Jersey Transit (NJT) is expanding its de-escalation training for front-line employees to include curriculum from Rutgers’ National Transit Institute (NTI), the carrier said in a press release on Monday.
NTI presented a “Train the Trainers” program on conflict de-escalation techniques for bus and rail operations and New Jersey Transit police recently.
“These highly effective techniques will be incorporated into existing internal NJT de-escalation training programs to create a set of best practices for use in real-world situations,” NJT said in its release.
“This new de-escalation training demonstrates our commitment to our front-line employees and to their safety,” said NJT President & CEO Kevin Corbett.
“One of our main missions as a police department is promoting the safety of our customers and crews, and this expansion of our de-escalation training fits squarely in that space,” said NJT Police Chief Christopher Trucillo. “It is always preferable to have situations managed before it rises to the level of police involvement.”
“The best way to help employees at risk of on-the-job assaults is to help them prevent the assault in the first place,” said NJT Employee Court Advocate Michael Rubin. “With this expanded training program our bus operators, conductors, police, and other customer-facing employees will have additional tools at hand to de-escalate situations and protect themselves and their customers from possible assaults.”
All of NJT’s employees who work with the public on buses, trains or as police officers receive training on how to manage difficult situations to minimize the possibility of violence. With the assistance of NTI, the trainings will be more robust and help to reduce assaults on bus operators, conductors, police, and other personnel.
“SMART TD Local 60 applauds N.J. Transit’s efforts in protecting our front-line employees from assaults. NTI’s de-escalation training is a great step in the right direction,” said Jerome C. Johnson, president and alternate delegate of the local and general chairperson of GO-610 (New Jersey Transit). “We look forward to collaborating further with N.J. Transit to reduce assaults and provide training for our brothers and sisters in conflict avoidance.”
NJT is the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 925,000 weekday trips on 251 bus routes, three light rail lines, 12 commuter rail lines, and through Access Link paratransit service. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 166 rail stations, 62 light rail stations, and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia.
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.
### 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.
The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s customer service plan promotes the principles and objectives of customer-driven quality service agency-wide. The RRB’s plan lays out the standards and expresses the time frames in terms of when the agency is required to make its decision to pay or deny an application for benefits. The plan states specifically the level of service that customers can expect, and an important part of the plan is a pledge to keep beneficiaries informed of how well the RRB is meeting the plan’s standards. The plan is reviewed and updated periodically as the agency compares its service with the best in business and considers customer feedback.
The following questions and answers provide information about the RRB’s performance in the key areas of retirement applications, survivor applications, disability applications and payments, and railroad unemployment and sickness benefit applications and claims during fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018). Included are the customer service performance goals the RRB set for fiscal year 2018. These goals may be revised annually based on such factors as projected workloads and available resources. Also included is information on the RRB’s overall performance, as measured by the timeliness index developed by the agency.
1. How does the RRB measure overall timeliness for customer service?
The RRB developed an index to measure overall timeliness of its customer service in four benefit areas: retirement applications; survivor applications; disability applications and payments; and railroad unemployment and sickness benefit applications and claims. This composite indicator, based on a weighted average, allows for a more concise and meaningful presentation of its customer service efforts in these benefit areas.
2. How timely, overall, was the customer service provided by the RRB in fiscal year 2018, as measured by this timeliness index?
During fiscal year 2018, the overall benefit timeliness index was 98.8 percent. This means that the RRB provided benefit services within the timeframes promised in the customer service plan 98.8 percent of the time. The timeliness index for retirement applications, survivor applications, disability applications and payments only, the processing of which includes considerable manual intervention, is 91.4 percent, whereas the timeliness index for railroad unemployment and sickness benefit applications and claims only, a highly automated process, is 99.9 percent. More detailed performance information for specific benefit areas is presented in the questions and answers that follow.
3. What standards were used by the RRB in fiscal year 2018 for processing applications for Railroad Retirement annuities and how well did it meet those standards?
Under RRB’s standards, if you filed an application for a Railroad Retirement annuity in advance, the RRB will make a decision to pay or deny the application within 35 days of the beginning date of your annuity. If you have not filed in advance, the RRB will make a decision within 60 days of the date you filed your application.
Of the cases processed during fiscal year 2018, the RRB made a decision within 35 days of their annuity beginning dates on 94.9 percent of applicants who filed in advance. The average processing time for these cases was 14.7 days.
Also, of the cases processed during fiscal year 2018, the RRB made a decision within 60 days of their filing dates on 96.5 percent of applicants who had not filed in advance. In these cases, the average processing time was 21.1 days.
The RRB’s goals in fiscal year 2018 were 94 percent timeliness both for persons filing in advance and persons not filing in advance.
4. What standards were used in the area of survivor benefits in fiscal year 2018?
Under the standards, if you filed for a Railroad Retirement survivor annuity and you were not already receiving benefits as a spouse, the RRB will make a decision to pay, deny or transfer your application to the Social Security Administration within 60 days of the beginning date of your annuity or the date the application is filed, whichever is later. If you are already receiving a spouse annuity, the RRB will make a decision to pay, deny or transfer your application for a survivor annuity to the Social Security Administration within 30 days of the first notice of the employee’s death. If you filed for a lump-sum death benefit, the RRB will make a decision to pay or deny your application within 60 days of the date the application is filed.
Of the cases considered during fiscal year 2018, the RRB made a decision within 60 days of the later of the annuity beginning date or the date the application was filed in 96.2 percent of the applications for an initial survivor annuity. In cases where the survivor was already receiving a spouse annuity, a decision was made within 30 days of the first notice of the employee’s death in 96.5 percent of the cases. In addition, a decision was made within 60 days of the date the application was filed in 98.2 percent of the applications for a lump-sum death benefit. The combined average processing time for all initial survivor applications and spouse-to-survivor conversions was 12.95 days. The average processing time for lump-sum death benefit applications was 10.2 days.
The goals for fiscal year 2018 were 94 and 93.5 percent timeliness, respectively, for processing initial survivor applications and spouse-to-survivor conversions. For processing applications for lump-sum death benefits, the goal was 97 percent.
5. What standards were used by the RRB in fiscal year 2018 for processing applications for disability annuities under the Railroad Retirement Act?
Under the customer service plan, if you filed for a disability annuity, the RRB will make a decision to pay or deny a benefit within 100 days of the date you filed your application. If it is determined that you are entitled to disability benefits, you will receive your first payment within 25 days of the date of the RRB’s decision, or the earliest payment date, whichever is later.
Of the cases processed during fiscal year 2018, the RRB made a decision within 100 days of the date an application was filed on 11.3 percent of those filing for a disability annuity. The average processing time was 330.9 days. Of those entitled to disability benefits, 91.5 percent received their first payment within the Customer Service Plan’s time frame. The average processing time was 12.8 days.
The agency’s goals were 70 percent and 93.5 percent timeliness, respectively, for disability decisions and disability payments.
6. What were the standards for the handling of applications and claims for railroad unemployment and sickness benefits and how well did the RRB meet these standards?
Under the standards, if you filed an application for unemployment or sickness benefits, the RRB will release a claim form or a denial letter within 10 days of receiving your application. If you filed a claim for subsequent biweekly unemployment or sickness benefits, the RRB will certify a payment or release a denial letter within 10 days of the date the RRB receives your claim form.
During fiscal year 2018, 99.5 percent of unemployment benefit applications sampled for timeliness and 99.3 percent of sickness benefit applications processed met the RRB’s standard. Average processing times for unemployment and sickness benefit applications were 0.8 and 1.9 days, respectively.
In addition, 99.9 percent of subsequent claims processed for unemployment and sickness benefits met the RRB’s standard for fiscal year 2018. The average processing time for claims was 4.3 days.
The agency’s goals for processing unemployment and sickness applications in fiscal year 2018 were, respectively, 99.5 and 99.3 percent timeliness. The payment or decision goal for subsequent claims was 98 percent timeliness.
7. How did the RRB’s performance in meeting its standards in fiscal year 2018 compare to its performance in fiscal year 2017?
Fiscal year 2018 performance met or exceeded fiscal year 2017 performance in the areas of retirement benefits not filed in advance, spouse-to-survivor conversions, lump-sum death benefit applications, and unemployment and sickness benefit claims.
Average processing times in fiscal year 2018 equaled or improved fiscal year 2017 processing times in the areas of Railroad Retirement applications filed in advance, initial survivor applications, spouse-to-survivor conversions, unemployment applications and unemployment and sickness benefit claims. Also, for fiscal year 2018, the agency met or exceeded all of the customer service performance goals it had set for the year, except in the areas of disability decisions and disability payments.
8. Can beneficiaries provide feedback to the RRB about the service they receive?
A customer assessment survey form allowing beneficiaries to evaluate the service they received and suggest how the agency can improve its service is available in every field office. Persons not satisfied with the service they received may also contact the manager of the office with which they have been dealing.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (Sept. 5, 2018) – The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART TD) have filed a joint petition challenging actions of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that allow crews comprised of Mexican nationals employed by a Mexican rail company to operate trains across the United States border and into the U.S. instead of American crews employed by American railroads.
Since July 9, the FRA has allowed foreign crews from Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM), a railroad based in Mexico and subsidiary of Kansas City Southern (KCS), to cross into the U.S. and run trains on the Texas Mexican Railway Company (“Tex-Mex”) line in Laredo, Texas. BLET and SMART TD maintain that this violates long-established federal laws and regulations regarding safety, training, crew qualifications and conduct of locomotive engineers and conductors operating freight trains in the U.S. The FRA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which also is named as a respondent in the petition.
“The Petitioners challenge this conduct as arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, in excess of the Respondents’ statutory authority and otherwise contrary to law,” the petition states.
There has been no order, waiver, public notice or documentation published by the FRA regarding the actions being challenged. The unions seek to set aside the agencies’ actions and to require that they divulge all internal records detailing the authorization of the practice, including the vetting of the non-U.S. crewmembers by FRA, and the decision to allow KCSM, a foreign company not incorporated in the United States, to operate across the border into this country.
“FRA’s conduct has generated significant safety concerns,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “U.S. crews are held to the highest safety standards while crews coming in from Mexico are held to much lower standards in terms of certification, testing and operating experience. This degradation in safety is unacceptable. Beyond that, while American companies outsourcing jobs to foreign countries is nothing new, all Americans should be angered by this job giveaway on our own soil.”
“We deem it to be unsafe, we deem it to be a threat to American jobs. FRA has not been able to answer simple questions regarding certification and qualification of the foreign crews. Nor have they explained in any way how they plan to enforce American safety rules to hold the foreign crews to the same high safety standards that govern all American railroad workers,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “We are not going to let FRA stand aside and ignore their responsibilities while a Class I carrier allows foreign crews to cross the border and jeopardize the safety of our members and the American public.”
The petition was filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) President Dennis Pierce, issued a joint statement, following their submission of their comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on train crew size. “Operating freight trains with one-person train crews is unsafe and must be prohibited. That is the message we delivered yesterday in the comments filed with federal rail safety regulators,” Previsich and Pierce said. “Our comments provide a clear rationale for the FRA to finalize a rule this year