Posts Tagged ‘rail safety’

The first 100 days: How the Biden-Harris Administration is winning for workers

“Strong unions built the great American middle class. Everything that defines what it means to live a good life and know you can take care of your family — the 40-hour workweek, paid leave, health care protections, a voice in your workplace — is because of workers who organized unions and fought for worker protections.”

The words above could have been written or spoken by any of thousands of union organizers or leaders across the United States in recent decades. They could be part of the narration to a union video or the rousing prelude to a call-to-action at a union rally.

But they aren’t. Instead, they come from the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign website, which is peppered with promises to stand with regular working Americans, support the creation of good union jobs and strengthen collective bargaining and worker organizing.

We know campaign promises are one thing… and post-election actions and reality are another. So, what has the Biden-Harris Administration done for workers thus far? Are they walking their pro-worker talk? Below is a summary of actions to help working Americans under the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris Administration:

01.20.2021

President Biden Fired Aggressively Anti-Union NLRB General Counsel

Just hours after his inauguration, President Biden took the unprecedented step of firing the sitting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Peter Robb, who had been blasted as an anti-union zealot. During Robb’s tenure at the NLRB, the board significantly expanded employers’ powers, allowing them to search workers’ cars and personal items, eject union organizers from public spaces, withdraw union recognition more easily, discriminate against union members in the workplace, thwart protests, and disregard the rights of workers at subcontractors and franchises, among other harm done to workers’ rights. His assistant, who took over in his place and shares the same views, was next in line to replace him. Biden terminated her immediately thereafter. One of Robb’s priorities had been to try and limit the legality of Project Labor Agreements. Two suits filed by Robb aimed to create new case law on PLAs, which would have had disastrous impacts on work hours for all construction union members. They were rescinded by Robb’s Biden-appointed replacement.

01.21.2021

Biden-Harris Administration Issued Emergency Safety Protection Order

On Day 2, President Biden underscored that worker safety will be a top priority under his administration, signing an executive order directing OSHA to produce “clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.” This action aimed to save lives and protect workers who regularly face dangerous conditions while serving their communities during the pandemic. Strong enforceable standards built into the order require employers to develop workplace safety plans, implement science-based protection measures, train workers and report workplace COVID outbreaks.


01.21.2021

Biden Appoints Amit Bose to Replace Former Rail CEO Ron Batory Atop FRA

On Jan. 21, President Biden appointed Amit Bose, who had served as deputy administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) during the Obama administration, to the same position for his administration. Bose later was elevated to the position of FRA acting administrator and is in line to become the permanent FRA administrator.

“We’re excited to be working with Amit Bose,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes. “We’ve had several conversations and he understands and supports our issues. It’s a welcome new day for rail labor.


01.22.2021

New Administration Set $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

President Biden signed an executive order that ordered the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish a $15 minimum wage for all federal contractors.


01.22.2021

President Biden Selected Union Steelworker to Lead OSHA

President Biden selected former United Steelworkers’ safety official James Frederick to lead the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), signaling a commitment to tougher federal enforcement of workplace safety standards as the nation continues to battle a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 500,000 Americans. Frederick worked for 25 years in the Steelworkers’ health, safety, and environment department.


01.22.2021

President Picked Building Trades Official to Lead Wage and Hour Division

Jessica Looman was the executive director of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council before she was selected to head the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. She previously worked as general counsel for the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota. In between, she served as the deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

Her appointment is of particular importance and offers a very stark contrast with the previous administration, which issued an eleventh hour change to prevailing wage laws. If kept in place, the change would have had a disastrous impact on prevailing wages, pricing out high-road signatory contractors from projects. The change also would have given employers on public projects the leeway to pay someone performing commercial work the residential wage instead, which typically would be significantly lower.


01.22.2021

President Selected Union Attorney to Lead FLRA

President Biden promoted union attorney Ernest Dubster to be the chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). This agency oversees disputes between the federal government and federal unions. Dubster previously worked as legislative counsel for the AFL-CIO and as a law professor teaching collective bargaining and arbitration.


01.22.2021

President Fired Entire Anti-Union Federal Labor Board

President Biden’s work to rid the government of Trump’s anti-union appointees continued with his decision to oust the 10 members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP). This panel decides contract disputes between federal unions and the government. It was stacked with anti-union picks that included leaders from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which crafts “right-to-work” (for less) legislation for state elected officials, as well as bills aimed at eliminating prevailing wages (including the infamous Act 10 bill in Wisconsin). The board also included appointees from the Heritage Foundation, and another individual from a top union-busting law firm. President Biden offered the 10 appointees the chance to resign, which eight did. The other two were fired. When those appointees were on the board, the government won 90% of the cases that came before the FSIP — meaning federal employee unions won only 10%.


01.25.2021

President Biden Issued Buy American Executive Order That Closed Previous Loopholes

While the Trump administration used the right-sounding “Buy American” words and rhetoric, it never put into place policies to effect meaningful change regarding the purchase of American-made goods and services. Five days into office, President Biden signed an executive order that directed the federal government to strengthen its Buy American standards. This required more of the product to be made in the United States, cut red tape for buying these items, and made it easier for small and medium sized manufacturers to get federal contracts. The government spends about $600 billion a year on American-made products and is expected to add another $400 billion as part of Biden’s Build Back Better program.


01.25.2021

President Named Far More Labor-Friendly NLRB General Counsel

The week after firing Peter Robb as NLRB general counsel, President Biden named Peter Sung Ohr as the NRLB’s acting general counsel. A career NLRB attorney, Ohr had been the board’s regional director of Region 13 in Chicago. Now as the NLRB’s top attorney, he gets to choose many of the cases the board hears and write directives that tell regional offices how the NLRB should enforce the law. In his first week on the job, Ohr repealed a dozen Trump-era anti-worker directives that had targeted unions. He also threw out a case that would have prevented unions from negotiating commonsense neutrality agreements with employers.


01.27.2021

President Issued Order to End Federal Private Prisons

Near the end of his first week in office, President Biden issued an executive order directing the federal government to stop contracting with private prisons. Private prisons are for-profit ventures that reduce prison employee wages and take jobs from union corrections officers. Training and security standards are often much lower at private prisons. According to a 2012 study by The Sentencing Project, private prison employees earn an average of over $5,000 less than government employee prison staff and receive 58 fewer hours of training, leading to higher employee turnover and decreased prison security. In addition, a 2016 Justice Department report found that private prisons had a 28 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults. According to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents employees with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, federal prisons staffed by union employees are “more cost-effective, more efficient and much safer than their for-profit counterparts.”


01.27.2021

Biden Signed Executive Order Calling for Union Labor to Build New Climate Infrastructure

Realizing that the shift to clean energy is a tremendous opportunity to create jobs, President Biden signed an executive order directing the federal government to lead the way by focusing public dollars on American-made products, including renewable energy goods and clean vehicles, and that high labor standards be attached to every federal incentive for clean energy. The president also explicitly called for investments communities that produce coal and other fossil-fuels to create good jobs in new industries and by cleaning up abandoned mines and wells.


01.29.2021

President Biden Signed Order Mandating Masks on Interstate Travel

President Biden underscored his commitment to the safety of air, rail and transit employees and passengers with a mask mandate that covers anyone who flies, takes a passenger train like Amtrak, or travels on busses such as Greyhound or Peter Pan that cross state lines. This order was followed up on January 29 by the Centers for Disease Control, as directed by the president, and imposes a mask requirement on all public transportation systems including rail, vans, bus and motorcoach services.

In an announcement of the order sent to Federal Railroad Administration stakeholders and partners on January 31, an FRA representative wrote the following: “Science-based measures are critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Mask-wearing is one of several proven life-saving measures, including physical distancing, appropriate ventilation and timely testing that can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Requiring masks will protect America’s transportation workers and passengers, help control the transmission of COVID-19, and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”


02.05.2021

Per Biden’s Order, OSHA Released New COVID-19 Safety Guidance

OSHA issued enhanced COVID-19 safety guidance to help employers and their employees implement a COVID-19 prevention program and better identify risks that could lead to exposure and infection.


02.05.2021

Employee Advocate Appointed Senior Advisor on Unemployment Insurance

The Biden-Harris administration selected Michele Evermore for the newly created role of senior advisor on unemployment insurance within the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration. Evermore previously worked as a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit that supports low-wage and unemployed workers. Evermore has been a prominent pro-worker voice throughout the pandemic, both as an expert in explaining the federal assistance available to workers, and as a vigorous advocate who addresses the inequities of unemployment assistance.


02.17.2021

U.S. House Passed National Apprenticeship Act

With this new bill, union-sponsored registered apprenticeships will not only continue strengthening economic opportunities in every community, both large and small, they will also open pathways for more industries to recruit, train and expand productive and highly-skilled workforces.


02.17.2021

President Biden Nominated Labor Attorney to Serve as NLRB General Counsel

President Biden appointed Jennifer Abbruzo, special counsel for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and highly respected within the labor movement, to serve as the NLRB’s new general counsel. During her labor career, she provided legal counsel on numerous initiatives that advanced worker power. She previously served as deputy general counsel and acting general counsel at the NLRB. In her nearly 23 years with the agency, she helped to protect workers’ rights from numerous corporate attacks. Once confirmed, she will replace acting General Counsel Peter Sung Ohr.


02.18.2021

Biden-Harris Moved to Eliminate IRAPs

In mid-February, the Biden-Harris Administration restricted funding for Industry Recognized Apprenticeships (IRAPs), an important step in rolling them back entirely. IRAPS are a dangerous initiative inspired by anti-union contractors aimed at undermining high-quality union apprenticeship programs and replacing them with a watered-down system of certifications. The IRAP program was the most serious political attack on building trades unions in over a generation. Cutting off IRAP funding is an important step in the fight to roll them back. Through his actions, President Biden took important steps to eliminate this existential threat to union apprenticeships. The Biden-Harris administration also brought back the Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, which provides much-needed industry-based input on policy, quality assurance standards and equitable enforcement.


02.22.2021

FRA Closed Comment Period on Proposed Rail Worker Fatigue Regulations

On Feb. 22, comments closed for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for which the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sought input on how to address the problem of rail worker fatigue. The regulations would require certain railroads to develop and implement a “fatigue risk management program” as one component of their larger safety programs. The notice and closing of the comment period shows movement by the Biden-Harris administration on a long-delayed component of the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA), which requires railroads to create safety risk reduction programs to address the hazards that railroad workers face on a regular basis. SMART-TD filed its comments in conjunction with another union representing rail operating personnel ahead of the comment deadline.


02.24.2021

Biden Signed Order Allowing Unions at DOD

The Defense Department employs about 700,000 civilian workers, about half of which are unionized. An executive order from the previous administration allowed the Secretary of Defense to eliminate collective bargaining rights for those employees at the DOD secretary’s discretion. An executive order by President Biden reversed this anti-union directive.


02.25.2021

Biden Order Allowed DOL to Extend Unemployment Benefits to Those Who Refuse Work Due to COVID Concerns

Under the Biden-Harris administration, the Department of Labor released guidance extending unemployment benefits to workers who refuse to return to a job that is unsafe. The benefits eligibility now applies in circumstances where a worker refuses to return to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite that, in either instance, “is not in compliance with local, state, or national health and safety standards directly related to COVID-19.” These health and safety standards include those related to the wearing of face coverings, physical distancing, and the provision of personal protective equipment consistent with public health guidelines. This extended eligibility is specific to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a type of benefit created and federally funded by the 2020 CARES Act. PUA covers self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and other workers who are not covered by traditional unemployment insurance programs.


02.26.2021

Major Court Victory for Freight Rail Labor Blocked Trump FRA Policy

In a legal victory that underscored the importance of electing presidents who will pick judges who understand worker issues, soon after President Biden was inaugurated, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit put common sense and safety ahead of profits and political favoritism. By vacating action by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the Trump administration to preempt all state laws and regulations concerning freight train crew size, the court ruling overturned one of the most blatant attacks on workers from the previous administration. While the decision was not a direct result of actions by the Biden Administration — the 3–0 ruling was made by judges nominated by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton — the actions of President Biden and his appointees point toward a far more receptive audience in the nation’s capitol in the fight to maintain two-person crews.


03.02.2021

Biden Announced Support for Amazon Organizing Drive

By announcing his support for Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama seeking to form a union, President Biden became the first president in over 70 years to come out strongly in support of a major union organizing drive. The last president who articulated this type of support was Franklin D Roosevelt. While the Alabama warehouse workers lost their election in April, the campaign — and the president’s public support — inspired them and other Amazon workers across the country.


03.09.2021

House Passed Right-to-Organize Bill with White House Support

On March 9, the U.S. House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. Among other improvements and reforms to outdated U.S. labor laws, it will:

  • Help ensure workers who win union recognition can reach a first contract quickly.
  • End employers’ ability to hire permanent replacements to punish striking workers.
  • Enhance the NLRB’s power to fine companies that violate labor law, up to $50,000 per violation.
  • Weaken so-called “right-to-work” laws in the 27 states that allow employees who benefit from union contracts to choose not to join or pay union dues.

In early March, President Biden encouraged Congress to pass the PRO Act and the House swiftly passed it. The president had articulated his support for labor law reforms during his campaign, but with the PRO Act now introduced in Congress, his support is a powerful tool in helping ensure that all Democratic Senators support the bill. As of press time, the bill was the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.


03.11.2021

The American Rescue Plan

On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The act is a $1.9 trillion relief plan that will jumpstart the American economy. It puts real money behind the president’s commitment to defeat the COVID-19 virus and to build back the U.S. economy back better than it was before the pandemic. This critical relief package has already delivered desperately needed federal support for hard-working Americans and will help rebuild our shattered economy with provisions that directly benefit SMART members.

The plan includes resources for COVID testing, logistics, vaccine production and distribution to save lives and reopen America. It secures health care coverage, extends unemployment benefits and provides direct cash support for tens of millions of American families. It also delivers badly needed state and local aid to safely reopen schools and keep our bus and transit systems safe. In addition, the legislation allocates $170 billion to education, with much of that funding targeted to updating ventilation systems — putting sheet metal members to work as we monitor air quality and retrofit those same buildings to rebuild America’s aging HVAC systems. For SMART brothers and sisters on Amtrak who were idled due to no fault of their own, $2 billion is provided to re-open routes and get them back to work.


03.11.2021

Multiemployer Pension Relief

Included in the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden is a provision allocating $86 billion for multiemployer pension plans facing financial uncertainty. Under the legislation, eligible plans will receive funding in an amount sufficient to ensure that full benefits are paid for the next 30 years, without any benefit reductions or any repayment obligations. Hundreds of multiemployer plans that cover millions of union members and retirees stand to benefit (SMART’s pension plans are currently financially healthy).

“Reckless Wall Street behavior, industry deregulation and employer abuse of corporate bankruptcy have threatened the financial security of millions who’ve worked hard, only to have that promise stolen from them,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers in his March 2021 video message to members. “We now have a president who supports workers, retirees and their union. This administration put that commitment of ‘guarantee’ back into the ‘Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation’ ” — without cuts to accrued benefits or taxation.”


03.22.2021

Former Union Leader Confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor

On March 22, the U.S. Senate confirmed Marty Walsh as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Known primarily for his work as the mayor of Boston, Mass. Walsh was previously a rank and file member of LIUNA who worked his way up in the trade. His appointment by the Biden-Harris Administration puts a union member in charge of the Labor Department for the first time in decades.


04.28.2021

Biden Nominated Nation’s First Made in America Director

On April 28, President Biden named Celeste Drake as the nation’s first Made in America Director. The new position will shape and implement federal procurement and financial management policy to help carry out the president’s vision of future manufacturing focused on ensuring goods are made in America by American workers.

Drake joins the administration from the Directors Guild of America, where she served as the executive in charge of government affairs. Prior to joining the DGA, she served as the trade and globalization policy specialist for the AFL-CIO, where she led efforts to reform the labor rules found in NAFTA and the USMCA and to reform the process by which Congress oversees and approves trade agreements to protect American jobs.

Talking SMART Ep. 14: The 1st 100 Days of the Biden-Harris Administration

Back in January, we met with Steve Dodd and Greg Hynes to talk about the 2020 election and what to expect from the Biden-Harris administration. We have brought them back for this Talking SMART episode to talk about the first 100 days of the administration and, more specifically, its impact on SMART members.

Steve_Dodd.jpg
Steve Dodd

Brother Dodd is SMART’s Director of Governmental Affairs. He spoke with us about the many actions the Biden administration has already taken to support working families, including positive impacts of the passage of the American Rescue Plan on COBRA, unemployment benefits, multiemployer pensions, and funding for school HVAC retrofits. He also discussed the PRO Act and what it means for SMART members to have so many labor friendly people now appointed to top positions in the Biden administration.

Greg_Hynes.jpg
Greg Hynes

Brother Hynes is a fifth-generation railroader and SMART TD’s National Legislative Director. He discussed how the Biden Administration, in contrast to the previous administration, now very much has an open door for labor and actively seeks input from unions on issues of concern to working families. Greg also touched on how the American Rescue Plan included funding to rehire furloughed Amtrak workers, the significance of new leadership at the Federal Rail Administration which is now re-prioritizing rail safety over corporate profits, and what it really means when politicians or rail carriers say we need to just “cut back on regulations.”

In addition, listen for the open mic segment with SMART General President Joseph Sellers at the end of this episode. He responds to multiple questions that have come in from SMART members asking about what steps the Biden-Harris administration has taken to address the multiemployer pension crisis.

Talking SMART is a member of the Labor Radio Podcast Network — working people’s voices, broadcasting worldwide 24 hours a day.

SMART-TD Safety Condition Report is launched for members to submit info about unsafe conditions

To address the growing safety concerns of our membership, we have implemented a universal Safety Condition Report that is now available on the SMART-TD website for all members to use.

This form will become the primary tool to report and collect data concerning unsafe working conditions, including COVID-19 issues, from all members. Organizational information such as Craft, Local, Carrier, State Legislative Director and General Committee are loaded based on a member’s selection using defined database values, ensuring an accurate submission so that the officers responsible for acting on the report are directly and timely informed.

Members are presented a default list of safety hazards (including COVID-19) to choose along with identifying the state and location of the unsafe condition. Additionally, the form will dynamically update based on the members’ input, creating a customized report. After submission, an automated email to the General Chairperson and State Legislative Director with jurisdiction is sent as an initial notification. Full details of the Safety Condition Report are then accessed by these officers via the TD Connect portal along with printing and exporting capabilities for further collaboration with Local officers so that the unsafe conditions can be addressed.

Rail members, please note: The Railroad Technology Event report remains as a separate reporting mechanism due to the amount of detail and complexities that topic requires.

It is important to note that the data collected by this Safety Condition Report and the information within are kept and used solely within our SMART Union computer system and are used by SMART-TD officers to assist in addressing the issues presented by members.

“Membership safety and well-being is a founding principal of this Union, but we cannot assist without being properly informed of the unsafe issues facing our fellow brothers and sisters.” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson stated. “These reports are to enhance our safety efforts as many carriers lack proper and effective reporting mechanisms. Our SMART Constitution lists safety as our local legislative representatives’ primary mission, stating ‘They shall report to their Locals regarding the handling of all alleged unsafe or unsanitary working conditions found to exist, or reported to them, within their jurisdiction. They shall undertake to correct such conditions through appropriate measures consistent with the local and national policies of the Transportation Division.’ Therefore, we ask that you also forward this information as soon as possible to your local legislative representative or other SMART Union officer for proper handling. If you are unsure who they are or how to contact them, please contact our office.

“It is imperative that we all accept the personal responsibility to properly document known unsafe conditions, acts and security concerns. If more people would take the time to do this we could, over time, address most of the long-standing concerns we have. Without documentation, nothing will ever change — the issues and concerns will continue to remain and often grow until a very unfortunate situation such as an injury, accident or fatality brings to light what many knew was a problem long ago but failed to address.”

The union’s chief of staff hopes that the use of this form brings hazards that have been taken for granted or tolerated by workers to light.

“Sadly, we hear one particular scenario too often,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Someone says, ‘That has been an issue for a long time’ or ‘Everyone knows that is a problem’ at a particular property. Yet everyone assumes that someone else has written the unsafe condition up and unfortunately, no one has. The issue remains and the carriers use that against us by stating the very same thing — ‘That has been like that forever, and no one has said anything or taken issue with it.’

“This online reporting process is here to change that. Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough. Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”

The Safety Condition Report is accessible directly from the SMART-TD home page as both a banner and as a menu item — look for the blinking yellow caution signal.

“Please assist us with assisting you,” President Ferguson said. “All of our members deserve safe working conditions on the job and to return home safely. If there is an issue you want to report — report it.”

Updated books spell out federal laws for rail and bus members

Larry Mann, rail safety coordinator to SMART TD’s Designated Legal Counsel.The safety coordinator to the SMART Transportation Division Designated Legal Counsel has updated a pair of publications that offer comprehensive surveys of federal laws that cover TD members who work in the rail industry and who work as bus operators.

“What Every Railroader Should Know About the Federal Railroad Safety Laws and Regulations,” by Larry Mann, has been updated with changes that have occurred since the 2014 version’s release and contains detailed information about how federal railroad safety law pertains to railroad workers.

“What Every Bus Driver Should Know,” also by Mann, does the same for bus members and is essential reading for TD members concerned about how the law protects them.

Mann, who has served as DLC rail safety coordinator since the position was created in 2008, has extensive legal experience in the transportation industry and has given SMART Transportation Division permission to distribute both the updated rail book and the updated bus book via PDF on the TD website.

What Every Bus Driver Should Know
(June 2019)
What Every Railroad Worker Should Know
(June 2019)

Railroad Technology Event Report form available online

To better understand and evaluate the use of certain technologies implemented by carriers, SMART Transportation Division is seeking information regarding the operation of the technologies such as Positive Train Control, Trip Optimizer/Leader and others.

In order for our organization to formulate a plan to protect members and the general public and to ensure the safety of the nation’s infrastructure, we are asking members to provide information when incidents or events occur that involve these technologies.

“By reporting these events, we can track these instances and find any trends that may be occurring with these technologies,” said Jared Cassity, alternate director — East for the SMART TD National Safety Team and Kentucky’s state legislative director.

On the right side of the main page of the SMART Transportation Division website, an electronic form for members to report a railroad technology event is linked in the box labeled “Railroad Technology Event Report.”

Reports submitted through this form go to union safety leadership for collection. These reports are not a substitute for filling out a report to a carrier or to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

FRA reactivates safety advisory committee

A notice published in the Federal Register in late September announced that the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) would be rechartered for two years after a period of dormancy.

RSAC advises the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and makes recommendations on matters relating to railroad safety, resulting in a process that allows stakeholders, including labor and industry representatives, to collaborate before proposed rules are submitted.

The committee consists of 40 representatives from 29 member organizations, including SMART Transportation Division. It last met in May 2017, according to the RSAC website, and has been in existence since 1996.

A notice providing details about the committee’s next meeting has yet to be posted the RSAC site.

FRA hosting seminar on drug testing/rail safety

On Aug. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Federal Railroad Administration will host a seminar on drug testing policy and rail safety in Kansas City, Mo.

The seminar dives into 2017 drug testing amendments and a pair of amendments to safety rules created in November 2014 and December 2017. It will be held at the National Weather Service Training Center Auditorium, 37220 NW 101st, Kansas City, MO 64153. A government-issued ID is required to enter the building. There is no charge to attend.

To register, visit https://www.fra.dot.gov/conference/2018/reoseminar/register.aspx.

SOFA issues latest updates on switching accidents

The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group in June issued its latest updates on switching fatalities and severe injuries for the entirety of 2017 and for the first quarter of 2018.

According to SOFA, there were three switching-related fatalities and nine amputations as a result of switching accidents in 2017. There were 68 “severe injuries,” which SOFA defines as potentially life-threatening; having a high likelihood of permanent loss of function, permanent occupational limitation or other permanent disability; likely to result in significant work restrictions and resulting from a high-energy impact to the human body.

The number of severe injuries and amputations in 2017 exceeded 2016’s totals of 47 and seven, respectively.

SOFA reported that train accident reports increased to 1,686 in 2017 over the 1,671 in 2016. However, SOFA said that human factor accidents decreased to 639 in 2017 from the 643 reported in 2016.

In the first quarter of 2018, SOFA said there were two amputations, 20 severe injuries and no switching fatalities. SOFA reported that there have been 416 train accidents and 154 human factor accidents thus far in 2018.

SOFA is a voluntary, nonregulatory railroad safety partnership consisting of representatives of SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) that has a goal of zero switching fatalities achieved through education and nonpunitive interactions.

Click here to go to our SOFA page and read SOFA’s full reports.

2-person crews mandated for Boston duck boats – trains next?

BOSTON – 7 News Boston reported that the Massachusetts state legislature recently mandated that all duck boats must be operated by two-person crews. The measure came in response to a growing number of duck boat-related injuries and fatalities. Read the complete story here.

Two-person crews on duck boats makes sense –  and common sense also dictates that for safety’s sake, all freight and commuter trains should also be operated by two-person crews.

Click here to voice your support of HR 233 – The Safe Freight Act, that mandates two-person crews on all freight trains in the U.S.

SMART TD, BLET submit comments to TSA on rail security

SMART TD and BLET submitted joint comments to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Thursday, March 16, on their proposal to require security training for employees of higher-risk freight railroad carriers, transportation agencies, passenger railroad carriers and over-the-road bus companies.

TSA’s proposed rule will require companies to train employees performing security-sensitive functions on how to observe, assess and respond to terrorist-related threats or incidents.

SMART TD and BLET said in their comments:

“We support stronger security training requirements for surface transportation employees who serve a critical role in the movement of passengers and commercial goods nationwide. Train operators in particular are responsible for the movement of hazardous materials, which can be a high-risk target for terrorist attacks.

“In 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule which established minimum training standards for all safety-related railroad employees, as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. We urge TSA to engage with the FRA to implement improvements to those training standards and make sure that both sets of standards don’t conflict with one another.”

Click here to read TSA’s proposed rule.

Click here to read SMART TD and BLET’s joint comments in their entirety.

Click here to read all comments submitted to the TSA on this proposed rule.

Calls for 2-person crews in response to amphibious vehicle fatalities

The Portland Press Herald reported that as amphibious vehicles (duck boats), designed to traverse land and water, have increased in popularity over the years, so has the number of accidents and fatalities involving these complicated vehicles.  Advocates for increased safety measures are calling for mandated two-person crews on all duck boats.  Some amphibious vehicle companies have voluntarily  instated policies that mandate two-person crews at all times.  Since rail carriers can’t be counted on to do the same, we need to continue all efforts to pass HR 233.

Read the complete article here.

Take just a couple of minutes to contact your legislator in support of HR 233 – The Safe Freight Act, that includes a two-person crew mandate, by clicking here. 

NYC commuter rail lags behind in PTC technology

ABCNews.go.com reported that federal regulators are concerned about the lack of progress from NYC commuter rail in implementing potentially lifesaving Positive Train Control (PTC) technology.  “The nation’s three busiest commuter railroads — which together serve nearly 1 million riders in the New York City area each day — continue to lag behind their smaller West Coast counterparts in installing sophisticated train-control technology that’s seen as an antidote to crashes involving speeding and other human factors…” Read the complete article here.