Posts Tagged ‘railroad safety’

FRA chief of safety Bob Lauby retires

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will have some major shoes to fill with the April 13, 2019, retirement of Robert “Bob” Lauby, the agency’s chief safety officer.

Lauby had served in that capacity for FRA since September 2013. He was a frequent presenter at SMART Transportation Division regional meetings and worked to provide regulatory oversight for rail safety in the United States while overseeing the development and enforcement of safety regulations and programs related to the rail industry.

Lauby

“Serving as the associate administrator for Railroad Safety and FRA’s chief safety officer is one of the highlights of my career,” Lauby said. “The job has been both challenging and fulfilling.

“Over the years, we grappled with many important issues and have significantly changed the industry for the better.”

Lauby had a hand in several regulatory safety efforts at FRA such as Positive Train Control, conductor certification, training requirements, drug and alcohol testing for maintenance of way employees, roadway worker protection, passenger equipment standards, system safety and others.

Other safety oversight improvements happened as a result of major accidents. Some of the major ones included crude-oil accidents at Lac Megantic, Ontario, Canada; Mount Carbon, W.Va.; and other locations; commuter train accidents at Spuyten Duyvil and Valhalla, N.Y.; and Amtrak passenger train accidents in Philadelphia and Chester, Pa.; Dupont, Wash.; and Cayce, S.C.

“No matter the challenges swirling around him, Bob had safety in mind,” said National Legislative Director John Risch. “He’s been great to work with and one of the most committed, level-headed professionals in the rail industry.”

Lauby said that he treasured any interaction he could have with members of rail labor as these helped to broaden his perspective about whom he was working to protect.

“I always took time to talk to the SMART TD membership to get their complaints, opinions, and perspectives on the latest industry issues,” Lauby said. “I often left enlightened or with a new perspective.

“Railroad managers are experts on what is supposed to happen. SMART TD members are experts on what actually happens. They always know what works and what does not work.”

In his more-than-40-year career, Lauby’s railroad and transit experience included safety, security, accident investigation, project management, project engineering, manufacturing and vehicle maintenance.

He joined the FRA in August 2009 as staff director of its newly established Passenger Rail Division in the agency’s Office of Safety and was later promoted to deputy associate administrator for regulatory and legislative operations at FRA. One of his responsibilities in that role was to oversee the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).

Prior to his time at FRA, Lauby was director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Railroad Safety, overseeing hundreds of rail accident investigations for NTSB and coordinating with our union’s Transportation Safety Team in many investigations. He was NTSB’s representative on RSAC.

Lauby addressed SMART TD members in a workshop at the 2018 Seattle, Washington, regional meeting.

“At our regional meetings, I would introduce Bob and tell the troops that Bob was the big gun and can handle all the tough questions, which he always did,” Risch said at a party celebrating Lauby’s retirement in late March.

Lauby said he took his multiple presentations at TD regional meetings, including at the Seattle regional meeting last July, seriously — he felt he owed it to the attendees to give them useful information.

“I looked forward to the meetings each year and spent hours preparing my presentation and preparing for the questions I would get at the end – during the Q and A session,” he said. “I wanted the material I presented to be timely and useful to the membership, and I always tried to include the inside scoop – the stuff nobody else would talk about!”

But the benefits from his visits and interactions went both ways, he said, and showing up at the meetings gave him a fresh perspective on the industry.

“I always enjoyed speaking to the SMART TD membership – both at the Regional Meetings and when they were on their jobs,” Lauby said. “Whenever I traveled by train, I tried to spend time with the train crew or ride the head end to find out the issues of the day.

“I learned more about railroading from the working men and women of the railroad industry than from anyone else.”

Lauby’s departure is leaving a vacancy that FRA will have a difficult time filling, Risch said.

“No one will really fill your shoes because there is no one with the knowledge and experience to do that,” he told Lauby at his retirement party. “You committed your working life to rail safety, you have been a good friend of mine and a good friend to railroad workers everywhere.

“We wish you all the best as you enter this next stage of your life.”

Lauby said his career leaves him with a sense of gratitude.

“I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the industry I love, in a role where I felt I could make a difference,” Lauby said. “I will miss the thousands of people I interacted with each year. That includes the FRA employees and railroad industry labor and management … all the folks I dealt with at the various RSAC meetings. People are the most important part of any organization and the railroad industry is no different.”

AFL-CIO TTD sets rail safety priorities at meeting

The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) on March 11 announced the railroad industry issues that the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, will prioritize in the coming months.

Of the highest importance, the policy statement identified continuing the progression of safety measures, including national legislation.

“More can and must be done to further improve safety, minimize risk on railroads, and ensure frontline workers and the communities they operate in are fully protected,” the TTD said in its policy statement. “By reauthorizing the now-expired Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), closing perilous loopholes in existing regulations, and advancing common sense safety regulations that prioritize a vibrant and healthy rail workforce, Congress and the administration have an opportunity and obligation to ensure that the future of rail is safer than ever before.”

The policy statement also identified five key points of focus:

  1. Addressing Fatigue with Common Sense Solutions
  2. Single Crew Member Trains are Unsafe
  3. Protecting Rail Workers from Assault
  4. Ensure Cross Border Safety and Security
  5. Working Together for a Safe and Risk Free Rail Industry

“Rail workers cannot be expected to do more with a reduced workforce, fewer resources, and less sleep while simultaneously improving safety and minimizing risks,” the TTD concluded. “Rail labor will work vigorously with Congress to ensure adequate safety measures are implemented through the reauthorization process and will challenge any attempts that are made at the expense of safety, workers’ rights and their jobs.”

The policy statement was released in conjunction with the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.

Read the full policy statement.

PTSD: Occupational hazard for railroaders

Chuck Akers, lifelong train engineer, was forced to retire early after three physicians concurred that his numerous experiences with collisions that were caused by vehicles and people blocking the tracks (he was cleared of any wrongdoing in all incidents), had culminated into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is on the rise  among our nation’s locomotive engineers and conductors. View the complete story posted by Roanoke.com, here.

Audit finds Montana railroad safety lacking

safety_signMontana’s oversight of railroad safety falls short at a time when volatile crude oil train traffic from the Bakken region, already high, is only expected to increase, a new audit found.

Montana has no active rail safety plan and employs only two inspectors to cover the vast state, the Montana Legislative Audit Division report released Wednesday said. In addition, there is a lack of statewide emergency planning and hazardous-material response capability should an oil spill occur, the report found.

That’s a potentially precarious situation with a new crude oil transfer station in North Dakota coming online that should boost oil traffic crossing Montana from about 10 trains a week to up to 15 cars per week. One out of every five Montanans lives in an evacuation zone for an oil-train derailment, which is within a half-mile of a rail line, the report said.

Read more from ABC News.

Lipinski: Train crashes prompt railroad safety action

lipinskiAs the most senior member from Illinois on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the representative of a district that is home to more miles of train tracks than any other – in addition to the fact that I live less than a mile from a line that carries about 150 trains a day (some carrying Bakken oil) – I am concerned by the recent number of railroad accidents.

This has spurred me to take an even greater role in finding solutions that will keep our communities safe.

Read the complete story at www.mysuburbanlife.com.