I would like to begin by recognizing those of you who, in the face of this global COVID-19 pandemic, are continuing to serve the millions of Americans who depend on us and the services we provide every day.
If not for our bus operators, passenger and transit workers, families without alternate means of transportation might not have access to basic necessities such as food, cleaning supplies and medical attention, while essential staff in urban areas might not be able to report to work. If not for our freight rail crews operating around the clock, many of the vital goods and supplies our communities and healthcare professionals so desperately need and depend on would arrive late, or perhaps not at all.
It is impossible to overstate the fact that your dedication, professionalism, and skills support the very backbone of our country during this moment of crisis. Not only do we feel a duty to provide for ourselves and our loved ones through this difficult and uncertain time, but we are bound by our moral obligation to provide essential goods and services that our nation must have to endure, and later recover, from this ordeal.
Unfortunately, we have already received confirmed reports that some of our members have tested positive for COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers are with those members, and their loved ones, who have either tested positive or are in quarantine. If you or someone you know is having difficulty dealing with the stress or anxiety brought on by this virus, we want you to know that Optum has established a no-cost, 24/7, emotional support help line at 1-866-342-6892. Please share this information accordingly.
It is unconscionable that in the wake of a national emergency, some of our carriers have refused to suspend draconian attendance policies that compel us to report for duty when we, or members of our household, are symptomatic. Many of those same carriers are neglecting to provide the proper cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and workplace sterilization that would undoubtedly save lives. Their actions, or lack thereof, are reminiscent of the railroad companies’ safety policies of more than a century ago, where they viewed such matters as the workers’ responsibility to fend for themselves, and they made the bare minimum effort by issuing stern, authoritarian warnings. We firmly believe history will not look kindly on these carriers. The good news is a few carriers are actually leading the way and setting the bar at “unbelievable levels,” as reported by Long Island Railroad General Chairperson Anthony Simon. We hope others will soon follow.
As a result of the above, and as you can see in links to correspondence provided below, we have turned to our lawmakers and regulatory agencies with authority to mandate the workplace protections we so desperately expect and deserve. In his letter dated March 11, 2020, Ronald Batory, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, claims that, “FRA has been monitoring this issue closely and confers regularly on its impacts with railroad service providers….” [emphasis added]. Further, Mr. Batory advised that… “[t]he Administration has taken a whole-of-government approach which has paved the way for a whole-of-America response….” If you find this response as abhorrent as we do, then perhaps you may join us in seeking further clarification from Mr. Batory by calling his office at (202) 493-6014.
On March 18, 2020, we made similar demands on behalf of our bus members in a letter addressed to Raymond P. Martinez, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. While we have yet to receive a response from Mr. Martinez, it may help if we call his office at (202) 366-4000 and voice our concerns.
Our National Legislative Department, in conjunction with the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and other rail labor Organizations, have been on Capitol Hill relentlessly demanding many of these same protections. Through this conduit, we are doing everything we can to ensure that Congress will not overlook the rail industry and its employees when legislation is introduced to provide relief to those affected by COVID-19. Likewise, our General Committees of Adjustment and State Legislative Boards have been working tirelessly to apply similar pressure to individual carriers, state and local lawmakers, and regulatory agencies.
To assist our Legislative Department and General Committees in their efforts, we strongly encourage you to reach out to your representatives. It is more important than ever to draw their attention to the fact that our employers and policymakers are relinquishing their duties to act as responsible corporate citizens and government agencies. If you are not already aware, you may find your representatives’ contact information by simply entering your address and zip code in the “Find Your Elected Officials” field at the bottom of the following webpage:
In addition to the above efforts, we have participated in numerous conference calls and meetings to directly address and escalate these matters with members of management, Congress, and regulatory authorities. As you might imagine, the discourse in some of these conversations would not be appropriate for sharing verbatim. Nonetheless, you should rest assured they know exactly where we stand, and what we expect.
Now more than ever, I am honored and humbled to serve as your President. I have an immense sense of pride and respect for all of you who continue to place yourselves in harm’s way, doing what many are not capable of doing. Please accept this letter as my personal commitment that your union will not cease or slow its efforts until we procure the workplace safety and security we deserve.
CLEVELAND, Ohio. (March 20, 2020) — SMART Transportation Division filed a request to both the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) urging them to issue Emergency Orders (EO) to address employee safety conditions in response to the national COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
“The employees we represent are essential to the health, safety, security, and transport of the nation’s citizens,” wrote SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson in his filing to the agencies. “Therefore, it is necessary that the carriers take immediate and appropriate precautions to mitigate against the spread of the virus amongst their workforces and passengers, to minimize the exposure of their employees to the virus during the performance of their duties, and to maintain sufficient staffing levels to compensate for reduced headcounts caused by sick employees and family members until the virus begins to subside.”
Although President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the COVID-19 viral outbreak on March 13, many transit agencies have been slow to adopt, or in some cases have neglected to adopt, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
SMART-TD’s emergency order request includes, among other provisions, that transit agencies under the purview of both FTA and FMCSA adhere to CDC guidelines in the following areas:
• Sanitation of operators’ stations
• Sanitation of vehicles
• Sanitation of employee common rooms
• Personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees monitoring fare boxes
• Monitoring of employee temperatures
• Sanitation at lodging facilities for away-from-home employees
Procedures requested by the SMART-TD on the handling of employees and passengers who are symptomatic of the coronavirus reflect CDC guidelines, which include isolation, PPE, transport, and self-quarantine.
Finally, President Ferguson wrote, 25% of furloughed transit personnel should immediately be recalled to service to deal with anticipated shortages and staffing needs, in accordance with President Trump’s invocation of the Defense Production Act.
“To standardize and define the best protocols across the industry for the mitigation of the spread of the virus and the protection of employees, these safety precautions need to be immediately ordered by the FTA and FMCSA,” President Ferguson stated.
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.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (March 18) — SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) President Jeremy R. Ferguson and TD Bus Department Vice Presidents Calvin Studivant and Alvy Hughes sent a letter to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Raymond Martinez urging the head of the FMCSA to thoroughly respond to the rapidly spreading national threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus). “While it is noted FMCSA recently issued a national emergency declaration and guidelines for commercial vehicles delivering relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, to our knowledge, it has not released information or guidelines pertinent to our members,” Ferguson, Studivant and Hughes wrote, noting that agencies such as the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and Maritime Administration have submitted guidelines to employers on how to handle COVID-19. The SMART Transportation Division represents about 8,000 bus members, many of whom work in densely populated urban areas susceptible to the virus’s spread. “We are urging you to issue emergency regulations directed towards metropolitan transportation authorities (and similar carriers), employees and passengers,” TD leadership wrote. The mandates urged by SMART-TD to protect its membership and the public were that:
buses be sanitized after every route or tour of duty, prior to it being occupied by a subsequent operator or passengers. Require the use of CDC recommended chemicals to kill germs on surfaces, including wiping down all operator controls, seating, windows, steering wheels, door handles, switches, etc. (anywhere that an employee is likely to touch). Likewise, a disinfectant spray should be used at the end of cleaning to broadly disinfect the operators’ work area;
passenger areas and other equipment such as (but not limited to) computers, time clocks, restrooms, and communal areas such as offices, crew staging areas and garages be sanitized at least once every 8 hours, ideally within the range of normal shift changes and on/off duty times, if they exist;
the above sanitization tasks be performed by individuals designated and educated on proper procedures, who are equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment, and include the removal of trash from buses and communal areas (this should not be considered incidental work performed by operators);
operators and passengers be provided with personal protective equipment, alcohol-based hand sanitizer strong enough to kill viruses, and other cleaning supplies as deemed appropriate;
the number of passengers and/or employees in a confined area (including buses) be limited to comply with the applicable Local, State, and/or federal guidelines;
employees be encouraged to stay home if they have respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and/or fever) and to leave work if they develop such symptoms while at the workplace;
prohibition of attendance policies and availability standards which could result in discipline or penalties for employees who miss work due to COVID-19 related symptoms and/or illness;
all employees (including supervisory staff) must be educated on the appropriate guidelines for self-monitoring of their health condition, as well as monitoring and addressing others who appear to be symptomatic;
all employees reporting to work must be scanned for fever prior to the beginning of each route or tour of duty, with employees identified as having an elevated temperature immediately isolated and sent home for treatment or self-quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines;
carriers must report to the appropriate health departments where employees have shown aforementioned symptoms that prevent them from carrying out their assigned duties;
carriers must develop plans for employees who reside with, and/or come into direct contact with, individuals who are symptomatic, and
carriers must comply with other such guidelines issued by the CDC and the federal government.
President Ferguson and Vice Presidents Studivant and Hughes also urged Martinez to provide timely updates as FMCSA engages in its response to COVID-19. “Further, we ask that you provide continual updates to these guidelines/mandates, as other departments have done,” they wrote. “Please advise of your plans pertaining to this very serious situation.” Read the entire letter to FMCSA Administrator Martinez.
Federal agencies have announced their random drug testing rates for the new calendar year. In December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a test rate increase from 25 percent to 50 percent of the average number of driver positions because of an increased number of positive test results in 2018. In January, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that the minimum random drug testing rate will remain unchanged at 50 percent. The Federal Railroad Administration’s minimum drug test rate remains at 25 percent for workers, excluding maintenance-of-way employees. The random alcohol testing rate has been set for all three agencies at 10 percent. Railroad maintenance-of-way employees are tested at a higher rate: 50 percent for drugs and 25 percent for alcohol. Click here for a chart from DOT detailing the 2020 random testing rates.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in a notice published in the Federal Register on Oct. 2 that it was renewing the charter of its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) for two years, effective Sept. 27. The MCSAC was established to provide FMCSA with advice and recommendations on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations. Membership is composed of up to 25 experts from the motor carrier safety advocacy, safety enforcement, industry and labor sectors. They are appointed by the FMCSA administrator for two-year terms. Current labor representatives on the committee are LaMont Byrd, a vice chairman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Bruce Hamilton, a vice president for the Amalgamated Transit Union; and Christopher Treml, director of construction training for the International Union of Operating Engineers. For more information about MCSAC, visit the committee’s website.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — In closing remarks to the SMART Transportation Division Regional Meeting July 3, TD President John Previsich said that recent actions of government agencies under the umbrella of the federal Department of Transportation will not go unchallenged. Actions by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding safety issues have shown that those agencies have stepped away from their duties of overseeing the safety of communities and of the nation’s transportation workers, he said. The FRA’s withdrawal of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in May plus a similar action within days by the FMCSA that withdrew a notice regarding bus operator safety is a starting point to what will be a challenging period for our union, Previsich said. All options, including litigation, are being explored to challenge what Previsich had described in testimony before a U.S. House Subcommittee as FRA’s abdication of its safety oversight responsibilities by withdrawing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding minimum crew size. Attorneys general from every state that have implemented legislation requiring two-person freight crews are being invited to join with labor to protect the state laws. The effort will address FRA’s abuse of authority by withdrawing the NPR, ignoring the comments that were overwhelmingly in favor of a two-person crew rule and the agency’s attempt to pre-empt state laws. It will be a “concerted” effort with other labor organizations. Previsich said that the union is planning on a multi-faceted approach to take on FRA while also challenging Congress to pursue legislation to correct FRA’s refusal to oversee safety on the nation’s railroads. State legislative action surrounding two-person rail crews also will be ongoing, he said, and more details of our efforts as well as additional actions for members to take will be communicated in the near future. “There is going to be a big push coming,” Previsich said. “We are going to reach out to you when the proper time comes and ask for your assistance. I think your members will be proud of their union and where we’re going with this.” To do something immediately, members should take the time to watch the video of the House subcommittee hearing. There they will see who supports our efforts, and what opponents are saying. All brothers and sisters should then contact their legislators directly to explain our issues to their U.S. House and Senate representatives, and why the current bills regarding transportation safety are important. An in-person visit, an option advocated by National Legislative Director John Risch during the Regional Meeting’s opening session, helps to personalize and drive these issues home no matter what political party the public official identifies with. The TD Legislative Action Center is a one-stop repository that has information on federal bills advocating bus and transit operator safety, freight rail crew size and yardmaster safety. Our brothers and sisters also should donate to the SMART TD PAC. “There’s nothing more important in this environment today — in this political climate that we’re in — that we get access, and we get access through PAC,” Previsich said. On the second day of the meeting, SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. addressed the new leaders in attendance and encouraged them to take advantage of all resources available to them in both the Washington, D.C., and in the Cleveland offices. The TD Regional Meeting theme — “Your Union Leading the Way” — was particularly appropriate this year — members “need to understand that ‘Your union’ is our union … 200,000 members are part of our union,” Sellers said. “And ‘leading the way’ means you leading the way, meaning us leading the way meaning leaders and members leading the way.” In a time of upheaval in the industries that SMART members are employed in, efforts to grow the organization will continue to be a priority, and officers will take an important role in those efforts. “We must continue to grow. We must organize, organize, organize — internal organizing, external organizing, making sure every worker is a SMART member,” Sellers said. From all levels of the union, it is up to everyone to take responsibility for the safety of themselves and build and maintain a strong foundation and maintain a powerful and nimble network that can take collective action to protect ourselves and the legacy our union represents, Sellers said. “I want to make sure that we continue to build that foundation, that we continue to form this union so that future generations will have the same opportunity, enjoy that same representation, enjoy the same benefits of a collective bargaining agreement and enjoy a retirement particularly at a time when many people won’t have a retirement or work pension.” Support from the SMART Army has brought results — members’ efforts beat back Right to Work For Less legislation in Washington one day after a call for mobilization at the state’s Capitol, and helped to get two-person crew legislation passed in Colorado and Nevada this year. They’ve also mobilized to defend proposed pension changes in Congress. “As we build that, we will do better,” he said. To join, text SMART Army to 21333. In closing the meeting, Previsich announced that the 2020 TD Regional Meeting will be held in its home base of Cleveland, Ohio, at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown from Aug. 24 to 26. The three-day San Diego meeting at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel featured more than 30 educational workshops intended to assist officers and strengthen our union at every level.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the adoption of a final rule that will improve roadway safety by employing technology to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue.
“Since 1938, complex, on-duty/off-duty logs for truck and bus drivers were made with pencil and paper, virtually impossible to verify,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”
The final rule requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) will result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion – largely by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork. It will also increase the efficiency of roadside law enforcement personnel in reviewing driver records. Strict protections are included that will protect commercial drivers from harassment.
On an annual average basis, the ELD Final Rule is estimated to save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles.
“This is a win for all motorists on our nation’s roadways,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “Employing technology to ensure that commercial drivers comply with federal hours-of-service rules will prevent crashes and save lives.”
An ELD automatically records driving time. It monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information.
Federal safety regulations limit the number of hours commercial drivers can be on-duty and still drive, as well as the number of hours spent driving. These limitations are designed to prevent truck and bus drivers from becoming fatigued while driving, and require that drivers take a work break and have a sufficient off-duty rest period before returning to on-duty status.
The four main elements of the ELD Final Rule include:
Requiring commercial truck and bus drivers who currently use paper log books to maintain hours-of-service records to adopt ELDs within two years. It is anticipated that approximately three million drivers will be impacted.
Strictly prohibiting commercial driver harassment. The Final Rule provides both procedural and technical provisions designed to protect commercial truck and bus drivers from harassment resulting from information generated by ELDs. [A separate FMCSA rulemaking further safeguards commercial drivers from being coerced to violate federal safety regulations and provides the agency with the authority to take enforcement actions not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers and transportation intermediaries.]
Setting technology specifications detailing performance and design requirements for ELDs so that manufacturers are able to produce compliant devices and systems – and purchasers are enabled to make informed decisions.
Establishing new hours-of-service supporting document (shipping documents, fuel purchase receipts, etc.) requirements that will result in additional paperwork reductions. In most cases, a motor carrier would not be required to retain supporting documents verifying on-duty driving time.
The ELD Final Rule permits the use of smart phones and other wireless devices as ELDs, so long as they satisfy technical specifications, are certified and are listed on an FMCSA website. Canadian- and Mexican-domiciled drivers will also be required to use ELDs when operating on U.S. roadways.
Motor carriers who have previously installed compliant Automatic On-Board Recording Devices may continue to use the devices for an additional two years beyond the compliance date.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that the annual minimum random controlled substances testing rates for employees in safety sensitive positions, including tractor-trailer and bus drivers, will remain at 50 percent through 2015. The agency’s decision to maintain the current testing rate was based on data from motor carrier industry controlled substance lab test results, the 2012 drug and alcohol testing survey, and additional investigations, which showed that:
Positive test rates following an initial positive result increased by 4.1 percent from 2011 to 2012;
Reasonable suspicion positive test rates continued to rise sharply from 5.6 percent in 2010, to 15.7 percent in 2011 and 37.2 percent in 2012, marking a five-fold increase over the 3-year period;
The rate of total positive drug test results reported to DOT from independent Health and Human Services-certified laboratories increased from 95,427 positives in 2011 to 97,332 positives in 2012. FMCSA-regulated industries comprise approximately 80 percent of the reported tests;
Serious controlled substance and alcohol testing violations were identified in 24 percent of recent compliance investigations; and
A two-week 2014 Strike Force focusing on the identification of drivers who tested positive resulted in 205 driver enforcement cases, and 138 enforcement cases against carriers for violations relating to drivers with positive test results operating a commercial motor vehicle. These include drivers operating passenger carrying vehicles and transporting hazardous materials.
While results for FMCSA’s 2012 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey of approximately 2,000 carriers indicate that positive random drug testing results have decreased for a second year, the agency is committed to seeking additional information related to driver test rates and will continue to monitor industry testing programs before re-evaluating the controlled substances random test rate for 2016.
WASHINGTON – On Nov. 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will kick-off the 2015 “Be Ready. Be Buckled.” student art contest organized by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Partnership. Open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade with relatives or sponsors in the commercial truck and bus industries, the contest educates kids about highway safety and urges commercial drivers to buckle up on every trip.
“Buckling your safety belt should be an automatic practice for every driver and passenger since it’s the simplest and most effective way to save your life in the event of a crash,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The purpose of this art contest is to engage children and their parents in discussing safety and to provide a calendar of kids’ artwork that serves as a year-round reminder to always buckle-up.”
In just the last three years, safety belt use has continued to rise among medium-to-heavy truck and bus drivers to an all-time high of 84 percent, according to a 2013 FMCSA study. While good news, there is room for improvement. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent data from 2012 showed that 697 occupants of large trucks were killed in crashes; approximately 40 percent were not wearing safety belts.
“The good news is that overall safety belt use for professional bus and truck drivers has steadily increased each year and as a direct result, more lives are being saved,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “We are focused on reminding every driver that there is never an excuse to skip the important step of buckling up.”
FMCSA will accept contest submissions through Feb. 28, 2015. Students can submit their artwork by mail to the following address:
CMV Safety Belt Partnership c/o CVSA Attention: Nicole Leandro 6303 Ivy Lane, Suite 310 Greenbelt, MD 20770
Artwork will be evaluated in two categories: one for kindergarten through second grade, and another for third through sixth grade.
Twelve winners will be selected in April 2015, and their artwork will appear in the 2016 “Be Ready. Be Buckled.” contest calendar.