FMCSA-LogoWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced nearly $2.3 million in grants, double the amount provided in 2014, to 13 technical and community colleges across the country to help train veterans and their families for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers.  The funding is provided through FMCSA’s Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training (CMV-OST) grant program.

“We support job opportunities for Veterans who have served our country, but not only because it is the right thing to do, it also makes good sense,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “One of the most important, fastest growing employment sectors is for qualified commercial vehicle drivers and Veterans bring invaluable experience to the industry and can enter the workforce quickly.”

“We doubled the amount we have previously provided through this grant program because of the important role qualified commercial truck and bus drivers hold in moving our economy forward,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “The men and women who complete these commercial driver training programs also serve our country in a vital way by making safety their top priority every mile, every day.” 

FMCSA awards CMV-OST grants to a variety of educational institutions that provide truck driving training, including accredited public or private colleges, universities, vocational-technical schools, post-secondary educational institutions, truck driver training schools, associations, and state and local governments, including federally-recognized Native American tribal governments.  
 
The 2015 FMCSA grants announced today will provide training for hundreds of new students.  The awards were made to the following organizations:

  • California – West Hills Community College District, Coalinga, $199,460
  • Georgia – Central Georgia Technical College, Macon, $146,771
  • Maryland – Cecil College, North East, $101,825
  • New York – Erie 2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES, Angola, $105,201
  • North Carolina – North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, $200,000
  • Ohio – Cuyahoga Community College District, Cleveland, $195,040
  • Oklahoma – Central Technical Center, Drumright, $200,000
  • Pennsylvania – Lancaster County Career & Technology Center, Willow Street, $194,811
  • Pennsylvania – Northampton County Area Community College, Bethlehem, $134,400
  • Pennsylvania – The Sage Corporation, Camp Hill, $198,504
  • South Carolina – Orangeburg-Callhoun Technical College, Orangeburg, $197,399
  • Texas – Alamo Colleges/ St. Phillip’s College, San Antonio, $196,680
  • Virginia – Tidewater Community College, Norfolk, $199,879

The Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training Grant Program was established by Congress in 2005 through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), to expand the number of commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders possessing enhanced operator safety training to help reduce the severity and number of crashes on U.S. roads involving large trucks and buses.

In July 2014, FMCSA announced that the Military Skills Test Waiver Program had been expanded to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  

Under this program, state licensing agencies have authority to waive the skills test portion of the CDL application for active duty or recently separated veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving the skills test expedites the civilian commercial drivers licensing application process and reduces expenses for qualified individuals and operating costs to state licensing agencies.

FMCSA last year also announced that, beginning with Virginia residents, returning military service personnel who possess a state-issued Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate due to a limb impairment will automatically be recognized as equivalent to an FMCSA-issued SPE certificate and allowed to obtain an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL).  FMCSA encourages other state licensing agencies to establish comparable equivalency SPE programs.

To learn more about the Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training Grant Program, please visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/grants/cmv-operator-safety-training-grant/commercial-motor-vehicle-cmv-operator-safety-training.

For a listing of last year’s CMV – OST grant recipients, please visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/fmcsa-awards-1-million-help-train-and-place-veterans-careers-commercial-truck-and-bus.

To learn more about the Military Skills Test Waiver Program, please visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/military.

To learn more about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s dedication to our nation’s veterans, please visit http://www.dot.gov/veteranstransportationcareers.

DOT_Logo_150px WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is announcing the availability of $22.5 million through the latest round of the Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo) that will help deploy the next generation of energy-efficient vehicles nationwide. The funds are intended to encourage adoption of green technologies in transit buses, such as hydrogen fuel cells and electric and hybrid engines.

“These grants will help ensure that the future of mass transit is energy-efficient and friendly to the environment,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This funding will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and support the growing sustainable energy industry in the United States.”

The FTA’s Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program was established under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). It focuses on commercializing the cleanest and most energy-efficient U.S.-made transit buses to help reduce emissions like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The LoNo program builds on the success of FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program, which invested in the research, development and testing of alternative fuels and related equipment for the transit industry.

A Notice of Funding Availability for the FTA LoNo Program can be found in the Federal Register. The previous round of LoNo funding, announced in February 2015, awarded $55 million in grants to ten organizations nationwide.

“The LoNo program has helped deploy environmentally-sound, technologically-advanced vehicles across the country, providing a better riding experience for passengers and improving public health,” said Acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan. “By reducing fuel and maintenance costs, these modern vehicles are a great public investment – saving taxpayer money in the long run while powering innovative American enterprises.”

FTA will award the LoNo funds on a competitive basis to transit agencies and state transportation departments working either independently or jointly with bus manufacturers already making low- and zero-emission buses. Priority will be given to proposals that, among other criteria:

  • Use tested bus models with proven effectiveness, especially zero-emission models;
  • Exhibit strong transit agency and community commitment, including technical and project management skills; and
  • Demonstrate understanding of and accommodation for public safety.

In addition, all LoNo procurements will have to follow FTA Buy America regulations and undergo Bus Testing at FTA’s facility in Altoona, Pa.

Of the $22.5 million available in LoNo grant funds, a minimum of $3.0 million is available to support facilities and related equipment. Transit agencies may also use a portion of their annual FTA formula funds to purchase additional vehicles.

In addition to their environmental benefits, LoNo transit buses will, in the long run, help transit agencies save money on fuel and maintenance costs. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, zero-emission buses can achieve up to 87% greater fuel economy compared to buses running on diesel and other fuels.

FRA_logo_words WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced that it is soliciting applications for $10 million in competitive grant funding available to states to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track along routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol.  The guidelines for the grant applications set by the FRA encourage states to include innovative solutions to improve safety, especially at highway-rail grade crossings.  The funding is part of the Railroad Safety grants for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail Program.  

“The U.S. Department of Transportation has made increasing safety at highway-rail grade crossings, especially along routes transporting energy products, one of its top priorities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “This money allows the Department to support innovative ideas and solutions developed at the local level, and I encourage states to apply for this funding.”

Highway-rail grade crossings collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities.  Last year, 269 individuals died in these collisions.  While the number of fatalities has decreased for the last several decades, this number increased last year for the first time this decade.

Highway-rail grade crossing accidents are frequently the result of a driver’s lack of awareness of a crossing or an oncoming train or a driver’s attempt to “beat the train.”  Earlier this year, FRA ramped up its campaign to prevent collisions and save lives at highway-rail grade crossings through greater education, stronger enforcement and smarter engineering.  To accomplish this, FRA has developed key partnerships, and has:

“Most of these deaths are completely preventable, and that is why the Federal Railroad Administration has redoubled its efforts to reverse last year’s upward trend.  These funds will allow states to take innovative ideas and make them a reality to increase safety and decrease fatalities,” said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

In GROW AMERICA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed creating new grant program that would make $250 million available to local communities for highway-rail grade crossings as well as other critical rail infrastructure projects.  In addition, the Department has proposed continuing Federal Highway Administration’s $220 million per year dedicated grant program for highway rail grade crossing projects. 

Earlier this year, DOT released its comprehensive rule that raises the bar on the safety of transporting crude oil by rail.  The rule requires stronger tank cars and 21st century electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes that activate simultaneously on all tank cars, reduce the distance and time needed for a train to stop, and keep more tank cars on the track if a train does derail.  DOT has also required that railroads transporting crude oil notify State Emergency Response Commissions of the movement of crude oil through individual states.  During the last two years, DOT has taken more than two dozen actions to increase the safety of transporting energy products by rail.

View a copy of the Notice of Funding Availability.

To view education materials, visit Operation Lifesaver’s website, our partner in grade crossing and trespasser safety.

Disaster relief grants of $500 are available from Union Plus to help eligible participants in the Union Plus credit card, insurance or mortgage programs who are facing financial hardship due to the Hurricane Sandy disaster.

The money does not have to be repaid.  Funds are limited to the nearly $370,000 available in the Union Plus Disaster Relief Fund. 

To qualify for a Union Plus disaster relief grant, you must: 

  1. Have been a victim of the severe weather in counties designated by FEMA as qualifying for individual assistance. (List of qualifying counties available at UnionPlus.org/Sandy.)
  2. Have experienced a significant loss of income or property within the last six months due to the disaster.
  3. Have had a Union Plus credit card, Union Plus insurance policy or Union Plus mortgage for at least 12 months with the account or policy in good standing (be up-to-date on payments).
  4. Describe his or her circumstances and document the income or property loss. 

To apply for a disaster relief grant, union members who participate in any of the following programs can call:

  • Union Plus credit card: (877) 761-5028
  • Union Plus insurance: (800) 472-2005
  • Union Plus mortgage: (800) 472-2005 

Credit card holders are also eligible for Union Plus grants that help union members who lose their job, are recently disabled, face high hospital bills or are forced to go on strike. The mortgage program also offers assistance that includes interest-free loans and grants for union members who are unemployed, recently disabled, locked out or on strike. 

Union Plus credit card holders are encouraged to contact Capital One, the new Union Plus credit card issuer, at (877) 761-5028, if you need additional assistance. Capital One has programs in place to help customers who are experiencing difficulties due to the storm. 

Union Plus mortgage holders, including anyone who is in the process of receiving a new Union Plus mortgage, are encouraged to contact Chase, who provides Union Plus Mortgages, at (888) 356-0023 or tweet @ChaseSupport, for additional assistance and information.

For more information about the Union Plus disaster benefits, visit UnionPlus.org/Sandy.

Bruce Feltmeyer

The UTU and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) are jointly seeking an anti-terrorist security grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If the grant is approved — with a DHS decision expected in August — the UTU and TRRA will collaborate on a three-year project to train front-line TRRA employees to enhance security awareness.

The project — with International employee Bruce Feltmeyer (UTU Local 1402, St. Louis) leading the UTU team — proposes joint UTU/TRRA creation of a security awareness manual, plus emergency preparedness classroom training, drills and exercises that will present various terrorist scenarios and means of recognizing, reporting and responding to terrorist threats against TRRA facilities.

The TRRA is a major railcar switching facility, with yards in downtown St. Louis and in the shadows of the Gateway Arch.

Daily, carloads of hazardous materials and other security-sensitive cargo are interchanged among most major railroads by TRRA train and engine workers. “The nature of TRRA’s operation, its importance to national rail-network reliability, and its location in the heart of a major U.S. city could make TRRA a high-priority target for foreign terrorists as well as disturbed individuals,” Feltmeyer said.

The UTU is currently working with Amtrak to develop training of conductors, assistant conductors, on-board service personnel and yard employees to enhance their abilities to recognize behavioral traits and deal with unruly passengers. That project is funded with forfeiture proceeds from federal drug-busts.

Additionally, discussions are underway with Class I freight railroads regarding joint UTU/railroad applications for federal grants to develop similar training programs for front-line Class I employees.

Feltmeyer, who is administrative assistant to UTU International President Mike Futhey, says the knowledge and understanding of vulnerability demonstrated by TRRA Police Chief George Muraski and former Amtrak Police Chief Ron Frazier will ““help to make a strong case for DHS funding of this joint UTU/TRRA project.”

At UTU regional meetings in San Antonio, Texas, and New York City in June and July, Feltmeyer will lead educational workshops on recognizing, reporting and responding to terrorist threats.

“Bruce Feltmeyer is uniquely qualified for this leadership task,” Futhey said. “During his years of rail service, he has developed training programs for the on-line UTU University; and, as a Union Pacific employee, he helped to develop customer-service related training materials for conductors and newly hired managers.

“Bruce also taught business software as an adjunct professor at a St. Louis community college,” Futhey said.

WASHINGTON — Amtrak’s vision for high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor gained a significant boost May 9 when the Federal Railroad Administration redistributed to Amtrak $795 million of some $2 billion in high-speed rail grants previously rejected by Florida.

Portions of that grant money also were distributed to 15 states that have plans for high-speed and higher-speed rail.

The funds come from unobligated amounts appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which has not been affected by recent congressional budget cuts. That law, intended to stimulate the economy at the depth of the current recession, provided some $10 billion for rail projects. Some $6 billion of that $10 billion has now been distributed.

Some of the funds directed to Amtrak May 9 are earmarked for 24 miles of Northeast Corridor track in central New Jersey — between New Brunswick and Morrisville — to be upgraded to handle 160-mph train operations. The current top speed over that segment is 135 mph via Amtrak’s Acela trains.

The Northeast Corridor connects Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Midwest states will receive $404 million to upgrade tracks between Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis for 110-mph passenger-train operations. Work already has begun — as part of a joint project among Union Pacific, Amtrak and the FRA — to upgrade tracks between Chicago and St. Louis to 110 mph for passenger-trains.

California will receive $300 million toward initial construction in the Central Valley of a planned high-speed line linking Sacramento, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Following is a breakdown of the grant allocations:

Northeast Corridor

  • $450 million to Amtrak to improve NEC track, and power, signal and catenary systems in one of the corridor’s most heavily traveled areas, creating a 24-mile segment of track that can handle 160 mph train operations.
  • $295 million to New York to build new routes that enable Amtrak trains to bypass the Harold Interlocking in Queens on Long Island — one of the country’s busiest passenger-rail junctions.
  • $25 million to Rhode Island to design and construct an additional 1.5 miles of third track in Kingston, enabling trains operating at speeds up to 150 mph to pass other trains on a high-volume section of the corridor.
  • $22 million to Maryland to conduct engineering and environmental work to replace the century-old Susquehanna River Bridge.
  • $3 million to Rhode Island to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental work to renovate the Providence Station.

Northeast Region

  • $58 million to New York to upgrade tracks, stations and signals along the Empire Corridor, including replacing the Schenectady Station and constructing a fourth station track at the Albany-Rensselaer Station.
  • $40 million to Pennsylvania to rebuild an interlocking near Harrisburg on the Keystone Corridor.
  • $30 million to Connecticut to build double-track segments between New Haven and Springfield.
  • $20.8 million to Maine and Massachusetts to construct a 10.4-mile section of double track between Wilmington and Andover, Mass., improving service along Amtrak’s Downeaster route.
  • $1.4 million to New York to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental reviews for a new Rochester intermodal station along the Empire Corridor.

Regional Equipment Pools

  • $268.2 million to Midwest states to purchase 48 high-performance passenger cars and seven quick-acceleration locomotives for eight corridors in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.
  • $68 million to California to acquire 15 high-performance passenger cars and four “uick-acceleration locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol corridors.

Midwestern Region

  • $196.5 million to Michigan to rehabilitate track and signal systems between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, bringing train speeds up to 110 mph along a 235-mile section of track.
  • $186.3 million to Illinois to construct track along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet to accommodate 110 mph trains.
  • $13.5 million to Missouri to advance design work to replace the Merchant’s Bridge over the Mississippi River along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.
  • $5 million to Minnesota to complete engineering and environmental work to establish the Northern Lights Express, which would connect Minneapolis and Duluth with 110 mph trains.
  • $2.8 million to Michigan to conduct an engineering and environmental analysis to construct a new station in Ann Arbor.

Southern Region

  • $15 million to Texas to conduct engineering and environmental work to develop a high-speed rail corridor linking Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.
  • $4 million to North Carolina to conduct an environmental analysis of the Richmond-Raleigh section of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corirdor.

California and the Northwest Region

  • $300 million to the California High Speed Rail Authority to extend construction on the Central Valley corridor by another 20 miles, from Fresno to the Wye junction, which will provide a connection to San Jose to the west and Merced to the north.
  • $15 million to Washington state to construct a Port of Vancouver grade separation, which will eliminate a congested intersection and bottleneck between freight and passenger tracks.
  • $1.5 million for analysis of overnight parking tracks for passenger trains on the southern end of the Pacific Northwest Corridor at the Port of Vancouver, adding new capacity for increased passenger and freight-rail service.
  • $15 million to eliminate a congested intersection and bottleneck between freight and passenger tracks along the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor at Eugene, Ore., by elevating one set of tracks over the other.

Union members living in areas impacted by the recent tornadoes and flooding, and who participate in Union Plus programs, may be eligible for financial assistance.

Union Plus disaster relief grants of $500 are available to help participants in the Union Plus credit card, insurance or mortgage programs who are facing financial hardship due to the recent severe weather. The money does not have to be repaid.

Union Plus mortgage holders may also be eligible to receive payment extensions or other special help.

To qualify for a Union Plus disaster relief grant, the union member must:

  • Have been a victim of the severe weather in counties designated by FEMA as qualifying for individual assistance.
  • Have experienced a significant loss of income or property due to the disaster.
  • Have had a Union Plus credit card, Union Plus insurance policy or Union Plus mortgage for at least 12 months, with the account or policy up to date in payments.
  • Describe his or her circumstances and document the income or property loss.

To apply for a disaster relief grant, union members eligible should call:

  • Union Plus credit card: (877) 761-5028
  • Union Plus mortgage: (800) 472-2005
  • Union Plus insurance: (800) 472-2005
  • Go to www.unionplus.org/disaster