On March 21, 2019, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation into law that requires that all freight trains in the state are operated by a crew of at least two individuals.
The signing of H.B. 1034 caps a massive effort by SMART Transportation Division members that spanned years in the face of carrier opposition.
“It was a long haul and took a lot of time and energy on the part of many, many people,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said. “Our concerted efforts did pay off, and it will ensure that the state’s railways stay safe with two crew members in each freight train’s cab.”
Smith and the Colorado State Legislative Board had an earlier two-person crew bill die in the state Senate in 2016, but tenaciously renewed their efforts early this year by gathering a broad group of supporters that included members from the six TD locals in the state, retirees, the Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado Professional Firefighters, Conservation Colorado and American Federation of Teachers.
H.B. 1034 was first introduced by state Reps. Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar on Jan. 4, passed committee and was initially passed, 39-23, on Feb. 5 by the full House. State Sen. Jessie Danielson was the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, where it passed, 19-15, on Feb. 25 after amendment. The House passed the amended bill again March 4 by an identical 39-23 vote, putting the bill on Polis’ desk.
“Without these legislators’ understanding of the importance of this issue to the safety of our state’s railways, this would not have been possible,” Smith said.
Also helping the cause was strong public recognition by Colorado residents and legislators that train crew size is a safety-oriented issue.
On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey that showed strong support among Coloradans for a law requiring two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – Jan. 5, asked 550 random Colorado residents older than 18, using both cell phones and landlines, about issues centered around railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that, given the chance, they would vote in favor of a two-person crew law.
A website (www.corailsafe.com) established by the state legislative board and a coalition of TD members and members of other unions also assisted in spreading understanding about the importance of the two-person legislation in Colorado, which joins Arizona, California, West Virginia and Wisconsin as states that have legislation requiring two people to operate freight trains.
“I am very pleased that Colorado has adopted this sensible requirement,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch said. ”This is a matter of public safety, plain and simple. Freight railroad operations are complex and often entail the transport of highly hazardous materials; two crew members are vital to ensuring that these trains are operated safely and that our communities are secure.”
The Colorado law takes effect July 1.
Two-person freight crew safety legislation is one step closer to becoming law in Colorado with the state Senate’s passage of House Bill 1034 (H.B. 1034).
After its 19-15 passage on Feb. 25 in the Senate, the bill is on the desk of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis for consideration after a successful March 4 reconciliation vote in the House.
Polis has three options — signing the bill to make it state law, vetoing the bill or not signing the bill. If he chooses not to sign the bill, it will then become law after 10 days of inaction.
“We need to let the governor know that this is a grassroots effort with the safety of the public in mind,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said.
Through the process, members in the state, as well as their families and friends, have been instrumental in supporting the efforts of the Colorado State Legislative Board to get the two-person crew bill through the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk.
Help is needed one more time for that final push. Members, their families and friends in Colorado all can voice their support for the legislation by following the link below:
Show your support for the Colorado two-person crew bill.
Smith said that he is optimistic that Polis, who as a U.S. representative was a co-sponsor of the 2017 Safe Freight Act legislation, will support the bill once he hears from SMART members, their families and anyone else in the state who is concerned about rail safety.
H.B. 1034 first passed the Colorado House on Feb. 5 by a 39-23 vote.
State Legislative Director Carl Smith is urging all members from Colorado to contact their state representatives and ask them to support the state’s two-person crew bill, H.B. 1034. Smith says that members, their families and friends are encouraged to visit www.corailsafe.com to contact their legislators about supporting this bill.
Better yet, union members can come out in person to express their support, Smith said.
The bill, which was introduced Jan. 4 by state Reps. Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar, is set to be heard by the House Transportation Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Colorado State Capitol, 200 East Colfax, Denver.
“We will meet in the basement at 11:30 a.m.,” Smith said. “You and everyone you know that cares about railroad safety must contact your state legislator by phone, letter or email before this date to tell them to support H.B. 1034. We need everyone! You, your family, your friends and neighbors.
“It will take all of us.”
Click here to contact your legislators.
Click here to view the members that sit on Colo. House Transportation Committee.
On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey that showed strong support among Coloradans for a law requiring two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – Jan. 5, 2019, asked 550 random Colorado residents older than 18 using both cell phones and landlines about issues centered around railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that, given the chance, they would vote in favor of a two-person crew law.
“More than three of four respondents to this poll understand the safety benefits of having more than one person operating a freight train. Safety is a top priority for them and requiring all trains in the state to be operated by a crew of at least two people, no exceptions, makes perfect sense,” Smith said in a press release about the survey results.
To keep the state’s rails safe, legislators need to hear about the importance of keeping two people operating freight trains. Now is your chance to make your voice heard!