The two-person crew bills introduced in New York state, Assembly Bill 1287B and Senate Bill 3953B, have passed both chambers of the state Legislature as of Tuesday, May 31. Both bills have been combined into Senate Bill 3953 and are now headed to the desk of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for signing.
The SMART-TD New York State Legislative Board urges all SMART members in the state to contact Governor Hochul and tell her to sign the two-person crew bill – Senate Bill 3953 — into law.
“We need our members to contact the governor’s office, urging her to sign the bill so we can wrap this effort up,” TD N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca said. “This is a big accomplishment, and a lot of effort went into this by a lot of members and others, which I want to offer my deepest thanks.”
You’ve probably heard in the news over the past few days that the U.S. Senate has agreed on a new bipartisan infrastructure package. This article is to provide facts, highlight the ongoing differences between the House’s infrastructure bill and the Senate’s infrastructure bill, show where we stand and what can be done to step up as we fight for public and worker safety and for the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and engineer in the cab of freight locomotives.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a product of the Senate, where a bill needs a simple majority to pass — that means 51 votes. However, unless a bill has 60 senators in solid support, it is vulnerable to a filibuster by any who oppose the bill and thus cannot pass. This bipartisan bill has been a big deal in the news because something is being done about the nation’s infrastructure as some senators from both parties came up with a bill by working together after a long, long period of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. Let’s remember that this Senate bill has only been in existence since last Sunday, Aug. 1 — about three days — and things can change quickly.
The House gets a chance to make additions, subtractions, and changes to anything the Senate passes in what is known as the conference process. Be assured that our allies in the House will fight to have portions of their bill reinstated that were left out of this Senate bill, but, as it was when we first passed two-person crew legislation out of the House in 2020, the divided Senate remains an obstacle. Already, we have come farther than we did last year, and this is thanks to involvement from our membership as well as how we improved conditions for success in November 2020.
So the door is NOT CLOSED on a legislative solution from Congress coming through with this bill. A senator could amend the bill to add the two-person crew provision before a vote. The conference process also takes time, and we have strong allies in the U.S. House in Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne who worked to get the 2PC provision in the INVEST Act both times it passed the House. But it’s not DeFazio, Payne or the U.S. representatives who already voted in favor of the INVEST Act’s two-person crew provisions that we need to convince. Republican senators who helped to craft the “bipartisan” Senate bill didn’t include the provision in accordance with the wishes of their railroad industry allies.
So what can you do to help? We need to be loud and persistent. We need all of you to help. With the work being done right now in Washington D.C. on the legislative, and later this year, on the regulatory channel, now is the time to mobilize across the nation to step up and get the Rule of 2 across the finish line. Red state, blue state, purple state, north, south, east and west. We need to call. We need to email. Share the image above on social media. We need to explain to people in Congress, especially senators:
That public and worker safety is non-negotiable. That lives have been saved because of the presence and combined actions of a conductor and engineer working together. That the people in the freight locomotive provide the same safety functions and duties as a pilot and co-pilot on an airliner. By disregarding the 2PC provision, American lives are going to be endangered.
That the two-person crew component within the original INVEST in America ActMUST be included as the Senate considers this bill. Anything less ignores rail worker safety and community safety, jeopardizes jobs and lets the railroads and their profiteering Wall Street masters dictate what they say is safe rather than what we KNOW is safe.
We have resources such as the LAC set up to message people. There are grassroots networks such as the Fight for Two Person Crews group on social media who can provide collective strength. We need to stand up and not be silent waiting for other people to do the work as we embark upon both the legislative and the regulatory paths to make the Rule of 2 the law of the land. Keep in mind that second path — the regulatory one — to secure the Rule of 2 is via the Federal Railroad Administration where the agency would promulgate a rule establishing a minimum crew size. Under President Biden, FRA has announced that a reopening of examining a rule concerning crew size would be a priority of the agency this autumn as it attempts to fill the regulatory vacuum that was created under the prior administration. More about that will be shared as time goes on, but we are farther along the legislative path than we ever have been. We need to use our collective voices to get our message out to Congress. Let’s continue to persist, step up, go forward and get the word out to Congress. Please get in touch with your senators and talk about the Rule of 2.
Greg Hynes National Legislative Director — SMART-TD
Legislators in both the North Carolina state House and Senate have introduced bills to keep freight rail operations on the state’s more than 3,300 miles of track running safely and efficiently. A bus safety bill is also in the works in the state. H.B. 408 and S. 348 require a crew of at least two qualified people in the operating locomotive of trains transporting cargo and hazardous materials in the state for public safety. H.B. 408 has four bipartisan primary sponsors including Rep. Wayne Sasser (R – Dist. 67), Rep. Carolyn Logan (D – Dist. 101), Rep. Charles Graham (D – Dist. 47) and Rep. Verla Insko (D – Dist. 56), and 30 co-sponsors. The Senate version of the bill got a late start due to the Ninth Circuit court ruling and so S. 348 only has two Democratic primary sponsors including Sen. Sarah Crawford (D – Dist. 18) and Sen. Julie Mayfield (D – Dist. 49), and three co-sponsors. Both bills have had their first reading and have been referred to the Transportation Committee and Rules Committee, respectively.
“It is vitally important to maintain the presence of two crew members in the locomotive,” said Ron Ingerick, North Carolina state legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division. “Despite any advances in technology, there is a safety factor called ‘the Rule of 2’ in having the engineer and the conductor in the cab, just like how airplanes have pilots and co-pilots. With the size and complexity of the modern freight train, each crew member has responsibilities, and simultaneously performs duties in providing safe and efficient operation. These crew members are the first responders to a grade crossing collision, derailment or other emergency situation. “The public safety of our communities is non-negotiable, and H.B. 408 and S. 348 will help prevent potential accidents or derailments. The citizens of North Carolina deserve to feel safer with two crew members in the cab in the trains that roll through their communities, day and night.” Another bill filed in the House looks to curtail railroads’ use of giant trains that block crossings. H.B. 438, filed March 29, has three Republican representatives as primary sponsors: Rep. Howard Penny (R – Dist. 53), Rep. Jerry Carter (R – Dist. 65) and Rep. Mike Clampitt (R – Dist. 119). The bi-partisan bill currently has 21 co-sponsors — two of which are the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee — and is still accepting more. H.B. 438 intends to place a limitation on train length, which has been growing from an average length of a mile and a half five years ago to now sometimes exceeding four miles. The main culprit is an operating strategy initiated in 2017 by the nation’s biggest railroads called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). “Since the evolution of PSR, trains in this state have increased in length and weight, with haphazard train builds, fewer safety-critical inspections, and maintenance being deferred —increasing the risk of derailments,” said Ingerick, who is an active railroader, as well as our N.C. state legislative director who brings awareness to legislators in Raleigh. “A train that is longer is harder to operate. Also, concerns have risen from local communities and emergency responders as these longer trains have increased instances of blocked crossings.” Blocked rail crossings cause an inconvenience for motorists, who must find alternate routes, especially in rural areas. They also pose a safety risk to pedestrians who may attempt to go under or climb over rail cars to continue their travels. A blocked crossing can play a part in delaying or detouring emergency responses when seconds or minutes count, sending responders out of their way when their aid is needed. “Railroads are looking at returns and how their stocks are doing on Wall Street,” Ingerick said. “PSR puts safety last and profit first and makes a dangerous business even riskier.” Lastly, Ingerick reports that the Bus Safety Risk Reduction Act has been released from bill drafting and will be filed in the coming week. The bill will include risk analysis, barriers, de-escalation training and data collection. “Overall, I feel that we’re in a good position right now concerning these bills, but we need continued involvement from the membership in order to get these bills passed,” Ingerick said.
Louisiana State Legislative Director Chris Christianson reports that legislators in his state have introduced a two-person crew bill – HB-776 – March 31 in the state House of Representatives. The bill, as currently written, requires two persons on all freight trains with the exception of hostler service or utility employees. The bill also provides for penalties if carriers choose to violate the bill after it becomes law. For a first offense, carriers will be charged a minimum of $500, but not more than $1,000. A second offense increases the minimum to $1,000, but not more than $5,000 when the second offense is committed within a three-year period. For three or more violations, the bill provides for a minimum penalty of $5,000, but not more than $10,000 per offense within a three-year period. The Louisiana Legislature has been adjourned until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have a tough road ahead of us getting it passed with everything that is going on with COVID-19, but we are not going to give up,” Christianson said. “Right now, getting it moving in the Legislature will depend on how much time we have when the Legislature reconvenes.” Click here to read HB-776.
SMART Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn reports that, despite a last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler to quash it, the two-person freight crew legislation bill passed through the state Senate by a 34-15 vote.
“Schoesler attempted to shut down the Washington State Senate rather than allow our crewing bill to come to the floor for consideration and a vote,” Krohn said. “It’s an example of just how far the rail carriers and their allies are willing to go to kill off our safe train crewing bill as well as any other railroad safety legislation they oppose!”
Five Republicans and a Democrat who caucuses with them voted with every Senate Democrat in favor of the bill. The 15 senators who voted against H.B. 1841 were all Republican.
Krohn and the Washington State Legislative Board have been working for seven years to get the two-person crew legislation passed. Krohn has affectionately referred to H.B. 1841 as a “zombie” bill — it has been buried and put on hold numerous times by legislators but keeps coming back. It now enters the reconciliation phase because of differences in language involving short-line carriers between the Senate and House versions of the bill.
Krohn said the state House will consider amendments adopted by the Senate, and if representative do not agree upon the Senate amendments, a conference committee of two Democrats and one Republican from each chamber of the Legislature will be assigned to attempt to work out differences between the versions of this bill.
The deadline for the process is midnight March 12 — the last day of the 2020 legislative session. Once the reconciliation process is completed, the bill will be sent to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee.
“We may need to mobilize again to generate high levels of constituent contacts with state legislators to get this bill across the finish line,” Krohn said.
He urged members to be on the lookout for email blasts — contact him at email@example.com — to add your name and stay up-to-date.
He thanked all TD members, their families and friends and all who helped for their persistence in advocating for the legislation and getting it closer to the governor’s desk.
“We wouldn’t be here without your support and willingness to take action to help push our train crewing bill forward,” Krohn said.
Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs reports that H.B. 440, the two-person freight crew bill that has passed the state House, is scheduled for a hearing Monday, February 17, at the state Capitol. “We’re asking all of our Virginia members and their families to spend the day to get the word out,” Hobbs said. “Now is the time for us to show our state senators the importance of this public safety matter.” The bill passed the House of Delegates by a 61-37 vote in January and there was a great show of support by SMART members and retirees. Hobbs would like to see that duplicated Monday. Contact Hobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on how to show your support in the fight to keep two on the crew.
A two-person crew bill has been introduced in the Missouri Legislature, and we’ll need the support of SMART members in the region to help get the legislation passed. H.B. 2229 was introduced January 16 by state Rep. Jim Neely (District 8), a Republican who is also a medical doctor. The bill, a joint effort of SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, has had two readings by members of the House and now sits on the desk of Speaker Elijah Haahr awaiting a committee assignment so a hearing can take place. “We need your help to pressure Speaker Haahr to assign H.B. 2229 to a committee and move it forward,” SMART-TD Missouri State Legislative Director Jason Hayden said. “Phone calls and emails into his office asking him to move this bill are what we need. Calls and emails to your representative to explain the two-person crew issue are also very important.” Speaker Haahr’s office phone number is 573-751-2210. His email address is Elijah.Haahr@house.mo.gov. Hayden wanted to give special credit to Stacey Garton, the wife of BNSF conductor Glen Garton of TD Local 259 in St. Joseph, Mo. Her efforts and the grassroots support given by fellow members of the Facebook page Fight for Two Person Crews helped her to approach Neely. She then connected Hayden and BLET State Legislative Chairman Calvin Groose with Neely so that the bill could be finalized before introduction. “It was not hard for Rep. Neely to understand the grave situation it not only puts the single employee in but also the general public,” Hayden said about the dangers of one-person freight operations. “He was actually not on my radar as someone to approach about carrying the bill for us. But this situation goes to show allies can come from the most unexpected places. It really is all about how an issue touches someone.” A great show of support from union members and their family and friends in Missouri in contacting their state legislators will help to show the Show Me State that H.B. 2229 matters for the continued safety of both rail workers and for the public. Members wanting to assist in the effort to get the word out about this important legislation and to have their voices heard can contact Hayden at email@example.com. “We have the numbers to make this happen, we just need your help to accomplish it,” he said.
Virginia’s House of Delegates on Wednesday passed H.B. 440, a two-person freight crew bill, by a 61-37 vote, with one delegate abstaining. The bill now moves on to the state’s Senate. “We’ve hit third base,” SMART TD Virginia Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs said. “It’s going to take some work from all of us, but we’re getting to work to bring it home to the Governor’s desk.”
There was a strong show of support in the state Capitol for the bill by members from both the Sheet Metal and TD sides. After the passage was announced by House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, cheers from supporters filled the chamber. H.B. 440 levies fines on freight carriers who do not operate with two crew members in the cab with exceptions for hostler or yard service. Hobbs said the effort that got the bill through the House will need to be sustained and more support from members will be needed as work continues in the state Senate. “We had a great turnout and filled the chamber,” Hobbs said. “There has been great effort from members and retirees who have been reaching out to officials and letting them know about how two people are needed on the crew. If we keep this up, the bill will pass.” Hobbs said that he will keep members informed as the bill progresses and thanks everyone for their strong support. Contact Hobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on how to show your support. H.B. 440, which was introduced by Delegate Steve E. Heretick of District 79, passed the House’s Committee on Rail and Commerce Jan. 16 by a 13-8 vote.
Virginia’s full House of Delegates soon will be considering H.B. 440, a two-person freight crew bill, after it passed the body’s Committee on Commerce and Labor Jan. 16 by a 13-8 vote. “This is a big win — a huge win today,” said Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs, who said that prior attempts at passage never made it past the subcommittee level. “Now, we’ve got to get ready for the House hearing.”
Hobbs said a number of members and Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity were there at the hearing to show that they backed the bill, which establishes fines for freight carriers who do not operate with two crew members in the cab with exceptions for hostler or yard service. That support will need to be sustained and more support from members will be needed as the effort continues to get passage of the bill, which was introduced by Delegate Steve E. Heretick of District 79. “As Jared said, we need to fill the mezzanine when the bill comes up in the House,” Hobbs said. “They need to see our members.” Hobbs said that the result in Virginia shows that elections do have consequences — control of the House changed in November, and candidates who are more supportive of rail safety efforts were elected to office. Hobbs said that he will keep members informed as the bill progresses and thanks everyone for their strong support. “We’re rounding second and heading to third base,” he said. Contact Hobbs at email@example.com for more details on how to show your support. Video of testimony from the hearing appears below.
A two-person crew bill is headed to the Virginia House of Delegates’ Commerce and Labor Committee and SMART-TD members in the region are asked to come show their support for the legislation. H.B. 440 is scheduled for a first hearing in the House Committee Room in the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 16, in the state Capitol Building, 1000 Bank St., in Richmond, Va. The time that the bill will be discussed is undetermined as the committee meeting begins a half-hour after the adjournment of the House of Delegates’ regular session that day. The bill has been introduced by Delegate Steve E. Heretick of District 79 and establishes fines for freight carriers who do not operate with two crew members in the cab with exceptions for hostler or yard service. “We’d never gotten it out of the subcommittee before,” Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs said. “Now it has gone straight to committee.” A great show of support from union members in the state will help to show the legislators that this legislation matters for the safety of both rail workers and for the public. “I’d love to fill the room with railroad folks,” Hobbs said. For more details on how to meet and show support, contact Hobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org.