In today’s age of economics driven by corporate greed, there are many trade unions in our country at odds with the so-called “captains” of their industries and the profit-obsessed mindset of upper management. Few unions, however, share such similar struggles as the members of the SMART Transportation Division and those that represent airline crews.

Currently, as our freight rail members await the results of an FRA ruling on the sanctity of the two-person crew in the locomotive cab, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) is defending that exact same safety measure in the air. As flight crews cope with an epidemic of aggressive and often-violent behavior, our commuter rail and bus members are right there with them fighting that same battle on the nation’s roads and rails.

In light of these parallels, SMART-TD would like to state with clarity that we support ALPA in their efforts to legislate a two-pilot flight crew. Just as with our rail members, task overload, menu diving into screens/gauges, as well as fatigue are common distractions for pilots and impede safe operations. SMART-TD members know that reality all too well. We also know that redundancy and the second pair of eyes of an experienced fellow crew member are far better for safety than any computer software Silicon Valley can sell our industries on as they look to cut headcount and costs.

On Monday, January 16th ALPA is celebrating the 14-year anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson” when the highly skilled crew of Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and F/O Jeffrey Skiles worked together to save the lives of 155 passengers and the crew of Flight 1549 famously taking the plane with two dead engines to a safe and heroic landing on the Hudson River.

As our brothers and sisters in ALPA make their arguments to the FAA regarding the vital importance of having two trained pilots in the cockpit during the agency’s reauthorization, we need to be on the right side of this fight. Corporate and shareholder profits must not be allowed to be placed above the safety in either the airline or freight rail industries.

SMART-TD commemorates the actions of that two-person crew on that cold January day in 2009 and stands in absolute and unyielding support of ALPA’s efforts in keeping two pilots in America’s cockpits.

Efforts of the airline industry to lobby Congress to amend part 121 of the Federal Aviation Regulations to allow single-pilot crews are dangerous, short-sighted and would threaten to disrupt the current period of safe operations by the air carriers in our nation. We encourage our members to contact their congressional representatives and tell them to not entertain the thought of disobeying airlines’ Rule of 2.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Sept. 22 that the public comment period for the two-person crew size Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) has been extended.

Stakeholders now have an additional 60 days to show their support for the minimum crew size of two in the cab of trains nationwide. The previous deadline was Sept. 26.

“This extension was requested by congressional Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was granted by the FRA,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said.

He also pointed out that extensions are normal under rules of this magnitude: “It allows concerned members of the public and railroad workers alike to continue to support the truth — that safe train operations in this country are best maintained by following the Rule of Two.”

A public hearing on the matter also will be scheduled in the near future, FRA said in its Federal Register notice.

The deadline for the public to comment is now Dec. 2, according to the notice published.

As of midday Sept. 22, the NPRM had nearly 10,500 comments.

Most topics divide our organization to varying degrees. It’s a healthy debate that assists SMART to formulate majority-based positions on the many issues for which they advocate on our membership’s behalf.

TD Indiana State Legislative Director Kenny Edwards

The belief that there should be a minimum of two persons on a train crew is not one of those topics. Overwhelmingly, the most-common topic that my fellow Transportation Division brothers and sisters ask about is the status of a two-person crew legislation/regulation. A consensus of our membership strongly believes in the necessity of legislative or regulatory action requiring rail carriers to crew trains with a minimum of two people in the locomotive cab.

Here is some great news: The FRA has announced its intent to make a formal federal regulation mandating the minimum crew size on most trains to be no less than a crew of two in locomotive cab. SMART TD paved the way to get the process to this point by ensuring elected and appointed officials were both educated and aware of our position on the topic.

The next step in the process is the public comment period that expires on Sept. 26.

Years of work have gone into getting us to this point. Through this comment process we are going to bring it all home. We respectfully request that every SMART member submit a comment to the FRA website.

A poor comment turnout will play into the carriers’ narrative that a minimum crew size regulation is unneeded and sends a message that this isn’t a topic of interest to rail workers.

A robust or overwhelming turnout for the comment process sends a loud and clear message: There should be a minimum of two persons on a train crew.

Who can and should comment? All rail employees, regardless of craft and labor organization. All our allies and stakeholders, including legislators, community leaders, first responders, neighbors and business leaders should comment. Our family members and friends are also persons of interest whose comments the FRA wants to hear.

Please don’t be intimidated by the process. I assure you it’s quick, easy and painless. I completed my comments and the entire process in less than five minutes.

What should you say? If you work on the railroad you can speak from the heart. Express what you see at work every day and the catastrophic reality of what anything less than two-person rail crews would bring to the industry. If you would rather, SMART-TD has made a video available on this site that will guide you through the process. Family members, allies and stakeholders should be encouraged to describe the reality from their perspective.

This is it. I can’t state strongly enough the importance of this process. Everyone has done a lot of work to get us to this point. Pulling together as a team is what unions do!! Let’s all pitch in and get this past the finish line.


Kenneth O. Edwards

SMART Transportation Division Indiana State Legislative Director

The governor of Kansas Laura Kelly (D) recently demonstrated her support for SMART-TD members and their safety by submitting comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in support of a national two-person crew regulation.

Pictured in the governor’s office in April, left to right: Senator Carolyn McGinn (R); Mike Scheerer, LR Local 94; Troy Fansher, Local 1503; Governor Laura Kelly (seated); Nick Davis, Local 527; Ty Dragoo, SLD Kansas; Chad Henton, ASLD Kansas; Kyle Brooks, Local 1503.

“I am pleased to announce that Governor Kelly has joined our fight at the federal level,” Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo said. “We asked her to support our efforts with the proposed rulemaking by issuing comments from the state of Kansas, and she has shown once again that she is with rail labor.”

“As Governor of the state of Kansas, I directed my Department of Transportation to submit a proposed regulation requiring railroads that operate in the state to maintain a two-person crew in the controlling cab of the lead locomotive unit of each train. I believed that this was a needed step to preserve safe operation of the rail industry in Kansas. Having one person responsible for an 18,000+ ton train hauling hazardous materials jeopardizes the safety of our crews and the public at large,” Governor Kelly wrote in her comments.

Not only did Gov. Kelly write in support of two-person crews, she also cited instances of when two-person crews were necessary to protect her state during derailments and pointed out that as two persons currently operate trains on nearly all railroads in the state, no additional costs would be incurred by the regulation.

Follow this link to read Gov. Kelly’s full comments.

If you have not yet submitted your comments in support of a two-person crew regulation to the FRA, follow this link to do so now.

Follow this link to read the proposed rule.

SAN FRANCISCO — Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO President Greg Regan emphasized that the resurgence of labor unions’ power has been very apparent as he addressed the general session Aug. 9, the second day of the SMART Leadership Conference.

It began as the nation coped with the pandemic and then as the Biden administration set its sights toward accomplishing true action on infrastructure.

“The labor movement drove the response,” Regan said. “We were the ones who delivered for working people every step of the way.”

Among the examples: Investments in the transportation sector through the CARES Act, which put SMART-TD members furloughed by Amtrak back on the job after the pandemic froze the nation’s transportation system, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which outlaid a historic level of funding for Amtrak and public transportation, among others.

“This is the type of legislation that every president since Richard Nixon has been trying to accomplish,” Regan said. “And it happened last year. That doesn’t happen without the strength of the labor movement pushing that legislation.

“This is a rebirth for this country. We have a massive amount of opportunity for infrastructure in this country right here and we cannot skip over that. We might want to go on and move on to the next fight, but we should take a moment to reflect on what a major accomplishment that was.”

Regan mentioned specifically the work of the legislative departments of both SMART and the Transportation Division on Capitol Hill.

Now, as national rail contract negotiations near the end of the line set forth by the Railway Labor Act and comment has opened for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) by the Federal Railroad Administration to make a minimum two-person rail crew nationwide, transportation labor has a chance to flex its muscles again.

Regan took part, along with many unionized workers from multiple industries July 30 in Galesburg, Ill., as they stood together to draw attention to carriers’ treatment of rail workers.

“We are not going to buckle. They are not going to be able to split us,” he said. “There is a level of strength and solidarity I see in freight rail right now that is unmatched.”

As for getting the Rule of 2 finalized by the Federal Railroad Administration, Regan said he’s confident that the public and regulators will recognize that it’s a safety issue and non-negotiable, especially as the comment period progresses to its conclusion in late September. “We’re not going to back down. We’re going to stay together, we’re going to fight like hell and we’re going to deliver.”

It’s a shame, really, that the safety of my members, the public and the infrastructure are nothing more than political pawns in the railroads’ game of never-ending greed. And it’s a shame, frankly, that the railroads manipulate woefully inept individuals – having never meaningfully walked the ballast or performed the myriad tasks of a conductor or engineer from inside the cab of a locomotive – and contributing editors, to carry their water in the hopes of somehow creating a narrative that corporate profit (as compared to safety) is the greater good.

On Tuesday, August 2, Railway Age published an article titled “Biden Promise Fueled FRA NPRM,” wherein its author bows to his superiors’ bidding and attempts to make the case that data is in their favor. But to do so, he had to sharpshoot for supporting documentation and data, blindly whisking by the plethora of reports and studies that stand as mountains between them and reality, and he had to bend quotes and statements made as if he were some sort of deceitful, abstract performer.

Only in corporate America can a promise of maintaining the safest course be misconstrued to the public as being unethical. In fact, it seems quite ironic that the article’s author accuses this Union of being a special interest when the former FRA Administrator broke from the agency’s position and capitulated to the railroad executives’ pressure by withdrawing the ongoing crew size regulation, only to be defeated in federal court.

The rationale is sound, and the need for regulation is necessary. I find it ridiculous that the author of a book theoretically explaining the purpose and processes of the Railway Labor Act is incapable of comprehending the role of politics in the prioritization of safety and the overall welfare of America’s railroad workers.

The Many Omissions of a Man Not Actually from the Industry

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a $15 billion safety overlay system that is incapable of performing the cognitive functions and tasks of a certified conductor. This was identified by FRA in its January 2020 Final Report, Teamwork in Railroad Operations and Implications for New Technology, and its July 2012 Final Report, Cognitive and Collaborative Demands of Freight Conductor Activities: Results and Implications of a Cognitive Task Analysis. Simply put, PTC does not, and cannot perform the functions of an onboard conductor, and it cannot provide the benefits of two human beings working in collaboration inside the cab of a locomotive.

Railroading is a high-risk industry. And like all other high-risk industries, teamwork is the most critical component. Over the last two decades railroads have achieved their safest and richest era because of the two-person crew. Ironically, however, is the industry’s failure to record and report its near misses. Unlike aviation, which has had a near-miss reporting system for years, the railroads have fought off FRA’s and labor’s many attempts to capture the data of accidents that didn’t occur because of the actions of a two-person crew. Had that data been collected, the truth of the safety benefits of a two-person crew could have long been made public.

Rightfully, the NPRM seeks to act where collective bargaining cannot. It is an asinine notion to consider that safety should be subject to the chopping block by way of the negotiating table. After all, the FRA’s mandate is to “enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods.” So why should they suggest that safety somehow be up for negotiation when the gambling of rail workers’ lives would clearly be a dereliction of duty, especially when there is no data to support it?

“Another item omitted is the fallacy of the PTC and locomotive technological systems as they exist today. Every day, our members report dozens, if not hundreds, of initial-terminal and en route failures across the nation’s rail network. Train crews have literally learned not to depend on its functionality, but rather to anticipate it dropping out.”

The Class I industry does not employ a single-person crew concept on any territory. The fact is, there is no data to support or suggest what would happen should a reduction be permitted to occur. Therefore, in the absence of data, the determination (should it happen) to remove a crew member from the cab of a locomotive equates to nothing more than risk.

The author attempts to blur that reality by comparing operations on short-line railroads and one-off situations, but he fails to present in his article that these railroads are much smaller in size, slower in on-track movements, and far less complicated than their big brother counterparts; not to mention that their train consists are vastly shorter and lighter as well.

Another item omitted is the fallacy of the PTC and locomotive technological systems as they exist today. Every day, our members report dozens, if not hundreds, of initial-terminal and en route failures across the nation’s rail network. Train crews have literally learned not to depend on its functionality, but rather to anticipate it dropping out. The author offers no viable option for this scenario, but rather pretends to portray the system as absolute, despite having no real-world knowledge. It is because of the two-person crew that this problem has not been exacerbated into catastrophe.

Likewise, PTC also does not account for the growing length of trains. In the railroads’ pursuit of the lowest operating ratio, which is nothing more than an industry-created measure to exhibit to Wall Street that a railroad can cut its way to profits, the average length of trains has grown exponentially; a concept the carriers have lovingly embraced. Unfortunately, for the communities in which these railroad properties intersect, derailments and blocked crossings have become a plague to society. By theoretically placing a conductor into a ground-based vehicle, the only known variable that will arise in these instances is that the conductor will most likely not be in place to act in an emergency, much less with any urgency. As it stands, a conductor is readily available on the locomotive to act as a first responder at a moment’s notice. A routine that has been proven time and time again. 

“To be blunt, this nation’s regulatory agencies should not allow corporate entities to self-regulate, as their bottom line obscures the purpose and promise of their mission to keep their employees’ work environment safe.”

However, should a railroad desire to veer from the safest course, it may attempt to do so through the proposed rule’s waiver process, which the author, trying to charm his influencers, portrays as an unfair level of scrutiny and rigged process. His words, which are nothing more than an amplification of the railroads’, reek of similarities to Boeing’s cries to the FAA years before the 737 Max accidents.

To be blunt, this nation’s regulatory agencies should not allow corporate entities to self-regulate, as their bottom line obscures the purpose and promise of their mission to keep their employees’ work environment safe. Like eyes following the bouncing ball of karaoke lyrics, rail carriers have proven their willingness to abruptly reverse course in capitulation to outside pressures originating from their hedge fund investors. It is because of this that the NPRM’s waiver process is necessary, and is exactly why it must be transparent, rigorous and thorough.

Common sense safety provisions do not stymie or impede future innovation, they protect it, and any assertion to the contrary is absurd. The railroads, like aviation, have realized their greatest advancements in technology with a crew of two at the controls. Now, they want you to believe that the industry that could afford more than $10 billion in stock buybacks last year alone would somehow be hampered by a regulation such as this.

Rest assured, nothing could be further from the truth. And rest assured that it does not require a single-person crew to provide a better quality of life. There is absolutely nothing preventing America’s rail carriers from providing its workforce with predictable work schedules, more time at home, increased authority, larger rates of pay and protection against furlough. Yet here we are: three and a half years at the negotiating table and forced to a Presidential Emergency Board because the carriers are unwilling to negotiate the very terms described within the author’s article. Let me be clear, quality of life is not a bargaining chip to be used as blackmail against the safety of my members, especially when the carriers have the means and funds to grant it.

The Mystery Argument of Data, Despite the Absence of Actual or Comparable Data

A railroad is not a railroad, but a spade is a spade. As stated earlier, there are no Class I railroad over-the-road single-person crew operations in this nation, and a Class I in comparison to a commuter, Class II or any other designation does not a good argument make.

This country’s railroad network is unlike any other in the world. On average, according to Operation Lifesaver, there is a collision between a train and a person or vehicle every three hours. Astonishingly, there is no process to record and/or report the near-misses that didn’t occur because of the actions of a two-person crew. As a result, it is unknown just how great of an effect a reduction in crew size could have toward an unwanted increase in these types of accidents. This is important because other foreign countries, as the author referenced as being relevant, do not have the same exposures to the public that we do. Their success, if you will, does not equate to our success, as it may very well result in the detriment to our communities.

Additionally, foreign freight trains are much smaller by comparison. According to a FreightWaves article published April 3, 2019, (U.S. and European freight railroads are on different tracks), “… [U.S.] freight trains are often 3,500 meters (2.175 miles) in length; in western Europe, freight train lengths are closer to 750 meters (less than one-half mile).” Simple physics will tell you that fewer rail cars and lighter tonnage will result in fewer mechanical failures, and the ability to stop in less time and drastically shorter distances. Common sense will also tell you that shorter trains result in fewer blocked crossings.

FRA’s January 2020 Final Report, Teamwork in Railroad Operations and Implications for New Technology, states that “[c]onductors also provide several additional cognitive support functions to locomotive engineers that PTC does not provide. These functions include supporting locomotive engineers in monitoring events outside the cab window for potential obstacles and hazards that would not be detected by automated systems (e.g., people working on or around the track; trespasser; cars at grade crossings). They also include filling knowledge gaps that locomotive engineers may have (e.g., knowledge of the territory; appropriate interpretation of operating rules) and supporting decision-making (e.g., where to stop to avoid blocking a grade crossing). Knowledge and decision-making support is especially important in the case of less experienced locomotive engineers. Conductors also serve an important role in handling unanticipated events and keeping the locomotive engineer alert, especially on long monotonous trips where there is a risk of falling asleep.”

“The mass exodus of workers in today’s railroad industry will have a long-term, adverse effect on the knowledge and skill base of conductors and engineers. Experience cannot be taught in a classroom. It takes years for these workers to hone their craft.”

The Class I railroads are currently hemorrhaging experienced, mid-career locomotive engineers and conductors. This has had a devastating impact on the supply chain, and this will have a devastating impact on long-term viability. It is no surprise to us that America’s rail shippers have taken to the Surface Transportation Board and the media to speak out against the railroads’ greed and inability to provide a quality service.

But this is particularly important, however, considering what the FRA’s report had to say above – “[conductors] fill knowledge gaps that locomotive engineers may have and [they] support decision making.” The mass exodus of workers in today’s railroad industry will have a long-term, adverse effect on the knowledge and skill base of conductors and engineers. Experience cannot be taught in a classroom. It takes years for these workers to hone their craft. PTC does not and cannot account for that, nor can the locomotive’s energy management systems. Only can the cognitive and collaborative efforts of teamwork overcome a hurdle as large as this.

Yet, in spite of all this, the Class I railroads are actively pursuing the ability to fast-track single-person crew operations without having vetted or tested a single proven or reliable method of operation, because this is just about the only card they have left to play to lower their operating ratios and to perform one last-ditch act for their audience of demanding shareholders. Like puppets on a string, they are succumbing to outside, misguided pressures.

That is why this regulation is needed, and that is why it’s needed with urgency.

As to the author’s rambling of data-to-come – the condemnatory flaw can only be found in his rant. FRA’s purpose is to prevent unsafe conditions from occurring. By his own admission, the collection of credible data is still being developed. But rather than wait for confirmation, the author proclaims that the agency should throw caution to the wind, like chance in the game of Risk, and allow the railroads to continue their current crew-reduction trajectory, despite, once again, not having any data to support his position. At least with a two-person crew, we know that the safest era in railroading history has been achieved. That is one data point that cannot be manipulated. And that is one data point worthy of protecting.

Similarly, and as stated before, the two-person crew has brought about the richest era in Class I railroading history. The Unions are proud of this fact, and we acknowledge that this is a direct representation of our members’ work. So, it is a slap in the face for the author to try so obtusely to make the argument that the railroads would somehow see a negative economic impact when all of the history and data points to the contrary. Ironically, former FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo is criticized in the article for “limit[ing] research to just those sources you want to hear from.” Perhaps the man who wrote these words should take a look in the mirror.

The Safest Way

Without question, the author of the Railway Age article has wonderfully performed like a jester for his majesty’s court. But in the end, it’s nothing more than a shame that he is willing to dance for the railroads as they fill their pockets and turn a deaf ear to my members as they cry out for help.

We do however agree with the author’s statement that our predecessor organization did support PTC in the initial stages. We had members that were a part of the FRA RSAC committee tasked with the development and implementation of PTC. During these jointly-held meetings between the FRA, Rail carriers and union craft members, the carriers stated that PTC was a safety overlay system and not a conduit to replace the conductor. Repeatedly they stated PTC’s implementation was to enhance safety in an attempt to eliminate, as much as possible, human error. As the safety of our members is paramount, we supported and embraced this technology. Our position did not change until the carriers, in an attempt to find a way to lessen the financial burden of PTC, used their handpicked FRA Administrator, an ex-Rail Carrier CEO, to reverse course and state that PTC could now overcome many known faults and shortcomings and miraculously replace the conductor.

“…the carriers stated that PTC was a safety overlay system and not a conduit to replace the conductor. Repeatedly they stated PTC’s implementation was to enhance safety in an attempt to eliminate, as much as possible, human error.”

However, that is where the author’s accuracy ends, and like most things he has written, the author is wrong. PTC does not take the place of a conductor and it does not support the engineer. If anything, it increases the task load. If the carriers would have followed the RSAC committees’ recommendations and placed an operating PTC screen and controls on the conductor’s side of the locomotive, it would have reduced the current task overload that has greatly stricken the vast majority of engineers. PTC is extremely user intensive, requiring constant input and manipulation, and it prevents an engineer from being able to observe his/her territory. Since the advent of PTC and its subsequent implementation, the importance of the conductor’s role within the cab of a locomotive has never been greater. It was determined that the conductor could verify mandatory directives, handle safety-related tasks such as work authorities and confirm PTC alerts in conjunction with the engineer.

Every single day an accident is prevented because of the actions of a conductor, and every single day that data is not collected. In some cases, it may have been by utilizing the emergency brake that is located on the conductor’s side of the locomotive, again correcting the author’s error by stating that there are no controls on that side of the locomotive.

In the end, it all comes down to two outcomes. Is the FRA best served protecting and maintaining a crew size that is known to be safe; that is known to be the best model for customer service; that is known to have made the railroads more money than ever; and is known to have a process via the regulation (should it occur) to have a means and method of allowing for the safe and controlled testing of different crew sizes? Or is it best served to risk chance and see what happens with a reduction in crew size that has no measurable baseline for safety; that has no baseline for profit; and has no baseline for customer service?

Obviously, there is only one outcome for which FRA has the legal authority and obligation to act.

As has been said throughout history, the truth will always be brought to light. And you, too, can look that up.

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.

Follow this link to read this post as a pdf.

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson

SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) would like to take a few moments to update the thousands of essential rail workers whom we proudly represent, the rail shippers and customers, as well as the public at large on the real status of labor negotiations and about the serious factual misrepresentations that the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and railroad representatives are stating as “FACT” surrounding the “railroad labor negotiations and the need to avert a network shutdown.” Their claims are simply not true.

Let me be clear, rail labor is NOT looking to strike or shut down the nation’s economy at the expense of everyone. We want and deserve a fair agreement for our members. We strongly believe that a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) will help us to garner that without the necessity of a strike. This does not mean that we will not do what’s necessary to get a fair agreement, but rather we expect the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to do its job as it has in the past so that it does not come to that. We are fully prepared to act if the provisions of the RLA get to the point of self-help or strike.

I was present and testified with a full team of experts in front of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on April 26th and 27th in Washington D.C., concerning the massive network disruptions, the negative effects of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), and the pending supply chain collapse due to railroad mismanagement of their networks. Shippers don’t know when they will be serviced, and the workforce doesn’t know when we will be going to work. I was proud to testify to make it known that we fully support our customers’ efforts to have the reliable and consistent service that they not only deserve, but also contracted with the railroad(s) for. I made it clear then, and now do so once again, that we stand ready to do everything within our power to keep freight moving and to support this country’s supply chain and economy.

Much like the testimony delivered by the railroads and AAR at the STB hearings, again there’s a steady stream of lip service, half-truths and misleading innuendo trying to skew the truth about the status of negotiations. I would also note that, to date, the AAR has not put forth any data supporting the “fair” percentage wage increases they are proposing and “provide well-deserved compensation increases to our essential employees and are consistent with labor market benchmarks.” What they are purporting as fair is only fair in their eyes and obviously not seen as “fair” by their essential employees who are quitting their jobs in record numbers. I have been at the negotiating table. I have yet to see any fair proposals put forth by the carriers in three years of negotiations. The benchmarks they are using at the negotiating table were established well before the pandemic and inflation occurred. I would also cite the fact that due to the PSR scheme worker productivity is running at such a high level that it is literally about to snap like an overstretched cable or chain.

Assuredly, a 16% wage increase over five years is not acceptable by today’s benchmarks. The railroads’ plans to increase the employees’ share of healthcare costs to such a point that the raises become net-zero is not reflective of rail carriers’ record profits or of their desire to keep their “valued freight rail customers,” isolated from further network disruptions caused by lack of manpower. The proposed five-year increases also come below all standard cost of living metrics. The railroads these days are having a very difficult time attracting potential new employees because of their refusal to bargain in conjunction with today’s benchmarks, much in the same way that they refuse to acknowledge shippers’ need to have sufficient and reliable service in accordance with their common carrier obligations.

On multiple occasions, SMART-TD has stood up for shippers, while carriers lacked any interest in fixing the current shipping problems that worsen by the day. PSR is the reason. Everyone knows it. Legislation may be needed for a permanent fix to the problem, and I think that day is coming soon. The quickest fix is to stop the railroads from running such ridiculously long trains, which the current infrastructure can’t handle, and get back to basics now! Instead, they cajole shippers to help them save a few dollars of their record profits, wanting to tip the scales against the very people who do the work and who are chiefly responsible for getting the railroads their profits. This is appalling. By hanging the fear of service disruptions in front of the shippers, it would almost be comical if the current state of the supply chain situation were not so dire.

Meanwhile, the tales told by the mouthpieces of the carriers keep getting bigger and bigger. One such fish tale dangled in front of people mentions that labor seeks a 47% wage increase. Even the head of the National Railway Labor Conference can’t provide the evidence to document this whopper. The truth is the three biggest railroads at the negotiating table don’t want to part with ANY of their record profits, nor do they wish to reward the workers who have busted their asses for the last three years without a raise, to get them those record profits. The shareholders were rewarded with record buybacks of $10 billion. Where is the reward for the employees who are actually doing the back-breaking work to make those buybacks possible? With a stale contract that has been in effect since prior to inflation taking hold, the workers have nothing to show for their blood, sweat and tears, as well as the sacrifices they and their families have made.

Pouring on the risk and absurdity, the big 3 claim they wish to get a deal done given those “fair” proposals they’ve allegedly made. What they’re not telling everyone is that instead of negotiating with labor at the national table to get this deal done, they are instead more concerned with keeping up their mediation meetings in an attempt to get a crew-consist agreement completed to further reduce the rail workforce, thanks to the allegedly “fair” arbitrator selection process out of the previous National Mediation Board (NMB). Carriers again are attempting to go to one person occupying the cab of a freight train. (Their ultimate stated goal is zero crewmembers on trains frequently carrying hazardous freight.) Such a measure would put the safety of our communities at serious risk and the supply chain in dire jeopardy, more so than it is right now. Were carriers so concerned about a fair national agreement to stop service disruptions, one would think they would concentrate on the goal of a national agreement. Instead, carrier execs and their cronies are off for two weeks at a time trying to find a way to get rid of more employees rather than trying to come up with a fair and equitable agreement to keep the ones they now have. UNBELIEVEABLE, but not surprising!

Class 1 railroads are not just servicing their own greed and that of Wall Street, they are working against serving their own customers, their own workforce, the families of their employees, the communities they serve and the American economy. This strategy will net them those short-term monetary gains they desire at the expense of the long-term viability of the American supply chain, our national security and the long-term health of the national economy.

Lastly, I find it very offensive that the railroads, via the AAR, would reach out to the shippers to assist their efforts in advocating for so-called “fair-minded” arbitrators with rail industry experience to the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to help facilitate what they perceive to be a reasonable agreement and avoid network disruptions. We all know that getting a good contract for the workforce will not only stop the bleeding, but it will also help employee morale and keep the supply chain moving. Absent an enticing contract, the current workforce will continue to shrink and worsen the situation more than any other factors possibly could. I can’t stop my members from leaving the industry, but the railroads can by offering a truly fair and equitable agreement with wage increases, no changes to healthcare costs and predictable scheduling, among other asks.

To the rail customers: I urge you to respond to the AAR’s request by telling them that you support SMART-TD and labor as we have supported you. We have faith that the Railway Labor Act process will work just fine, much like it always has since 1934, and you should too. Don’t let yourselves “get railroaded” by the AAR. America’s Class 1 railroads are attempting to “railroad” customers, railroad employees, their families, and the American public, as a whole, and “attention must be paid.” Don’t listen to their propaganda. Do your research and look at the facts for what they are. I can assure you, if the carriers get what they are proposing, things will only get worse and it will be their own fault.


Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division

N.Y. Governor Kathy Hochul

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.”

Follow this link to contact Gov. Hochul, call her at 1-518-474-8390 or write to:

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Amit Bose

Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose last week addressed a shippers’ conference and said that part of his agency’s rationale in approaching a minimum crew size rulemaking will be taking into consideration the carriers’ use of longer trains, Trains Magazine reported April 8.

“We think having a consistent standard for crew size across the country benefits the rail industry, benefits safety, and gives certainty on the regulatory environment when it comes to train safety,” Bose told the North East Association of Rail Shippers. “Also, coupled with that, don’t forget: The trains are running longer. The length of trains is growing.”

In 2014, FRA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on a minimum size for freight rail crews. Public comment was sought, thousands of Americans responded, including fire chiefs, police chiefs and emergency responders, with the vast majority of those submitted in favor of establishing a standard of at least a certified conductor and certified engineer present in the cab.

However, the NPRM was shelved by the Trump administration and former rail CEO Ron Batory in May 2019, who argued that there was no safety data to support the rule and tried to wipe out legislation passed by nine states that had ensured safe rail operations by establishing minimum freight crew sizes of two on a crew. Batory’s overreach was later struck down by a federal appeals court, and the NPRM was returned to FRA for consideration.

The agency has not relaunched the NPRM process for the minimum freight crew size rule, but when it does, Bose says FRA will be actively seeking comments from labor, the public and the carriers.

Read the full article from Trains Magazine.

New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol met with federal Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in Westfield, N.J., an encounter that was later featured in a video produced by the DOT and then shared on Buttigieg’s official Twitter account in conjunction with Labor Day on Sept. 6.
Sabol, of Local 1447 (Newark, N.J.), met Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., on Aug. 9 and discussed his career as a freight rail conductor, remote-control operator and as a SMART-TD union officer.
“I got involved in my union right away, and that’s because of safety,” Sabol told Buttigieg. “Railroading is the most dangerous job in the country.”
A member of the SMART-TD National Safety Team, N.J. SLD since December 2016, and also his local’s president, Sabol reminded the Transportation Secretary of something that sometimes is lost among the public.
“Our railroads and bus operators, which we represent as well, they’re first responders,” he said.
Sabol recalled the efforts made by TD members to help evacuate people in tunnels during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City.
“They’re heroes.”
Sabol also said that the passage of infrastructure legislation will improve with an expansion of service, better accessibility to riders and improved safety for a number of TD members.
“The best part of my job is being able to help people,” Sabol said. “As you the mayor were able to help all those people, I do it at a different level with a different group of people.”
Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will be increasingly important as regulatory efforts develop to make the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and certified engineer — enforced on freight trains throughout the United States.
The Biden administration announced earlier in the year that FRA is revisiting the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding freight train crew size and would be prioritized at some point in the autumn.