The SMART Transportation Division would like to thank all of you for your historic response to the FRA’s Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) on Freight Train Crew Size. In the moment when our livelihood and the safety of all involved was on the line, SMART members, along with their friends and families, answered the bell in a profound way.

For months, we have been requesting your help in submitting comments to the FRA and in a record-setting demonstration of concern and support, you came through with flying colors. The FRA reports Dec. 22 that 13,090 submissions were received in their request for public comments that closed on December 21st. This outpouring of your information and personal reasons for wanting a minimum crew size of two will play a large role in the FRA’s process of determining their final ruling.

The next step in this process is for the FRA to announce its determinations. We at SMART-TD will be sure to keep you all informed as to how that process plays out. We appreciate your partnership with us in this project, and we look forward to continuing the fight as long as needed to keep our members safe and employed.

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, as the umbrella organization representing all factions of rail labor, wrote the definitive submission stating our case.

The two unions representing in-cab freight personnel — SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) — submitted a joint statement accentuating the positions of the T&E employees in support of the NPRM. These submissions are linked below.

Once again, your activism and support are vastly appreciated. We thank you profoundly.

AFL-CIO TTD statement

SMART-TD/BLET statement

Class I railroad carriers BNSF and NS declared an impasse this week in the mandatory bargaining over crew size under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act (RLA). In declaring an impasse, the two railroads, represented by the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC), seek federal mediation as required by the RLA. Union Pacific Railroad is not seeking mediation at this time.

Beginning in October 2019, most Class I carriers served notice under Section 6 of the RLA to force the SMART Transportation Division to bargain over crew size. Today crew size is determined by collective bargaining agreements implemented by Presidential Emergency Board 219 under then-President George H.W. Bush.

SMART-TD and the involved General Committees intend to continue to demonstrate the significant problems with the carriers’ plans and the current technology that carriers believe allows for a redeployment of conductors to ground-based positions.

SMART-TD General Committees and union leadership will continue to fight to protect the jobs of today as well as the jobs of the future and to ensure protection for SMART-TD members.

In the current episode of Talking SMART, we sit down with SMART TD President Jeremy Ferguson to talk about a subject that is foremost on the minds of many members. In February 2022, BNSF arbitrarily changed its attendance policy and took advantage of a pro-management judge to force (as of now… this episode was recorded in early March), a draconian “Hi-Viz” attendance policy upon the very members who have kept the company operational through the pandemic – and who earned BNSF record profits in 2021. President Ferguson also provides an update on contract negotiations with the national rail carriers.

Ohio State Legislative Director Stuart Gardner reports that we need some activism to push H.B. 186, which is comprehensive railroad safety legislation, over the line and out of the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
First, he is seeking photos of example of good and poor lighting conditions in yards to submit to state representatives in regards to H.B. 186. Please email those to:
Also, after five hearings on the bill, some Republican representatives on the committee remain undecided about the need for this legislation, especially after carrier testimony claimed that it would hinder their ability to operate and be too costly to them to improve yard lighting and walkway safety.
Gardner requests that members contact their county commissioners and explain to them why their state representative needs to support this bill.
H.B. 186 deals with:

  • Blocked crossings
  • Two-person crews
  • Yard lighting
  • Yard walkway safety

“Anything that is worth saving takes effort from everyone involved,” Gardner said. “It’s all hands on deck, battle stations. Take a stand, and be heard!”
The bill was first heard by the committee in September, and SMART-TD members as well as members from the BLET have stated the case for the bill on a number of occasions.
But now, state representatives Doug Green, James Hoops, Don Jones, Jeffrey LaRe, Susan Manchester, Gayle Manning, Riordan McClain, Tom Patton and Reggie Stoltzfus need to hear it from someone in addition to rail workers, who already know how important this issue is.
Those people are the county commissioners from 22 different Ohio counties.
“The topic that should really resonate with these county commissioners is the blocked crossing issue,” Gardner said. “With these crossings being blocked by the carriers by longer and longer trains, it prevents public service vehicles — police, fire and EMS from reaching their destinations in a timely manner, without any additional delay, a delay that may have deadly consequences for those that need the help.
“Now is the time for all of us exercise our collective strength,” he said. “Please ask those county commissioners to encourage the representative in their district to support H.B. 186. This is a common-sense approach to railroad safety, that we need their support with.”
The list of commissioners is available here.

In the wake of the devastating oil train disaster nearly three years ago that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, city leaders are in the first phase of studies to determine the feasibility of rerouting the train tracks to avoid train transit through the city’s downtown area. Citizens have been asked to participate in the proposed plan and provide their comments. Read the complete story from Progressive Railroading, here.

two-person_crew SMART TD Ohio State Legislative Director Stu Gardner is calling members to action in response to the introduction of Senate Bill 229 (SB 229), the two-person crew bill introduced in the Ohio senate Oct. 14. The bill has been referred by the senate to the Public Utilities Committee.

“The call to action is this: I am requesting that every member in Ohio contact the Senators of the Public Utilities Committee and urge them to support SB 229,” Gardner said. “Email and call your state senator and tell them you want them to support SB 229 for the safety of our members and the general public that reside near the railroad tracks.

“Your message should be short and concise and to the point. We want them to understand that this is an important safety issue to you, your family and the public.

“I want you to understand that this is the first step. We want SB 229 to pass through this committee with a majority of votes. If SB 229 doesn’t get the majority of the votes in committee, it will die then and there.”

Click here to find your district.

Click here to find your Ohio senators and representatives.

Click here for a sample email that you can send to your senator.

Click on these links for documents to attach to your email:

Below are the members of the Public Utilities Committee and their contact information.

SenatorPhone #Email AddressAlt. Email Address

Cliff Hite
(R – Dist. 1)
Kevin Bacon
(R – Dist. 3)
Bill Seitz
(R – Dist. 8)
Joseph Uecker
(R – Dist. 14)
 Staff:Lindsay Riley
Bob Peterson
(R – Dist. 17)
John Eklund
(R – Dist. 18)
Troy Balderson
(R – Dist. 20)
Sandra Williams
(D – Dist. 21)
Tom Patton
(R – Dist. 24)
Tom Sawyer
(D – Dist. 28)
Lou Gentile
(D – Dist. 30)

Minnesota_map A bill that would require two-person crews aboard Amtrak and most freight trains operating in Minnesota passed out of two Senate committees last week. The safety measure is a top legislative priority of theUnited Transportation Union, which represents about 70,000 workers in North America.

Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) introduced the legislation in the Senate, and the measure received bipartisan support in the Judiciary and Transportation committees. But Republican leaders in the House have refused to take up a companion bill introduced by Rep.Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis).

Read the complete story at Workday Minnesota.


The Minnesota Senate Committee on Transportation and Public Safety and the Senate Committee on Judiciary have approved legislation requiring two qualified train-crew personnel on all trains in the state with bipartisan support.

Senate File 918 is now before the full Minnesota Senate.

“The policy language is very narrow to assure that we can prevail under any test of federal pre-emption from the carriers,” said SMART Transportation Division Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy. “We are emphasizing public safety as we must because that is what this is about. We have set forth that Amtrak and passenger rail operations are included under this legislation.”

“In event any train should run with one person, the second and subsequent fine is for $1,000 for each train.”

In his testimony before the Committee on Judiciary March 19, Qualy said, “Railroads have two persons on all trains. Our S.F. 918 poses no undue burden on commerce. Regarding grade crossing emergency response, for the railroad workers of Minnesota, I submit that we simply cannot leave injured persons lying unattended in the ditches of Minnesota.” Read Qualy’s complete testimony here.

Unfortunately, Qualy said, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has so far refused to hear companion legislation House File 1166, to date.

“We are sending a letter of appeal to the Republican leadership with the amended Senate language that originated from bipartisan Senate recommendations,” he said.

“We’ve had a good week thus far, but we are far, far away from passing this state legislation into law. The Minnesota Legislative Board thanks all of our members who attended the hearings this week. We also want to thank our good friend, Mr. Larry Mann, who assisted the board and testified in support of this important legislation.”

“The board thanks Minnesota Assistant State Legislative Director Nicholas Katich (1067), Designated Legal Counsel Cortney LeNeave and Ron Barzcak, Minnesota AFL-CIO Legislative Director Jennifer Schaubach, and most importantly, State Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-Dist. 45), who authored and sponsored this legislation.

two-person_crew LINCOLN, Neb. – A union that represents railroaders says its recent survey of Nebraskans shows that more than 80 percent support requiring two-person crews on freight trains.

“Because of the potential catastrophic tragedy that would result from a train accident of any nature, having two sets of eyes is a minimum safety requirement,” said Bob Borgeson, the state legislative director of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Union, which commissioned the poll.

Read the complete story at the Omaha World-Herald.

Legislation requiring two-person railroad crews in the states of Nebraska and Wyoming have been introduced in the respective state legislatures.
Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson reports that state Legislative Bill 192, legislation requiring freight train crews in the state to consist of at least two persons, has been introduced in the Nebraska Legislature by seven state senators.
The bill introduces fines of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense within three years, and $500 for all subsequent offenses committed by a rail management within a three-year period.
“No train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals. For purposes of this section, train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight does not include hostler service or utility employees,” a portion of the bill reads.
The senators co-sponsoring the bill were Al Davis (Dist. 43), Mike Groene (Dist. 42), Ken Haar (Dist. 21), Sara Howard (Dist. 9), Rick Kolowski (Dist. 31), John Kuehn (Dist. 38) and John Stinner (Dist. 48).
Wyoming State Legislative Director Stan Blake reports that Senate File S.F. 0076, an act requiring freight trains in the state to be operated by a crew of not less than two persons, has been introduced in the Wyoming Legislature by three state senators and a state representative.
The act states “no railroad train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight shall be operated in this state unless the train has a crew of at least two (2) individuals. As used in this section, ‘train or light engine’ does not include hostler service or utility employees.”
If passed, the legislation would take effect July 1, 2015.
It was sponsored by State Sens. Fred Emerich, Wayne Johnson and Chris Rothfuss and State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer.