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.

Members of the SMART Transportation Division’s Washington State Legislative Board have been quite busy in recent weeks.
Working with the board members and state emergency management officials, state senators and representatives of the Washington State Legislature Jan. 29 introduced six bills that could have a direct impact on Transportation Division-represented railroad employees and the safety of the communities in which their trains operate.
House Bill 1809 and Senate Bill 5697 re-establish state-mandated minimum railroad crew-staffing levels on all trains operating in the state.
Also introduced were a yardmaster hours of service bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and a rail crew transportation safety bill.
Under the proposed crew-staffing legislation, all trains and yard-switching assignments will be staffed with no less than two qualified employees. Trains designated as hazardous material trains of 50 cars or less, will be staffed with no less than three qualified employees, with the thirdemployee assigned to work on the rear of the train in a position to be able to safely observe and monitor the train.
Trains designated as hazardous material trains of 51 cars or more will be staffed with no less than four qualified employees, with two employees assigned to work on the rear of the train in a position to be able to safely observe and monitor the train.
Hazardous material trains are defined utilizing the current national standards adopted by Department of Transportation and all Class I carriers. The State Utility and Transportation Commission can direct carriers to exceed the minimum requirements if specific conditions affecting safety or security necessitate additional crewmembers.
Hearings on both bills have been tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9 in the House Labor Committee and the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said.
“Our workers know how to run these trains safely, but the railroad refuses to provide adequate staffing, exposing the public and railworkers to death and injury. These bills simply restore Washington State’s commonsense safety standards,” Krohn said.
“We looked at what went wrong in each of the catastrophic explosions and the close calls, and it’s clear that one or two people simply can’t monitor and safely operate these dangerous cargos. Adding even one more person to a train, particularly at the back of the train, will save lives.”
H.B. 1809 was introduced by State Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) and currently has a total of 33 additional co-sponsors.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) said, “This bill just requires a minimum level of staffing because an adequately staffed train is a safe train.”
S.B. 5697 was introduced by State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee), Chairman of the Senate Majority Caucus. It currently has 23 additional co-sponsors.
“Safely moving goods through Washington State is in everyone’s interest. The public is counting on us to ensure that trains, no matter what they are transporting, are safely operated,” Evans Parlette said.
“I’ve worked as a conductor for 10 years with a perfect safety record and this bill will make trains safer,” said Local 324 Chairperson and Legislative Rep. Paul McGill of Seattle.
The text of the bills read, in part, “Any person, corporation, company, or officer of the court operating any railroad, or part of any railroad or railway within the state of Washington, and engaged as a common carrier, in the transportation of freight or passengers, who violates any of the provisions of section 3 of this act are guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than one thousand dollars and not more than one hundred thousand dollars for each offense.”
Krohn said the bills are in response to concerns raised by emergency management officials who have become aware that the crewmembers on the head end of trains, in most cases, cannot see their train beyond a limited sight distance. Recognizing that the train crews are the first responders, they believe that trains that pose a significant risk to the public need crewmembers on the rear of the train, in a position to be able to see the train and take appropriate action if something goes wrong.
Krohn said he attended a freight mobility roundtable discussion last year featuring a presentation on oil-train safety from emergency responders. “Not aware of who I was, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff mentioned the BNSF Railway one-person crew contract proposed to the members of General Committee of Adjustment GO 001 last year. She said she was glad that it was voted down and said two-person crews were not enough on hazmat trains.”
That led to Krohn and members of the state legislative board working with emergency management officials to get the ball rolling on the two bills.
“As an emergency manager, I plan for disaster and work for safety. Human eyes are key to safety and proper staffing is important, which is why I support this bill,” said Dominic Marzano, emergency manager for Kent, Wash., and division chief of the Kent Fire Department – Regional FireAuthority.
Noting that railroad yardmasters are required to work excessively long hours by railroad carriers, H.B. 1284and S.B. 5696 will prohibit a yardmaster to “remain or go on duty for a period in excess of twelve consecutive hours…An employee may not remain or go on duty unless that employee has had at least ten consecutive hours off duty during the prior twenty-four hours.”
If the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission finds that a Class I carrier violates the provisions of these bills, if passed, “the commission may assess a civil penalty of not less than ten thousand dollars and not more than fifty thousand dollars.”
Krohn said that yardmaster and BNSF GO 341 General Chairperson Jeffrey Sellman was the impetus behind these bills and worked tirelessly to advance them in the legislature.
Finally, H.B. 1808 and S.B.5797 will, if passed, “regulate charter party carriers providing railroad crew transportation and every contract crew hauling vehicle with respect to the safety of equipment, driver qualifications, insurance levels, and safety of operations. The commission must adopt rules and require reports as necessary to carry out this chapter regarding contract crew hauling vehicles and establish federal motor vehicle safety standards for contract crew hauling vehicles, regardless of seating capacity, as the minimum safety standards.”
“I am really excited about how we’ve advanced these bills in the legislature,” Krohn said. “They are reasonable bills that won’t break the bank of the railroads. They are a reasonable precaution to protect the public and our members.”
Krohn encourages Transportation Division members and all concerned railroad employees to contact their lawmakers and seek their support of these legislative proposals.