December 19, 2014

FRA told: ‘Mexican trains must be inspected’

Union Pacific is at it again — and the UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen intend to stop it, again.

The “it” is a UP request to the Federal Railroad Administration that UP be allowed to bring trains from Mexico into the United States without proper mechanical safety inspections at the border crossing.

In a petition to the FRA, the UTU and the BLET asked the agency to deny UP’s latest waiver request that trains from Mexico be allowed enter the U.S. through El Paso, Texas, without first undergoing required mechanical safety inspections.

“Safety is the paramount reason that the [UP request] should be denied,” the UTU and the BLET told the FRA. “It is common” for cars from Mexico to enter the U.S. “with handbrakes applied, retaining valves set, angle cocks closed and bad order cars located within the train.

“The bad order cars from Mexico are sent into the U.S. so that UP can repair them. Not to be overlooked is the fact that these trains also frequently are transporting hazardous materials cars,” the UTU and the BLET told the FRA.

“There exists an adequate repair facility at UP’s River Yard located near the International Bridge which can accommodate these trains,” the FRA was told.

Furthermore, the UTU and the BLET told the FRA, “The granting of this kind of petition is not what Congress intended by its enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“Congress made it clear that defective cars from Mexico should not enter the U.S. There is every indication that these trains did not receive proper mechanical and brake inspections in Mexico, and there has been no certification by the FRA that the Mexican trains have complied with the applicable U.S. standards.

“Historically, the FRA has denied requests for waiver of air brake and mechanical safety inspections on trains entering the U.S. if the request involves movement of the trains past a point where the inspections can be performed,” the UTU and the BLET told the FRA.

“We believe the FRA should stand fast with this policy and, consistent with earlier decisions of this type, deny the [UP waiver] request.”