As our Washington staff interacts with decision makers here in the nation’s capital, our focus is to improve our members’ job security and safety and to create more job opportunities in our industries.
We are presently involved in a number of efforts to fulfill those goals.
Fatigue is a major safety issue for our members in the rail, bus and airline industries. In 2012, the FRA published a final rule on passenger rail hours-of-service that requires the use of scientific models to measure the likelihood of fatigue. This is a first for our industry. We are working with other rail unions, the rail industry and FRA to finalize language on federally-mandated “risk reduction plans” that we hope will move us further along in addressing fatigue in the rail industry.
We have also been working with other transit unions to find legislative and regulatory ways to address fatigue for our over-the-road bus operators and operators with early starts.
We have new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration on pilot hours-of-service requirements and we are working with other pilots’ unions to find improved applications of the new rules.
Other safety issues we are addressing are distractions caused by the use of electronic devices and the American culture that leads us to expect instant communication. This issue impacts all transportation employees, especially safety critical and CDL-qualified workers.
We are working with several other unions on coal-related issues, because hauling coal by train is such a big part of what our members do. The clean air and clean water laws are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to issue regulations on gas emissions from coal-fired power plants that we think are too stringent. The low price of natural gas is our main concern, with many power plants converting to gas to take advantage of the lower prices. We have a big challenge here.
We are also working with groups to promote the growth of transit and public transportation options, and stable funding sources for transit operations, inter-city passenger and commuter rail.
There is an effort in the House of Representatives to raise truck weights from the current 80,000 lb. limit to 97,000 lbs. This would cause some traffic to shift from our nation’s railroads onto our already overburdened highways, causing more damage to our crumbling roads and bridges and increasing the stopping distances required for these trucks.
The U.S. DOT is conducting a comprehensive study to determine the impact increased truck weights would have on our infrastructure, but several members of Congress are pushing increased truck weights before the DOT study is complete.
I urge all our members and their families to get registered and to vote in every election. Our transportation industry is most sensitive to legislation and regulation. What government does at every level matters to transportation workers, so your participation in the election process is not just a civic responsibility, it is an important way for you to protect your livelihood and personal safety.
Your UTU PAC contributions are also desperately needed to help us deliver your message to the decision makers who can make a difference. UTU PAC is a tool that opens the door and provides access to lawmakers. So, give to UTU PAC like your job depends on it…because it does.