August 21, 2014

Ask your lawmakers’ support for two-person crews

two-person_crewMembers of the SMART Transportation Division and all of rail labor have the opportunity to make it federal law to have two qualified persons working on all freight trains operating in the United States a reality.

Now is the time to contact your legislators in the House of Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 3040.

Introduced in the House Aug. 2 by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), this legislation will require that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer … and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”

“This legislation is not only about the safety of the American public and the safety of railroading operating crews, it is an opportunity to prevent what in my opinion is an unsafe operating practice – having only one crew member aboard a train,” said SMART TD President John Previsich. “This measure will not only protect our communities, it will protect our jobs.”

The legislation reflects heightened concerns over crew size arising from the tragic July 6 derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic fuel train in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) recently sent memos to Capitol Hill opposing this important piece of legislation, stating in part: “H.R. 3040 mandates freight trains operate with a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor without taking into consideration the realities of current industry practices and the overall rail safety record in the United States.”

In surveys conducted by DFM Research on behalf of the SMART Transportation Division, 78 percent of citizens in five congressional districts in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas and Colorado and the state of Kentucky, support a federal law requiring freight trains to operate with a crew of two.

In a recent letter to all members of Congress, the SMART TD’s Legislative Office wrote: “The reality is that 99+ percent of America’s trains already operate with two federally-certified crew members. It was the recent July 6, 2013, accident at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 people lost their lives and a town was destroyed, that gave rise to this legislation.

“That accident happened because a crew member, working alone, had his train roll away causing horrific death and devastation.

“There are many tasks that must be performed by the crew of a freight train that one person cannot accomplish alone.

“Under current Federal Railroad Administration regulations and railroad operating rules: a single person crew cannot make a Class I air brake test; one person cannot act as a first responder when a collision at a road crossing occurs; one person cannot inspect his or her train when it breaks in two or derails, including when there is the possible release of hazardous materials; and one person cannot inspect his or her train when cars in that train become defective.

“Another reality is that freight train crews work long hours, day and night, with few set shifts, and are on call 24/7. With as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes’ notice, we are required to report to work for a 12-hour shift, often operating trains laden with hazardous materials. Fatigue in the freight railroad industry is our number one safety problem, and having two crew members is the main way that we help mitigate fatigue. Having two crew members is also the best way to assure compliance with our complex operating rules. Rules such as properly securing your train so it doesn’t roll away and destroy a town.

“H.R. 3040 – the Safe Freight Act – is a bipartisan bill that will ensure that trains are operated safely everywhere in America. We respectfully ask that you support this important bill and consider becoming a co-sponsor.”

To send a message to your House and Senate representatives to co-sponsor and support this legislation, visit www.utu.org and select the “H.R. 3040 Two-person Crew Bill” tile at the bottom right corner of the homepage.

By entering your ZIP code and street address, a webpage prepared by the South Central Federation of Labor (of Wisconsin) will identify your representatives in both the House and Senate. After entering your email address, the website will send a prepared message to your legislators that reads, in part: “I am writing to you today to ask you to support H.R. 3040, the Safe Freight Act, which will improve railway safety by eliminating the risky practice of single-person train crews. It would ensure each train is operated by a crew of at least two people, including a certified engineer and a certified conductor.”

The SCFL webpage link was established by SMART TD Wisconsin State Legislative Director Craig Peachy.

Contact your legislators today.