Nebraska two-person crew bill fatally flawed

CLEVELAND -- The recent introduction of two-person crew legislation in the state of Nebraska has gravely concerned the BLE. This piece of legislation, which was sponsored and supported by the UTU, is seriously flawed and is worse than no bill at all.

There are three reasons behind the BLE's objection to this bill, L.B. 185, in its current form. All of these reasons are rooted in the language contained in the flawed bill.

First, the language in the measure pertaining to locomotive engineers would be pre-empted by Federal laws, as Federal laws always supersede the laws of states. If passed into law, the carriers could challenge the bill in Federal court, and the provisions concerning engineers would then be rendered moot.

This same problem occurred with several other pieces of two-person legislation last year. In Wisconsin, the BLE was successful in changing the language of the bill to avoid preemption, and the UTU in that state supported the revised bill.

Secondly, the current language does not conform to the national standards set by the BLE. The BLE believes that, for safety purposes, all locomotive operation must take place in the locomotive cab. The Nebraska bill leaves the door wide open for remote control locomotive operations. It is unfortunate that, in the light of the late December accident that took place in Nebraska which could have had more serious consequences than it did, legislators in this state have failed to allow this language to be in the bill.

Third, the proposed bill would only apply to movements that occur between terminals. This could create the potential for one-person crew operations because of the vague definition of terminal in the bill.

"The BLE has been and will remain in the forefront of the fight for two-person crew legislation that affords genuine protection. Unfortunately, the legislation proposed in Nebraska would not apply uniformly," said BLE International President Edward Dubroski. "It provides an invitation to expand the use of remote control locomotives and will result in the preemption in coverage for one of the two crew members it is supposed to protect. "

Dubroski added, "We will continue to fight for genuine two-person crew legislation and urge all BLE and UTU members to support us in this effort."

 

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February 14, 2001
bentley@ble.org

 

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers