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Illinois governor signs two-person crew bill

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, August 13 — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a two-person crew bill into law on August 9, becoming the third state to pass such a railroad safety bill in 2019.

Senate Bill 24, or the “Two Person Freight Train Act,” provides that: “no rail carrier shall operate a train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight unless it has an operating crew consisting of at least 2 individuals. Provides that the minimum freight train crew size shall remain in effect until a federal law or rule encompassing the subject matter has been adopted.”

The intent of the bill is to protect public safety. It reads in part: “It is the public policy of the State of Illinois to enhance public safety by establishing a minimum freight train operating crew size to address the transportation of all freight, including, but not limited to, hazardous and volatile materials, on the railroads of Illinois. The transportation of this freight, coupled with substantially longer trains, creates significant health, safety, and security concerns for local communities. Adequate railroad operating personnel are critical to ensuring railroad operational safety and security and in supporting first responder activities in the event of a hazardous material incident, grade crossing incident, or mechanical failure.”

It passed in the Senate following its third reading on April 11, 2019, and passed in the House following its third reading on May 21. The bill was referred to the Governor’s office on June 19.

BLET Illinois State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Piekarski spent months lobbying for passage of the bill, and delivered key testimony before a major hearing of the Illinois House Transportation, Roads and Bridges Committee on May 7, 2019. Also testifying were Bob Guy and Mike Renkin of SMART TD. Several BLET members were seated in the hearing room, including: BLET Illinois SLB 1st Vice Chris Falaney, Division 683; BLET Illinois SLB 2nd Vice Chairman Rick Leschina, Division 32; BLET Illinois SLB 3rd Vice Chairman Cory Martin, Division 135; Legislative Representative Jacub Szyzdek, Division 458; and Legislative Representative Nick Billingsley, Division 251. The bill passed out of committee by a 9-4 vote.

Brother Piekarski thanked Governor Pritzker for signing the bill. Piekarski also thanked the bill’s two main sponsors: State House of Representatives Assistant Majority Leader Jay Hoffman (D-113) and State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Terry Link (D-30).

Rep. Hoffman said the bill is in response to lacking federal and state guidelines, coupled with rising concerns on the adequate number of crew members needed to operate freight trains in Illinois. “This bill is an effort to ensure that freight train engineers have the necessary support and flexibility they need to adapt in situations of mechanical breach or failure,” he said. “This is a huge public safety issue.”

The law becomes effective January 1, 2020.

Illinois becomes the third state in 2019 to pass a railroad safety bill mandating two crew members in the locomotive cab. Colorado Governor Jared S. Polis signed a two-person crew bill into law on March 21, and Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed one on May 15.

“I would like to recognize Brother Piekarski and all BLET members who worked so hard to lobby for passage of this much needed safety legislation,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “Legislation such as this proves that American citizens and their elected leaders have a great deal of concern regarding the safety of railroads that travel through our country. They understand the need to have adequately staffed trains in order to maintain the highest levels of safety.”

A copy of the bill can be found here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

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