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Railroad unions advancing two-person crew legislation to protect safety

CLEVELAND, April 17 — Continuing a cooperative effort to promote safety in the railroad industry, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) have jointly announced that legislation requiring at least two crew members on all freight trains in the U.S. has been introduced in the 114th Congress.

The Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1763), introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) on April 13, would require two crew members — one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor — on all freight trains. The newly-introduced legislation mirrors H.R. 3040, which had more than 80 co-sponsors last year prior to conclusion of the 113th Congress. H.R. 1763 has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

H.R. 1763 would 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 pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”

The joint effort reflects heightened concerns over crew size arising from the July 6, 2013 derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person. Since that time, there has also been movement by major freight railroads to seek collective bargaining agreements to allow for widespread use of one-person train operations.

“The BLET continues to oppose and condemn single-person freight operations as adverse to worker and public safety,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “All parties involved must understand that as things stand today, there are only two ways to end one-person train operations: federal laws or regulations that outlaw this dangerous practice, or collectively bargained contract language that requires two crew members on every train. We will continue to work to protect contractual language to defend two-person crews, and it also is our goal to protect the safety of railroad workers and the general public by advocating for passage of H.R. 1763.”

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said, “The SMART Transportation Division has always espoused that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. With several major train derailments having occurred in the last few months, most notably the oil train derailment and explosion near Charleston, W.Va., in February, our lawmakers and the general public must understand that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Cong. Don Young (R-Alaska) for his leadership on this critical rail safety issue. No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though it can fly itself. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different.”

Congressman Young is serving his 22nd term as Alaska’s only representative in the House and is a former Chairman of both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (2001-2007) and the House Natural Resources Committee (1995-2001).

A copy of the bill is available for download as a PDF from the BLET website or from Congress.gov.

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The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents more than 55,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The SMART Transportation Division is headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted, Ohio. It is a broad-based, transportation labor union representing about 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, mass transit and airline workers in the United States. It is a division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers based in Washington, D.C.

Friday, April 17, 2015
bentley@ble-t.org

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