Members urged to call their member of Congress after BLET lobbies for two-person crew bill

CLEVELAND, November 22 -- The BLET, working jointly with SMART-Transportation Division (formerly the United Transportation Union), made nearly 150 visits to members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week in support of H.R. 3040, the Safe Freight Act. The bill would mandate by federal law that two qualified individuals are in the cab of each freight train operating in the United States.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce and Vice President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman led the team of BLET lobbyists, which also included: Texas State Legislative Board Chairman Terry Briggs; Ohio State Legislative Board Chairman Tim Hanely; District of Columbia State Legislative Board Chairman Herbert Harris; Pennsylvania State Legislative Board Chairman Ken Kertesz; Illinois State Legislative Board Chairman Paul Piekarski; Director of Regulatory Affairs Vince Verna; and Director of Bylaws Administration John Fink.

President Pierce thanked all officers and members of both unions who took the time to walk the hill and get the unions’ message to the members of congress. "Although I too met with members of Congress to make our case, it was the National Vice Presidents, State Chairmen, State Directors and Staff members of both unions who did the heavy lifting on the hill. It is events like this that show the true depth and strength of our legislative department and I am proud to have been there with them"

The legislation requires 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."

Representatives Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the legislation on August 2 in the aftermath of the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which heightened awareness of the risks of single person operations.

The BLET, along with SMART-TD, has been working to gain co-sponsors for this bill since its introduction. The organizations recently sent a joint letter to all offices of the House of Representatives refuting memos sent to the Hill by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Shortline & Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) for the purpose of dissuading possible support of the legislation.

In the joint letter sent by BLET and SMART-TD, the unions noted that "[t]wo-person crews are the norm in both the U.S. and Canada. This bill will prevent a handful of rogue operators from endangering their employees and the communities through which they pass ...

"The railroad industry has become a safer place to work than ever before, in large part because of the professionals who run the trains across America. And the folks who run our nation’s trains agree that the safest way to operate a train is with at least two certified crew members. Our industry is reducing the number of fender bender accidents, but fatalities continue to be in the teens for on-duty railroad employees. H.R. 3040 -- the Safe Freight Act, is a bipartisan bill that will ensure that trains are operated safely everywhere in America."

To follow up on the lobbying effort, President Pierce is now asking BLET members, retirees, the BLET Auxiliary, and all concerned family members to contact their members of Congress to continue the effort to increase the number of co-sponsors.

"I urge all BLET members to contact their members of the U.S. House of Representatives and ask them to sign on to this vital piece of legislation," President Pierce said. "As the railroads noted in their letters to Congress, the issue is also going through the regulatory process as a result of Federal Railroad Administration Emergency Order 28, but that process isn’t an exact science. A Congressional mandate will be the best way to ensure the safest manner of operations possible, and we believe that means having two qualified people on each freight train in this country."

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For more information, please click here (PDF).

Friday, November 22, 2013

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