Legislation would stop locomotives from operating in reverse

Brother Norm Hendrickson, Pennsylvania State Legislative Board Chairman, and members of the BLE Pennsylvania State Legislative Board, have been successful in having legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature that would prohibit railroads from operating locomotives in the reverse position. Currently, there are 22 co-sponsors to House Bill 2060 and Brother Hendrickson reports that this bill is expected to pass.

State Representative Veon (D) introduced the legislation citing an article in the May 1998 issue of The Locomotive Engineer Newsletter which stated operating locomotives in reverse contributed to a fatal collision in Indiana that year.

Staff changes at FRA

Several senior staff positions have changed at the Federal Railroad Administration recently. Deputy Administrator Don Itzkoff left the agency to join a Washington, DC law firm. Jim McQueen, Associate Administrator for Railroad Development, left the FRA to become a consultant. Norma Krayem, Senior Advisor to Administrator Molitoris, left to become Deputy Chief of Staff in the DOT Secretary's office.

The BLE is supporting Jack Wells for the FRA Deputy Administrator's position. Wells is currently senior staff to Congressman Oberstar (D-MN) on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

SOFA working group studies switching operations, safety

At the request of the FRA, the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) Working Group was formed in February 1998 to review recent fatal incidents and to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities in switching operations.

The Working Group developed a codified database of standardized information from the information contained in files of 76 FRA fatal accident cases which occurred between January 1992 and July 1998.

Following its review, the Working Group found that the occurrence of fatalities in switching yards has not decreased over the period under investigation and remains a serious problem. Fatalities are not often the result of a single precipitating cause but instead, are usually the result of three or four contributing factors. Review of the data led to five recommendations for safety of switching operations.

1. Extra precaution when fouling track or equipment, adjusting knuckles or drawbars or applying or removing an EOT device.

2. Extra precaution when two or more crews simultaneously perform work in the same yard or industry tracks.

3. Job safety briefings at the beginning of each tour of duty, and additionally as required.

4. Extra precaution when using radio communication and hand signals to control train or engine movements. (A combination of radio and hand signals is prohibited).

5. Special attention for crew members with less than one year of service.

The Working Group included representatives from the FRA, AAR, ASLRRA, BLE and UTU. Representing BLE were Brothers George Last, SLBC-CO; Tom Perkovich, SLBC-MN; and Raymond Holmes, SLBC-TX.

We extend our appreciation and thanks to these Brothers for all of their hard work on this project.

Two-person crew law upheld in Wisconsin

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit found that Wisconsin's two-person crew law is preempted for two types of rail operations - hostling and helper operations - because of FRA regulation of these areas.

However, the Appeals Court did not change the central finding that the Wisconsin two-person crew requirement is not federally preempted for over-the-road operations because FRA has not acted with regard to this area.

BLE, Steelworkers protest use of non-union rails by BART

Brother Tim Smith, California State Legislative Board Chairman, advises that the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution urging Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to stop buying rails manufactured by Oregon Steel, citing serious quality problems because of inexperienced, nonunion replacement workers. (Oregon Steel was formerly known as Colorado Fuel & Iron, Pueblo, Colo. They changed their name to allow it to break their contracts with the union.)

BART is currently using Oregon Steel rails on an expansion project. The Colorado Company illegally replaced 1,100 Steelworkers in 1997. The NLRB has charged the company with more than 100 violations of labor law and OSHA has levied fines for 61 health and safety violations. This company is on the AFL-CIO's "Do Not Buy" list.

Earlier this year, BLE informed the Steelworkers that we totally support their strike and that we would urge our members in the Omaha area to join in their protest at UPRR's headquarters against UP's purchase of steel rails from Oregon Steel.

Bombardier develops high-speed locomotive

A $7 million FRA contract was awarded to Bombardier, Inc. to develop a locomotive that can travel at high speeds without the need for costly electrification of rail lines. The locomotive will use a gas turbine engine connected to a generator to deliver power to four independent motors, which will propel the train up to 150 mph.

The prototype, scheduled for delivery in one year, would be designed initially for passenger service.

Three rail safety bills currently pending before Congress

Now there are three rail safety bills pending before Congress: H.R. 2450, introduced by Congressman Oberstar (D-MN) (reviewed in the June/July 1999 issue of the Newsletter); H.R. 2638/S.1496, the Administration's bill; and H.R. 2666, rail labor's safety bill.

The Administration's bill (H.R. 2638/S. 1496) will reinstate rail safety user fees; expand Hours of Service Act coverage to signal contractor employees and employees engaged in dual service; increase the amount of punitive damages; expand employee "whistle-blower" protections; allow FRA to monitor radio communications; and require Class I and II railroads to file fatigue management plans with FRA (and would require Class III's to file fatigue management plans with FRA if they operate on Class I tracks). In addition, the bill would promote a "1-800" notification system for grade crossing problems, develop suggested model state laws regarding grade crossing signal violations, and mandate reporting and updates to FRA's national grade crossing inventory.

Rail labor's safety bill (H.R. 2666), introduced by Congressmen Shows (D-MS) and Lampson (D-TX), will require FRA certification of carmen, conductors, dispatchers, locomotive engineers, power directors and trainmen. The bill expands Hours of Service Act coverage to signal contractor employees, employees engaged in dual service and power directors; expand employee "whistleblower" protection; require fatigue management plans approved by FRA for Class I and II railroads; allows FRA monitoring of radio communications, etc.

At this time, no hearings have been scheduled on any of the three pending rail safety bills.

Commercial truck drivers face tougher standards from FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has issued regulations requiring sanctions and penalties for commercial vehicle drivers who are convicted of violating laws or regulations pertaining to railroad-highway grade crossings. Effective October 4, 1999, the new regulation specifically covers convictions for six types of offenses, including failure to slow down, stop, check for clear track, and obey traffic control devices or law enforcement officials. Also included is crossing without having sufficient undercarriage clearance or sufficient space on the other side to clear the track without stopping.

The regulation applies whether the offense involves federal, state or local laws or regulations regarding railroad-highway operations. Truck drivers will lose their commercial driver's license for at least 60 days if they violate any one of the six offenses. Penalties increase to an automatic one-year revocation after the third offense within three years.

These new regulations are in response to the March 1999 accident involving Amtrak and a tractor-trailer that killed 12 people.

Pennsylvania to spend $7 million on railroad improvement projects

Brother Norm Hendrickson, Pennsylvania State Legislative Board Chairman, reports that Pennsylvania's Transportation Secretary will release $7 million to help finance 51-rail freight improvement projects, which will help create more than 1,600 new jobs. This funding will be used for construction, maintenance, repair and rehabilitation of rail lines, sidings and grade crossings.

New engineer certification regulations effective January 7

The final rule regarding new certification regulations for locomotive engineers was published on November 5, 1999, and is the first comprehensive revision of the locomotive engineer safety regulations since they became effective in 1992.

The new rule amends the disqualification periods and provides increased opportunities for remedial training for less serious violations. It also addresses new technology by setting minimum safety standards for the operation of vehicles that may be used in lieu of traditional locomotives.

The new rule became effective January 7, and copies can be obtained from the BLE's website, or by calling, writing or e-mailing the BLE Washington D.C. Office.

The Washington Office's phone number is (202) 34707936 and their e-mail address <bledc@aol.com>. Their mailing address is: 10 G Street NE, Suite 480, Washington, DC 20002.

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2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers