Jolene Molitoris leaves top post at FRA
WASHINGTON DC -- Jolene M. Molitoris resigned last month as Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, effective Dec. 31, 2000.
Molitoris was the first woman to lead the FRA in its 34 year history.
She has accepted the position of President and CEO of GeoFocus Inc., a provider of safety enhancing Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) wireless technology solutions to the transportation industry.
Molitoris championed rail safety in the U.S. and around the world, establishing zero tolerance for any safety hazard as the industry standard, creating safety partnerships with rail labor and management and achieving historic increases in all safety categories as a result.
FRA-led partnerships with rail labor, management and others helped reduce train accident fatalities by 87 percent, rail employee casualties by 34 percent, and highway-rail crossing fatalities by 35 percent.
These record lows were achieved while rail freight and passenger traffic were at all time highs.
Union Pacific to cut 2,000 jobs
OMAHA, Neb. -- Prompted by signs of an economic slowdown, Union Pacific Corporation announced on December 27 that it will eliminate approximately 2,000 jobs and cut its planned capital spending program for 2001.
About half of the 2,000 job cuts will come from normal attrition and the rest from an early retirement program and firings, the railroad said. The reductions will include union and non-union employees from every part of the railroad's 23-state system.
Details of the jobs reduction program will be finalized by mid-January. Employees will have an opportunity to consider how the options apply to them, the railroad said.
The reductions should be completed by the end of February.
The capital spending budget has not been determined for 2001, but will be less than the $2 billion spent in 2000.
Feds won't seek death penalty in fatal rail 'prank'
BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The federal government will not seek the death penalty against Andrew Goltz, the man who allegedly derailed a train, killing a conductor and seriously injuring a locomotive engineer.
The announcement was made December 28 by U.S. Attorney Ted L. McBride.
"The Attorney General (Janet Reno) has determined it is not appropriate. The death penalty is not warranted in this case," McBride said in a report published in the Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper.
Goltz's trial in federal court is scheduled for April 30 before U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence L. Piersol in Sioux Falls.
Goltz now faces a sentence of mandatory life in prison. He was indicted on a federal train wrecking charge for the Aug. 26 accident in Brookings.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court, Goltz told an FBI agent that he broke the lock off the railroad switch, moved the switch to divert the train into eight parked railroad cars filled with grain, and covered a warning reflector with a plastic garbage bag.
He claimed to have committed the acts as a "prank."
The train's conductor, Brad Davis, was killed in the derailment. Locomotive Engineer Dennis Baum was seriously injured. His left arm was amputated and he suffered broken bones in his ankles and feet.
Norfolk Southern to pay $28 million in lawsuit
NORFOLK, Va. -- On January 9, Norfolk Southern Corp. said it would pay $28 million to settle a 1993 class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.
The company also agreed to establish "good faith goals" for promoting members of the class action suit to management-level jobs during the four-year term of the consent degree that ends the lawsuit. The class action involves about 7,700 African-Americans who have worked for Norfolk Southern since Dec. 16, 1989, the company said.
Norfolk Southern noted the consent decree received preliminary approval from a federal judge in Birmingham on Dec. 22, 2000.
The agreement follows two years of voluntary mediation. The case was tried in 1997, but the federal judge had not issued a ruling.
DOT announces new drug testing procedures
WASHINGTON D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Transportation announced new rules on December 14 to protect the rights of 8.5 million workers who undergo drug testing that the government makes mandatory as a safety measure.
The new rules were made public on the same day that the Department of Health and Human Services disclosed new evidence of testing laboratories' shortcomings that can mistakenly brand innocent workers drug abusers, ending their careers.
The most significant of the rules involve so-called validity testing, a relatively new procedure to determine whether a urine specimen is legitimate. Under current rules, transportation workers whose specimens are found to be invalid are assumed to be cheaters. Many are fired without any opportunity for an appeal.
The new rules extend to validity testing two safeguards that already protect a worker who actually tests positive for any of five illegal drugs: cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, marijuana and PCP. A medical review officer, hired by the employer, will have the right to cancel the result of a validity test upon finding a sound medical reason for a specimen's testing illegitimate. And workers will have the right to demand that a second sample of their specimen be tested at a laboratory different from the first.
The drug testing of millions of transportation workers -- railroad workers
and a variety of bus and truck drivers, airline flight crews and mechanics
-- is required by the government in the name of public safety.
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers