Legislative efforts to boost rail security on state level continue

Tim Smith, Chairman of the California State Legislative Board, addresses delegates about rail security efforts on the state level.

 

Tim Smith, Chairman of the BLET's California State Legislative Board, gave delegates a presentation on his Board's efforts to lobby on behalf of rail security measures in his state and the resistance they have met from the rail industry.

"Railroads are guarding their profit margins, not people," Smith said. "Safety is always for sale as railroads try to do more for less."

He also introduced a 10-minute video produced by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is a compilation of local television news broadcasts about the lack of rail security in areas such as: Sacramento; Atlanta; Fresno, Calif.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Dallas-Fort Worth.

The lack of rail security is the industry's "dirty little secret," and has been largely been ignored since 9/11.

"Have you seen new lights in yards?" Smith asked the delegates. "Have you seen new fences or more railroad police?"

While the federal government has spent approximately $20 billion on airline security since 9/11, only $150 million has gone to rail security. In addition, the rail industry has largely been left to police itself.

"The fox is watching the henhouse," he said.

The railroads haul a toxic brew of deadly chemicals, and there are plans to increase the number of shipments of spent nuclear waste.

Smith thanked the BLET's State Legislative Boards for doing a terrific job getting the word out about the need for increased rail security funding and improved training for rail workers. However, the rail industry has gone to great lengths to lobby against the BLET's efforts.

"The railroads don't want to be regulated," he said. "Their lobbyists come running with checkbooks in hand whenever we introduce rail security legislation or whenever media attention turns to rail security."

In California, a BLET-backed rail security measure met with stiff opposition from the Union Pacific and the BNSF Railway. Prior to vetoing the bill, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received a $29,000 donation from the UP and another $10,000 from the BNSF. After vetoing the bill, he received an additional $25,000 donation from the UP.

 

 

© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen