House passes Rail Safety bill

By a vote of 377-38, Representatives in the U.S. House passed the Railroad Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 2095) on October 17, eliminating camp cars and decreasing limbo time, both important issues for Teamsters rail conference members.

"Our rail members, the engineers, trainmen and maintenance of way workers who ensure that this nation's rail system runs safely, won a major victory with the passage of H.R. 2095," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.

"We've been fighting Norfolk Southern for years about eliminating their disgusting camp cars and finally Congress is backing us up," said Fred Simpson, President of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes division of the Teamsters Rail Conference. "NS was the last railroad to keep these substandard accommodations and we will be glad to see them go. Our members should never have had to endure the cramped and unsanitary conditions in those cars."

Camp cars are mobile dormitories that are used to house maintenance of way crew members while on assignment repairing tracks. Usually the cars house eight men each and most are not equipped with indoor toilets or potable water. Men assigned to these cars must walk outside, even in the dead of winter, to use porta-johns and drink bottled water because the water in the cars is unfit to drink.

Another part of the far-reaching act sets new limits for limbo time for locomotive engineers and trainmen. Currently, engineers and trainmen can work up to 20 hours or more per shift before they take eight hours of rest. Since their full work day can last up to 12 hours, they might spend 8 hours or more in limbo time where they can't sleep, must remain vigilant and are not paid for that time.

"This is a step in the right direction to impede the rail carriers' abuse of our much needed rest time," said Don Hahs, President of the BLET. "The passage of H.R. 2095 means that engineers and trainmen may eventually be paid for all of the time they spend on the job. They will also have the chance to obtain adequate rest between assignments, reducing fatigue."

BLET Vice-President & National Legislative Representative John Tolman thanked involved for their efforts in this major legislative achievement.

"This victory would not have been possible without the help and support of BLET and BLET Auxiliary officers and members who traveled to Capitol Hill to make our case, and phoned and wrote their Representatives," he said. "I also thank our BMWED counterparts and to the Teamsters Government Affairs Department who worked tirelessly with us."

Among other provisions in H.R. 2095 are:



© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen