The Rebuilding American Values action group in collaboration with the SMART Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Board has put its resources forth to support rail safety legislation being considered in the Pa. Senate.

The result is a radio ad being broadcast on Harrisburg-area radio stations 104.1 WNNK-FM 104.1, WQXA-FM 105.7 and WHP-AM 580 through the week of June 26 while the Senate is in session.

H.B. 1028 passed the state House on June 5 by a strong bipartisan 141-62 vote and moved on to the state Senate. It takes the following measures:

  • Fines carriers $10,000 for blocking rail crossings for more than five minutes.
  • Limits train lengths to 8,500 feet.
  • Permits rail labor representatives to have an active, participatory role while the state investigates rail safety matters.
  • Requires a two-person crew aboard freight trains and fines carriers who violate the provision.
  • Authorizes the state to inspect to ensure the functionality of wayside detectors in the state.
  • Authorizes a state study of hazmat/waste transport.
  • Creates a reporting system when carriers operating trains carrying hazmat/waste report these to the state.

SMART Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka has been a driving advocate for the safety bill with railroad operations and safety becoming a major focus for the public and in the media since the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment in February.

“We’re working to get the message out because the carriers have a number of allies in the Senate,” he said. “They would like nothing more than to see this bill die on the vine and to persist with the status quo. Thanks to Rebuilding American Values for taking up the cause and helping to get the facts out to the public and to the senators.”

H.B. 1028 addresses minimum crew size, blocked crossings and train lengths

Earlier this week on June 5, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a comprehensive railroad safety bill, H.B. 1028, by a 141-62 tally.

The bill will now move on to the state Senate, where the timeline for consideration has yet to be determined, according to union leadership.

SMART-TD Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka.

But it’ll be very important to get the attention of senators so that the momentum can continue, says SMART-TD State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka.

“Thank you first to all of the people who reached out to legislators, including the public, members of our union and others in organized labor,” SLD Pokrowka said. “You all were a big part of why many legislators who have chosen the interests of the constituents over party tendency. But this is only the first in a three-step process and we’ll need to mobilize and motivate.”

Pennsylvania looks to follow Ohio in passing comprehensive rail safety legislation in the wake of the East Palestine rail disaster when a Norfolk Southern derailment released hazardous chemicals just across the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. The images and headlines from the February accident were not forgotten as the House considered the bill, which:

  • Fines carriers $10,000 for blocking rail crossings for more than five minutes.
  • Limits train lengths to 8,500 feet.
  • Permits rail labor representatives to have an active, participatory role while the state investigates rail safety matters.
  • Requires a two-person crew aboard freight trains and fines carriers who violate the provision.
  • Authorizes the state to inspect to ensure the functionality of wayside detectors in the state.
  • Authorizes a state study of hazmat/waste transport.
  • Creates a reporting system when carriers operating trains carrying hazmat/waste report these to the state.

Pokrowka said it’s important for the bipartisan group of 141 representative to be thanked for keeping the bill intact and keeping their duty to work for the people in Pennsylvania at the top of their mind.

“We’re going to need them again,” Pokrowka said.

But a big effort now is needed to urge state senators for swift passage of the bill for the governor’s signature in the face of intense carrier lobbying.

“We need to lead by example and make it clear that this is what constituents want their government to do and not to bend over backward to appease the carriers,” Pokrowka said. “We need to make it perfectly clear that this rail safety legislation is not something that people in the government should be on the fence about.”

Members are asked to use the SMART Legislative Action Center to contact their senators and to thank their representatives.

“If we get complacent here, the carriers will step in and try to sway things their way. Rail safety is too important a matter to let that happen,” Pokrowka said. “We need everybody to reach out.”

In 2023, political ideology factors into almost every aspect of our lives. It can dictate what news sources we tune into, what restaurants/coffee shops we spend our money at, where we choose to live, and even who we see as a “good neighbor.”

All of these are unfortunate realities of the world today, but the one issue on the American landscape that has managed to transcend politics in 2023 has been railroad safety. People across the country have all been forced to wrestle with the idea of how fragile their reality is in a post-East Palestine world. This issue has been met with the same level of scrutiny and seriousness across the ideological spectrum in newsrooms and legislatures.

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo decided last week to veto a rail safety bill that had been passed by Nevada legislators.

Red states like Kansas, Utah and Ohio as well as blue-to-purple states like Michigan and Minnesota have successfully put typical politics aside and dealt with rail safety issues, including 2PC, train length, defect detector mandates/regulations along with many more. Momentum and common sense seemingly have gained a foothold since train derailments have been making headlines regularly this year.

Unfortunately for all of us, much like the majority of folks who get off a plane in Las Vegas or Reno with the grandest dreams of striking it rich, rail safety’s luck seems to have run out in Nevada.

SMART-TD’s Nevada State Legislative Director (SLD) Jason Doering and his legislative team put in an amazing effort to push for safety through train length limitations, wayside defect detector regulations that mirrored those put in place in Ohio post-East Palestine, and provisions aimed at preventing first responders from being cut off from the communities they serve by blocked crossings. Their bill, AB 456, was successfully shepherded by Brother Doering through both the Nevada State Assembly and state Senate. After making it through both chambers, AB 456 only had to be signed into law by Gov. Joe Lombardo (R-Nev.)

AB 456 is a clean bill that isn’t tied up into any other state or local issues. Doering somehow managed to avoid having amendments attached to it designed to make it unattractive or expensive for the state to pass. It was a basic question to Lombardo, “Do you see value in protecting communities and rail workers, or do you favor a gargantuan railroad’s bottom line and their campaign contributions?”

This question has one clear, acceptable answer. But the answer from Lombardo given June 2 was not that answer. He vetoed AB 456 clearly and definitively, siding with corporate greed and their bottomless lobbying budgets over safety and protecting his constituents from having their towns become the next East Palestine, Ohio.

In his efforts to pass AB 456 through the Legislature, Doering was met with opposition from the Republican caucuses of both the Assembly and the Senate. In both cases he got the bill passed, but both votes fell directly on party lines. Nevada has Democratic party control in both chambers of their legislature with Lombardo, a Republican, as governor. The resulting friction in Carson City that has manifested itself in a handful of issues, particularly evident in a power struggle over the state’s operating budget.

This heated and very public dispute has led to a scenario where Lombardo is not willing to protect Nevadans from toxic train derailments, in fear that it might be seen as a win for the Democrats in his state.

With political points being of great value in his war with the Nevada Legislature, the calculation is apparently that if another rail disaster happens in Nevada that no one will connect the dots to June 2, 2023, when he decided he would trade your safety for his career prospects.

It is SMART-TD and SLD Doering’s intention to not allow that to happen.

Lombardo thinks that he can gamble using your life, limbs, and livelihoods as his collateral. We need to let him know that he bet wrong.

Please follow the link provided to SMART-TD’s Legislative Action Center to send Lombardo the wake-up call he apparently needs. We need him to find out that we don’t play politics with rail safety. All members, their families, and friends are welcome to join this effort. If you are from Nevada, let’s be sure to let him know that he burnt a vote the next time he’s on the ballot.

SMART-TD celebrates politicians of any party who stand up for our issues, but in this moment, we need to speak with one voice and let all of them know that we refuse to be used as a bargaining chip in petty games.

Brother Doering and the whole legislative team in Nevada fought to do right by the communities they live and work in. AB 456 and every bill in this country deserve a fair shot to be heard and have a decision rendered based on the merit of the legislation, rather than the color of the yard sign of those legislators who chose to sponsor it.

For ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom, Topher Sanders and Dan Schwartz (ProPublica), Joce Sterman (Gray Television/InvestigateTV), Scotty Smith (Gray Television/InvestigateTV) (video) and Jamie Kelter (ProPublica) (photography) recently reported:

“Jeremiah Johnson couldn’t convince his mother to let him wear a suit, so he insisted on wearing his striped tie and matching pocket square. It was picture day and the third grader wanted to get to school on time. But as he and his mom walked from their Hammond, Indiana, home on a cold, rainy fall morning, they confronted an obstacle they’d come to dread:

“A sprawling train, parked in their path.

“Lamira Samson, Jeremiah’s mother, faced a choice she said she has to make several times a week. They could walk around the train, perhaps a mile out of the way; she could keep her 8-year-old son home, as she sometimes does; or they could try to climb over the train, risking severe injury or death, to reach Hess Elementary School four blocks away.

“She listened for the hum of an engine. Hearing none, she hurried to help Jeremiah climb a ladder onto the flat platform of a train car. Once up herself, she helped him scramble down the other side.

“ProPublica and InvestigateTV witnessed dozens of students do the same in Hammond, climbing over, squeezing between and crawling under train cars with “Frozen” and “Space Jam” backpacks. An eighth grade girl waited 10 minutes before she made her move, nervously scrutinizing the gap between two cars. She’d seen plenty of trains start without warning. ‘I don’t want to get crushed,’ she said.”

Read the full report here.

Last week, your union put out a story discussing the 49 pieces of legislation that SMART was pushing in 17 states. As state legislatures are all hitting their stride in this year’s cycle around the country and focus on rail safety is as high as it has been in decades, these numbers are growing by the day.  

This week, we can report that the number of states we have bills in has reached 20, and the number of pieces of legislation we’re endorsing for passage has skyrocketed to 70 bills. 

These bills range from two-person crew (2PC) legislation, to train-length restrictions, to strengthening penalties on those who are convicted of assaulting bus drivers and commuter train employees to become felonies. All in all, it is safe to say that SMART Transportation Division members are getting a high return on investment out of their State Legislative Directors (SLDs) and National Legislative Department.  

Some of the bills are being advanced through state houses that haven’t seen a rail safety bill get past the committee level in decades. Momentum is with us and SMART-TD’s LRs and SLBs are seizing the moment.  

With 70 bills in front of 40% of our nation’s state legislative bodies, it is impossible to report on each bill’s individual progress every step of the way — that information is available on the Take Action page of the SMART website, but we will continue to compile weekly roundups of some of the highlights around the nation. If your state is mentioned, we ask that you follow the link to SMART-TD’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) and see how you can get involved in supporting your state’s bills. If your state is not on the list, please give our LAC a look anyway because there is a 40% chance that your state does have legislation in need of your support, even if it wasn’t mentioned in the article.  

Utah HB 63SLD Dan Brewer’s bill establishes the Office of Rail Safety in the state to regulate and inspect all aspects of rail safety and will be funded by the rail carriers who operate in Utah rather than taxpayers. HB 63 passed through both the House of Representatives and the State Senate and is pending a signature from the governor! 

Missouri SB 702SLD Jason Hayden’s train length bill limiting trains to 8,500 feet has been assigned to the Missouri Senate Transportation Committee. 

West Virginia HB 3059SLD Bryan Goodson’s blocked crossings bill made it out of the state House and has been sent to the Senate. 

Oklahoma SB 257SLD Kyle Pense’s 2PC bill has been assigned to the transportation and infrastructure committee in the Senate. 

Arizona HB 2526SLD Scott Jones’ bill to mandate heightened oversight and inspection of rail and equipment is ready to go in the House of Representatives.  

The state of Washington and its State Legislative Director (SLD) Herb Krohn have had legislative victories in the past. Washington is one of the states that has succeeded in passing a two-person crew regulation into law, with their state crewing law being the most stringent in the nation. Now Washington state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-District 37) has sponsored a bill in the state Legislature that may end up being the first of its kind.

Herb Krohn

With HB 1839, Tomiko Santos is seeking to limit the length of trains in the state to 7,500 feet.

This bill would go a long way toward the safety of our crews traversing the state and create additional trains for our members to operate.

HB 1839 also has a provision in it that states rail carriers in Washington can seek permission from the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to run trains up to 10,000 feet in length on specified routes. However, carriers would have to add at least one additional crew member to all trains between 7,500 and 10,000 feet under this provision, the state UTC can require additional crewmembers if it determines doing so is in the interest of reducing risk, such as on key trains. These 10,000-foot trains would not be as advantageous as their 7,500-foot counterparts in terms of train handling, but the addition of a third or more crew members would prove to be an advantage when yarding trains of this size. The requirement for railroads to request UTC approval to run larger trains and the restrictions on what subdivisions they can run on will also serve to discourage carriers from trying to work around the 7,500-foot restriction.

This bill seems to have momentum, making its way from initial introduction through the House Transportation Committee in just four days and passing out of committee with a do-pass recommendation Feb. 23 by a vote of 15-9. (Five members voted do not pass, and four members voted that they did not have a recommendation on the bill. One committee member was absent and did not vote).

HB 1839 has the potential for rail labor and common sense to regain a foothold in an industry that carriers have corrupted with Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). The effort to get this bill signed into law is being led by Rep. Tomiko Santos with strong support by SMART-TD and SLD Krohn.

“The prospect of imposing reasonable train length limitations and eliminating the dangers of monster length trains will increase public safety as well as reduce the risks on train crews across the state of Washington,” Krohn said. “This legislation will go a long way toward reintroducing rational, common-sense regulatory oversight of how trains are operated.”

SMART-TD and our National Legislative Department are very proud of Brother Krohn and the work he’s doing in his state. The next step in the process for HB 1839 is to pass it forward from the House Rules Committee onto the House floor calendar. If it’s successful there, it will advance to the state Senate for committee hearings and votes.

The Legislature in Nebraska’s capital of Lincoln is not known to be a hotbed of activity for rail labor lobbying success stories, but SMART Transportation Division’s newest State Legislative Director (SLD) Andy Foust is actively making moves to change that. In his first week on the job, Brother Foust introduced two strong pieces of legislation that have gained bipartisan support. 

Nebraska State Legislative Director Andy Foust

The Legislature has initial hearings scheduled in March for SMART-TD’s two-person crew bill as well as a blocked crossings bill. Brother Foust’s 2PC bill, LB 31, was put forward by state Sen. Mike Jacobson, (District 42) sponsoring. The bill also has picked up traction in Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature by adding an impressive list of seven bipartisan co-sponsors, including Sens. Jane Raybould (District 28); Danielle Conrad (District 46); Tom Brewer (District 43); Lynne Walz (District 15); Myron Dorn (District 30); George Dungan (District 26) and Sen. Robert Dover (District 19). 

LB 31 was referred to Nebraska’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and is slated to have its first hearing before the committee March 6.

At its core, LB 31 is a bill regulating two-person train crews on all freight trains that travel within the borders of Nebraska. However, it also includes language that aims to levy fines against rail carriers for violations of the two-person crew. The fines start off as low as $250 for the first infraction (which is already around the same rate as paying a basic day to a second employee) and quickly goes up to be as high as $10,000 on a third offense and stays at that rate for additional offenses going forward. 

Foust and Sen. Jacobson have included the series of fines to ensure that there is no financial incentive for carriers to bypass the law, if approved by legislators. With $10,000 on the line for every train they improperly crew, carriers will not be able to chalk violations up as the cost of doing business and continue their pursuit of using single-employee engine crews augmented by roving (expeditor) conductors in company vehicles. As the UP and Norfolk Southern have both publicly spoken of plan to start experimenting with this new vision of rail crews in the near future, Brother Foust’s bill is well timed to stomp it out and defend the craft of on-board freight conducting. 

The blocked crossings bill, LB 234, sponsored by Sen. Walz also has been referred to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and is scheduled for a first reading, also on March 6. In LB 234, Foust and Walz have established a requirement for the railroad companies to report to the Nebraska State Highway Patrol and state Public Service Commission annually. Their report will need to include the number of public complaints each carrier received about blocked crossings. The report will also go into the specifics surrounding each complaint. They will have to report data on each complaint they receive to include information such as the dates, locations of the blocked crossing, the duration of time that each crossing was blocked, and the action taken by the railroad company to resolve the complaint. 

Making records of the complaints may be tedious enough for the railroads to handle, but the last requirement is going to prove to be the part the companies like the least. This bill is looking to force the carriers to put into public record what efforts they make to listen to the people of Nebraska, be accommodating corporate neighbors and to respond to residents’ needs and concerns. 

It is our hope that with this bill’s passage that carriers such as UP, BNSF, KCS and others there then engage in some much-needed self-reflection. It will be very telling about their corporate outlook on the role of being a considerate community partner when they attempt to massage language to talk about how the Precision Scheduled Railroading business model of ever-longer trains is compatible with access to emergency services and the free flow of vehicle traffic in the state’s rural and urban areas alike.

SMART-TD applauds the collective efforts of SLD Foust and the Nebraska state senators for doing the people’s work. You are all taking the path less traveled to defend our members and citizens of your state and are doing a wonderful job at pulling on the threads of PSR itself. With momentum around the country in state legislatures, we have every intention of helping you succeed in unraveling it!

Please help SLD Foust, and all of SMART-TD’s legislative team to achieve this overarching goal. It is the challenge that defines our time in the rail industry.

For information on how to contact your state legislators to support these and other bills being considered in Nebraska and beyond, please follow this link to the SMART-TD’s Legislative Action Center.

In a letter to members, Wyoming State Legislative Director April Ford asked members in her state to reach out to state legislators and urge them to support train-length legislation. The text of her message is below:

“Legislators in Wyoming will be hearing a bill in the House Corporations Committee on Friday, February 3, to help keep Wyoming citizens safer and freight rail operations running more efficiently. HB 204 requires a train length to not exceed 8,500 feet in the state for the public safety. 

“Railroads are running longer freight trains than ever before, which means we are seeing more issues and blocked crossings than ever before. These longer trains are preventing emergency vehicles from responding to emergencies in a timely manner.  Minutes waiting at a blocked crossing can be critical to people who need emergency services. These longer trains are also causing issues on the tracks, which impacts Wyoming revenue.

“It can’t be stressed enough that emails to elected officials work; the more they hear from members here in Wyoming (like you), the harder it is for them to say no. Don’t let inaction thwart this opportunity to make train length the law in Wyoming.”

The Legislative Action Center has been set up for Wyoming residents to make their voices heard on this important legislation.

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.
A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.
H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.
“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”
Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”
In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.
The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:
“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”
Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.
“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”
The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

March 20, 2020
All Members — SMART Transportation Division
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, House Democrats released the text of a $500 billion five-year funding authorization bill that defines their vision for the future of transportation in America, as well as outlines their plans to refresh and renew the infrastructure of the nation’s surface transportation network.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.

Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.

Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.

But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.

I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.

There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.

Fraternally yours,



Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division