Joseph Hansen, a conductor out of Local 60 (Newark, N.J.) who worked for New Jersey Transit (NJT), passed away recently to become the first reported active SMART Transportation Division member to succumb to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

Joseph Hansen, a 20-year SMART Transportation Division member out of Local 60 (Newark, N.J.), passed away from COVID-19. Photo via New Jersey Transit/the Hansen family.

Hansen was 62 years old and had been a SMART-TD member since November 1999. He worked out of NJT’s Raritan Yard.
“Brother Hansen’s 20 years of service was exemplary. He was the consummate professional, a loving husband, father and grandfather,” said General Chairperson Jerome Johnson (GCA-610), who is president of Local 60. “He will be greatly missed.”
Brother Hansen is survived by his wife, Denise; a son, Brian, who is a mechanic at Raritan Yard; and his grandchildren.
SMART-TD offers sincere condolences to Brother Hansen’s family and friends and to his brothers and sisters of Local 60, who continue to put their safety on the line as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read an article from about Brother Hansen’s passing. also reported that the carrier gave an update on the effects of COVID-19 on NJT’s 12,000-person workforce:

  • 87 NJ Transit employees have tested positive for coronavirus
  • Of those, 57 were operating buses, trains or cleaning stations
  • 571 employees are in quarantine as a precaution or awaiting test results
  • 159 employees have returned to work after being cleared

SMART-TD represents NJT’s rail workforce.

On July 7, Grupo Mexico S.A.B. de C.V. announced that its Grupo Mexico Transportes S.A. de C.V. unit (GMXT) completed its procurement of Florida East Coast Holdings Corp., parent company of Florida East Coast Railway (FECR).
The acquisition had approvals from the Committee on Foreign Investment, Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Communications Commission.
SMART TD represents approximately 200 conductors, engineers, trainmen and yardmasters employed by FECR. The railway operates 351 miles of track between Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami.
Click here to read more from Florida East Coast Railway.

Are you prepared to make the decision?

  • How many times have you been a part of a crew-induced emergency?
  • Conductors, how many times have you alerted your engineer to take action to stop the train?
  • Engineers, do you discuss parameters with your conductors for emergency brake application in your job briefings?
  • Conductors, have you ever pulled the emergency brake (dumped the air) to stop your train?
  • Do you discuss the possible situation of emergency in your job briefings and develop an action plan?
  • Did you know that on the BNSF only three percent of crew-induced emergencies are performed by the conductor?

According to the SMART Rail Safety Task Force, this message is not intended for conductors to take control of the locomotive from the hands of the engineer. This message is meant to encourage crews to work together for safe train operation. Conductors must know they are empowered to take action if deemed necessary after assessing the situation with their engineer. It is paramount for both crewmembers to stay engaged and focused on the task at hand for safe train operations.

All too often when signals are run, speeding is excessive or train handling is improper, conductors say, “I thought the engineer had it.”

Tips for success:

  1. Job briefing: crews discuss parameters for conductors to take action and put that plan in place for emergency situations.
  2. Conductors must stay focused and alert your engineer that he or she needs to take action.
  3. Engineers must remain vigilant and aware of their situation.

CSX operating rule: 301 – control of train speed 

  • 301.1: Crewmembers must notify the locomotive operator of any condition that requires the train to reduce speed or stop not more than five miles, but not less than two miles, before reaching the condition.
  • 301.2: If the locomotive operator fails to control the train in accordance with authorized speed, other crewmembers must take action to ensure the safety of the train. When train speed exceeds authorized speed by:( a.) Less than five mph, other crewmembers must direct the locomotive operator to slow the train to authorized speed, or (b.) five mph or more, other crewmembers must direct the locomotive operator to stop the train and immediately report the occurrence to the proper authority. The train must not proceed until released.
  • 301.3: Make an emergency air brake application to stop the train if the: (a.) automatic braking system fails to respond as expected, or (b.) locomotive operator fails to take action when the train is required to stop or (c.) locomotive operator becomes incapacitated.

Do you see an unsafe trend developing, do you have an idea that will make our work place a safer one? Click here to email your SMART Rail Safety Task Force.

(This is Safety Alert #10 in a series of alerts posted by the SMART Rail Safety Task Force.)

This is a story about heroes.
It is a story about two UTU conductor heroes in Fallon, Nev., June 24.
In utter disregard of their own safety, these UTU conductor heroes braved intense flames and choking smoke, repeatedly returning inside two burning Amtrak passenger cars to save the lives of dozens of disoriented, injured and frightened passengers — passengers who otherwise would have been hopelessly trapped in the burning wreckage hit by a tractor-trailer combination at a highway-rail grade crossing.
And in the custom of American band-of-brothers soldiers, one of these UTU conductor heroes went back one last time to bring out one of his own – removing the body of a fellow conductor before the growing flames could consume the body.
Senior military officers would be considering Bronze or Silver stars, a Navy Cross — even the Medal of Honor — for such selfless acts of extreme bravery. Amtrak President Joe Boardman is said to be considering a special honor for these two UTU conductor heroes.
Don’t expect these UTU heroes to be anything but modest. Fact is, you find UTU conductor heroes everywhere who serve and protect.
On 9/11, it was UTU conductors on Port Authority Trans Hudson in New York City who wouldn’t allow the doors of the last train below the World Trade Center to close until every person on the platform was safely on board. Hundreds of lives were saved by these selfless UTU conductor heroes.
In Covington, Va., in February, UTU conductor Dale Smith disregarded his own safety to dash down a steep embankment and into the partially frozen Jackson River to save the life of fellow conductor Alvin (A.J.) Boguess, who had fallen from a trestle, 55-feet above the water.
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” UTU conductors regularly prove Fitzgerald had it backwards. Time and again, UTU hero conductors validate, “Show me a tragedy and I’ll write you a story about heroes.”
Indeed. Six died in this tragic Amtrak accident; many more likely would have had it not been for these UTU conductor heroes.
In the harrowing moments following the horrendous accident, assistant conductor and UTU Local 166 member Richard d’Alessandro, who initially was knocked unconscious in a dormitory car that took the initial hit from the truck, recovered finding himself laying outside in the desert to discover his arm broken and a finger missing.
In complete disregard for his personal safety, and ignoring his own painful injuries, he took to his radio to broadcast help – “Dispatch everything you have.”
He climbed back into the burning cars, worked his way through the dark smoke and flames in search of passengers who were completely disoriented – many injured — leading one, then another, and still others to safety through emergency exit windows.
His rescues complete, d’Alessandro’s next action was to obtain water for the elderly, which he began distributing.
Also in the dormitory car was off-duty conductor and UTU Local 1525 (Carbondale, Ill.) member Loxie Sanders, traveling to California to be with a daughter facing surgery.
With flames surrounding him, Sanders knocked out emergency windows, joining with d”Alessandro to lead injured, disoriented and frightened passengers to safety. As he heard a voice, he led the passenger to an exit window, helping them out and down to other rescuers 10-feet below the car.
Only when all passengers he could find had been led to safety did Sanders, suffering from smoke inhalation, exit the burning car.
But he went back. He went back in search of 68-year-old conductor and UTU Local 166 member Laurette Lee, whom he found dead under a metal door. Ignoring the flames and dense smoke, Sanders lifted the body and carried it outside the car away from the all-consuming flames.
Concerned that more passengers might still be in the growing inferno, Sanders went back again – his hand severely burned from scaling the car to gain entry.
Listening for voices, Sanders worked his way to more disoriented passengers, leading them, also, to safety. Only when there were no more voices to be heard in the smoke that made vision almost impossible did Sanders consider his own safety and exit the burning car a final time.
Said NTSB investigator Ted Turpin, “That was the greatest act of heroism I’ve seen in my [15 years] as an [accident] investigator.”
More heroes appeared – from a Union Pacific freight train following the ill-fated westbound Amtrak California Zephyr. Unidentified crew members from the UP train ran to the scene and assisted the passengers.
d’Alessandro and Sanders were transported to a local hospital. Among their first visitors was Amtrak President Boardman, who had taken the first available flight to Reno to be at the scene of the disaster.
As injured passengers were interviewed by investigators, they recalled most and vividly the heroic actions of these selfless rails – d’Alessandro, Sanders, and the still unnamed UP crew.
Hardened accident investigators from the NTSB and Federal Railroad Administration choked with emotion as they listened, reports UTU Arizona State Legislative Director Greg Hynes, a member of the UTU Transportation Safety Team, who was assisting the NTSB in the investigation.
“Brave men. Brave men,” was all Hynes could say. It was more than enough.
Sanders with Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman
d’Alessandro and Boardman