On a beautiful Kansas spring day, legislators, their families, and community members gathered for a special train ride hosted by SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Rock Island Railroad.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo speaks at Baldwin train depot before the excursion trip.

The event provided an opportunity for advocacy and education on rail safety legislation, community involvement and the development of industry partnerships.

SMART-TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo spoke with the legislators at the historic Baldwin city train depot and a safety briefing by the train crew followed before everyone came aboard.

As the train rolled through the scenic countryside, legislators engaged in discussions with TD representatives, learning about the importance of rail safety and the need for comprehensive legislation. The SMART-TD team shared their firsthand experiences and emphasized the crucial role of rail safety in protecting both workers and the public.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo speaks with a fellow passenger during the Kansas excursion trip.

The train ride also showcased the strong community involvement in rail safety. Leaders from statewide organizations representing first responders and firefighters attended and demonstrated their readiness to respond to any emergency situation. Their presence highlighted the importance of collaboration between rail workers and emergency services to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the need for common-sense minimum rail safety legislation.

SLD Dragoo gives a passenger an assist.

Key to the event was the partnership between SMART-TD’s Kansas contingent and the Rock Island Railroad in Baldwin City.

“Rock Island provided the historic train and the tracks, creating a unique and memorable experience for all participants,” Dragoo said. “The partnership demonstrated the commitment of both organizations to rail safety community engagement and a shared interest in advancing rail safety legislation.

“It was an awesome event. Special thanks go to the crew members and Robert Riley, CEO of the Rock Island Railroad, for their dedication and hard work in making the legislative train ride a success. Their contributions ensured a safe and enjoyable event for everyone involved.”

Dragoo said that he hopes that the excursion becomes a regular event because it can educate and strengthen understanding among legislators about the industry in a practical way.

Anyone who makes a career out of running the rails or drilling track lists in the yard has qualities that are hard to find in 2024. Rail workers are throwbacks to a time when hard work, dignity, and the ability to improvise and overcome were valued.

Not only are the men and women who make up our State Legislative Boards in touch with the working conditions they want to improve, but they have also made it in the world of railroading. That speaks to the qualities a person has at their core. When they roll into any state house in the country, they bring more than our message with them. They bring our swagger and our ingenuity, too.

One of the best examples is our State Legislative Board in Colorado. This group has been on the cutting edge of this organization and has been taking the state house in Denver by storm.

Carl Smith, SMART-TD’s state legislative director in Colorado, has 12 years of experience in his role and a team of legislative representatives (LRs) around him as hungry for improvements as they are effective.

Gov. Jared Polis signs Colorado’s rail safety bill H.B. 1030 on May 10, 2024.

This win creates oversight that should put safety first

Smith’s team in Colorado pushed their state to become among the first in the country to adopt 2PC, and succeeded for the members of SMART-TD yet again in their fight for the Colorado Rail Safety Act.

The act (H.B. 1030) is a comprehensive rail safety package that will provide protection for our members in the Mile High State and set a precedent for what we can achieve nationwide. It combines policies that proved successful in other states, and reads like a SMART-TD highlight reel:

  • Creates the Colorado Office of Rail Safety monitoring the following throughout Colorado:
    • HazmatTrain lengthRail operationsTrack conditionsMechanicalSignal systems
    • Blocked crossings
  • Doubles the number of rail safety inspectors in the state
  • Reinforces the role of SMART-TD and all rail labor organizations in investigations,
  • Provides for training for first responders,
  • Reinforces whistleblower protections for railroad workers,
  • Regulates the placement and enforcement of wayside defect detectors.

Why we do it

On May 10, 2024, Gov. Jared Polis signed the Colorado RSA into law. When the ink dried on his signature, it cemented yet another win for Smith, Colorado’s Legislative Board, workers’ rights, public safety, and common sense.

SMART-TD wants to thank and congratulate SLD Carl Smith, the Colorado Legislative Board, and, most importantly, our Colorado members. We appreciate your fight for this bill, and your victory will pave the way for a heightened level of safety for thousands of your brothers and sisters far beyond the borders of your state.

This victory was not gift-wrapped for SMART-TD. Railroad lobbyists and the legislators they have in their camp threw more than one curveball at Brother Smith and his legislative board, which we’ll get into in a future article. The professionalism of this group of LRs is an excellent example of what this organization is capable of!

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is looking into Union Pacific and its management for painting an inaccurate picture about its safety strategy.  SMART Transportation Division members were coerced to paint a rosy picture of their employer.

All SMART-TD members who took part in this survey should get on record with their local chairperson, then call UP’s ethics hotline. That number is (800) 998-2000.

East Palestine raises railroad safety awareness

When Norfolk Southern’s freight train lit up the horizon of East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, 2023, it woke up more than the sleeping residents of Southeast Ohio. Federal regulators, legislators, the press and the general public all became instantly aware that dangerous materials were being hauled in mass quantities through their communities.

This prompted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to conduct a safety culture analysis of Norfolk Southern and all other Class I railroads.

Norfolk Southern and its management team were cooperative. NS CEO Allen Shaw and his board cooperated with FRA and a valid and thorough safety evaluation. 

Union Pacific has chosen a more dangerous approach.

FRA says Union Pacific coached employee responses

On Friday, April 26, FRA served UP’s management team with written notice that it was suspending the assessment, suggesting that things are about to get ugly for the Omaha, Nebraska-based corporation.

The FRA safety evaluation begins with an employee survey to get the perspective of front-line workers.  The administration is looking for unvarnished answers and observations from our members. This creates a baseline for their investigation.

In his letter to Union Pacific, FRA Associate Administrator Karl Alexy shared that he suspects that, instead of allowing employees to speak freely and without fear of retribution, several employees were “coached to provide specific responses to FRA questions if they were approached for a safety culture interview.”

Survey manipulation widespread; workers fear retaliation

Alexy’s letter said that reports of management “coaching” workers “span the UPRR system and railroad crafts,” putting the objectivity of the information in jeopardy.

Workers during the process also expressed reluctance and a “fear of retaliation,” according to FRA.

Workers also had to report to their supervisor if they took part in the data gathering. Data integrity and confidentiality were thus not assured, Alexy wrote. “With widespread evidence that these fundamental elements have been jeopardized, FRA has no choice but to end data collection activities,” he wrote.

Union Pacific appears to violate its own policies

Two things jump out at SMART-TD about this situation. First, the study being conducted by FRA concerns the safety culture at UP. According to the railroad’s propaganda “Safety is Union Pacific’s No. 1 Responsibility.”  The obvious question is, what would CEO Vena and UP have to hide and why would they need to coach its workers if safety was its top responsibility?

Secondly, what happened to UP’s “Statement of Policy on Ethics and Business Conduct,” which is prominently featured in their rule book?

UP’s policy clearly says that “No employee should take advantage of any party through manipulation, concealment, abuse of confidential information, misrepresentation of material facts or any other unfair practice.”

An effort to deceive a federal regulator and threaten/bully its employees into taking part in its scheme appears to violate all of those rules.

Another interesting quote from UP’s Ethics and Business Conduct Policy is that “Communicating this policy and OVERSEEING COMPLIANCE is the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer and officers of the Company.”

FRA stopped collecting safety data from the carrier due to its discovery of manipulation, according to Alexy. It may try to restart the process later.


As far as SMART-TD is concerned, if FRA’s allegations are proven to be true, UP CEO Jim Vena and his executive team have violated their own Ethics and Business Conduct Policy. Either he was part of this scheme to mislead FRA or he was derelict in his duty to oversee the compliance of the ethics policy according to his company’s policy. Moreover, such conduct does not show a responsible approach to safety that the company says it adheres to.

No matter how this situation between the FRA and UP plays out, it is in the best interest of all SMART-TD members who have taken part in this survey to get on record with your local chairperson and the carrier’s ethics hotline. That number again is (800) 998-2000.

Your union will keep you informed as this situation progresses.

As kids, the term “Hot Wheels” brought to mind good times playing with tricked-out toy cars and letting your imagination take it from there. As railroad professionals, this term goes from warm and fuzzy childhood memories to the gut-churning stuff of nightmares.

Railroaders all know that overheated bearings and wheels are one of the fastest ways to have a bad day or to make the news for the wrong reasons. In railroad training centers for all the major railroads, we are taught about the dangers of hot wheels/journals/bearings, but the silver lining on this issue is that the people managing the railroad have already figured it all out. We were all issued a temperature indicator stick (Tempilstik) and told that this very special crayon, combined with the railroad’s foolproof system of wayside defect detectors, would be adequate for us to make it through our 30-year careers and retire without having to worry about literally running the wheels off our train.

Turns out that this well-crafted illusion of security the railroads gave us on this topic was just as true as most of the other vetted-by-legal-counsel nonsense they fed us.

As most conductors find out the first time they get an alert from a hot box detector and the dispatcher tells them to ignore it, DDs aren’t regulated. They are in place for the convenience of the carrier and as a risk diversion for their bottom line. They are part of the safety equation but not tied to any laws or federal regulations. We all know that when you hit a hot box alert on an empty grain train, you’re going for a walk to investigate, but when you hit the same detector the next day on a container train with UPS, FedEx or Amazon shipments on board, it’s “nothing to be concerned about.”

The same smoke-and-mirrors treatment surrounds the security we have always gotten from our tempilstik. The logic behind this tool has always been that if doesn’t melt, you don’t have an issue, and it’s time to haul freight. Unfortunately, there is one big problem with this premise: It came from the railroad carriers.

When the time comes to walk your train and check for a hot wheel or journal, we all go through the same steps. We do the math, figuring out what car the axle in question is on. We mark our consist paperwork up to reflect where the 20 axles ahead and behind start and end. We grab our vest, red tag, and a marker, and then we dig through our grip to pull out the all-important tempilstik. Then we get off the engine to do our jobs.

Upon getting back to the axle in question, if the wax doesn’t melt, we report our “findings” to the engineer and dispatcher. Then we move on with our day, reassured that there is nothing wrong with our train. Maybe it’s because we are too pissed in that moment thinking about the fact this misdiagnosis from the DD is going to make us late getting home or that the pizza place next to the away-from-home hotel will be closed when the time comes to mark off, but we never take the time to ask ourselves if the tool your company gave you was adequate to test that wheel’s health for starters.

In June at the NTSB’s investigative hearing in East Palestine, Ohio, one of the experts on the panel made a reference to the fact that the integrity of rail bearings begins to break down at the temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Very soon after that statement was made, the representative on the panel from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) made the statement that this statistic is the reason that all railroad crews are equipped with a tempilstik specifically designed to melt at 169 degrees Fahrenheit.

SMART-TD was represented in that hearing, and there were certified conductors/SMART-TD members in attendance who heard this comment. Within a few minutes, there were cell phone images coming into these members from their coworkers of tempilstiks that were clearly labeled as being calibrated to melt at a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

This 31-degree discrepancy means that obviously the AAR — the lobbying arm of the railroad companies — was less than accurate about their own safety apparatus in a federal hearing in which an oath was taken to represent the truth. That is not hard for any of us to believe. However, the larger miscarriage of justice and the larger concern to the safety of our train crews and communities like East Palestine that are dotted by rail lines all over the country is this:

The AAR’s acknowledgment and acceptance of this expert’s fact that 170 degrees Fahrenheit is the absolute threshold of when the mechanics of a rail wheel and its components are at risk of breaking down is utterly damning.

If this 170-degree threshold was a known fact to the railroads, how in good conscience have they been sending workers out to investigate the bearings armed with equipment they knew wasn’t physically capable of identifying the problem unless it was already 30 degrees past the point of no return?

SMART-TD has yet to receive an answer to this question. What is important is that this practice stops. In the two months since these comments were made at the NTSB hearing, it has come to SMART’s attention that Class I carriers have begun issuing new tempilstiks certified to melt at 169 degrees.

Some of the same members who helped us in the heat of the moment during the hearing have followed up by sending us evidence that they have been issued the new tempilstiks, and SMART-TD very much appreciates that.

On its face, this seems like a victory for railroaders and the safety of the communities our trains run through. Obviously, an apparatus designed to melt at 169 degrees is significantly better for all involved than the 200-degree version that we have had at our disposal. But let’s not downplay the fact that these rail carriers have acknowledged the scientific significance of 170 degrees, and that they knew they couldn’t hide behind issuing us safety apparatuses that were higher than the level their representative spoke to on the record in a public forum. The solution they came up with still is very questionable.

By the time a train stops in response to a hot wheel detector, and the conductor goes through all steps already mentioned, then walks back to the axle in question – maybe one mile, maybe two — what are the odds that a wheel that was 170 degrees at the time it passed the detector hasn’t cooled off to being below 169 degrees by the time that tempilstik is applied to it? They aren’t very good. In no way does it make sense that the railroad would invest in equipment that is rated to measure if the wheel is one barely significant degree away from the threshold of causing potential disasters.

If these railroad companies were at all serious about avoiding mainline derailments, they would invest in tempilstiks that can identify a problematic wheel substantially before the point of critical failure. SMART-TD doesn’t have any certified material engineers on staff capable of telling us what that number would be, but we do have a lot of collective years of experience as conductors and engineers and we know that, especially in cold weather, wheels that were at 170 when they passed a detector will be far cooler than 169 by the time we walk back. This is especially true in today’s era with trains over three miles long. It may very well take over an hour before a problematic wheel can be found and tested.

SMART-TD wants all its rail members to know that we aren’t satisfied with these 169-degree tempilstiks as a permanent solution. There are better, more-reliable forms of technology available to do this job in 2023 than a high-tech crayon. But as a jumping-off point, we are happy to see that most of America’s carriers are aware that we are on to the hoax of the 200-degree version, and we will be following this situation where it leads. We as railroad professionals are safer today than we were yesterday, but not as safe as we and our communities need to be tomorrow.

What our union and our Safety Committee need now is to find out if any of our members are still working for carriers operating with the 200-degree version. Science and common sense tell us that this equipment is not sufficient to keep you or your crew out of harm’s way. If you are still operating trains armed with one of these dangerously ineffective tempilstiks, please contact SMART-TD’s Government Affairs Department by emailing dbanks@smart-td.org.

We thank you for your help in this mission to keep our brothers and sisters safe. As always, we as a union need to be vigilant in looking out for one another.

BNSF and UP have made a solid investment in lobbyists in Colorado and they’re getting their money’s worth.

In 2023, SMART-TD Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith put forward a solid railroad safety bill to the Legislature that your union wholeheartedly supported. Brother Smith has been SLD for 11 years now and knows how to do his job in the statehouse effectively for our members, getting two-person crew legislation successfully in 2019. His experience told him that the best ally he could have to carry the bill was Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno.

Colorado’s Legislature is only in session for 120 days every year. Accordingly, they have a limit on how many bills any state rep or senator can put forward. Smith getting SMART-TD’s Rail Safety Act sponsored by the Senate Majority Leader was a major win for us and for railroad safety as a whole. But then Moreno got less and less enthusiastic about pushing for our bill as the session went on.

Eventually his office told Smith that they thought our legislation was a perfect fit for a bipartisan select committee — the Transportation Legislation Review Committee (TLRC) — focused on transportation bills. Our union was glad to hear that because it is a bipartisan committee with members from both the House of Representatives and the Senate and when bills are selected for support from the committee, they have a history of being unstoppable in the following years legislative session.

It all sounded promising. But shortly after diverting the bill to this group, Sen. Moreno abruptly resigned and accepted a high-ranking position on the staff of Denver’s new mayor.

Last month, Smith and his legislative board were given their opportunity to present their argument as to why their Rail Safety Act was worthy of the TLRC’s support. At this meeting, they found out that they had about a 33 percent chance of successfully making it through a gauntlet while competing against 13 others bills to become one of five bills endorsed by the committee.

It turns out the mastermind who put our rail safety bill into this competition wasn’t Moreno. It was the BNSF lobbyist who gets $80,000/month from the railroad to pull slick maneuvers like this one and kill railroad safety projects. This discovery was the part in this “Scooby Doo”-style caper where Brother Smith pulled the mask of the bad guys, and it turned out to be the Railroads and their lobbyists.  

The bills that SMART is now competing against include easy-to-get-behind items like child-seat safety, free public-transit passes for students and even state highway repairs. What BNSF, UP and their high-paid lobbyists have created a scenario where they don’t have to actively campaign against the value of a rail safety bill. That would create bad press for them and an obvious pressure point for SMART-TD and the rest of rail labor to call them out. Rather than lobbying against our bill, all they need to do is campaign FOR all the other bills. It is almost impossible to create bad press for themselves for supporting improvements to safety in children’s car seats! They just have to prop up five of the other 13 bills and never have to do the work of opposing SMART’s message on long trains, blocked crossings and the rest of the commons-sense protections we’ve been advancing.

On the positive side, Brother Smith has informed the international office that Colorado’s RSA has made it through the first hurdle of this competition. Fourteen bills that were presented in June were narrowed down to 10 finalists on Aug. 21st. Colorado’s rail safety bill is still standing.

The remaining 10 finalists will be cut to five winners and five losers October 3. We are asking for the support of all our members in the State of Colorado to reach out to the 20 members of the TLRC. Let them know that you are a Colorado voter and taxpayer who stands on the side of railroad safety.

Please follow the link provided to our Legislative Action Center to submit a prewritten comment to your legislators. They need to know that we are aware of what is going on and that we are keeping track of who supports our mission of rail safety and who does not.

In Colorado’s House District 47 alone, there are over 300 SMART-TD members. The representative in that district, Ty Winter, is on the TLRC. Representative Winter, when asked by SMART-TD for his support for the legislation responded in writing by saying that, “A major concern MY STAKEHOLDERS’ have with this bill is that it significantly cuts the train length; reducing the train length will substantially cut profits, burdening these companies.”   

Colorado members, we absolutely need to remind Rep Winter who his “STAKEHOLDERS” are. We work, live and pay taxes in this state and in his district. WE are his stakeholders — not the carriers, not the railroad bosses like Katie Farmer and Jim Vena of the bloated owning class, and not the lobbyists who make more in a month than our new hires make in a year!

Under ordinary circumstances, SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department relies on National Legislative Director (NLD) Greg Hynes, Alternate National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and Legislative Department Chief of Staff Jenny Miller to educate our nation’s lawmakers on rail safety. But on this year’s “Railroad Day on the Hill” — held annually on the legislative calendar — 35 men and women representing 15 different states answered the call, traveling to Washington, DC to advocate for railroaders.

This formidable group of SMART-TD representatives conducted more than 100 meetings with legislators: sharing the gospel of the Railway Safety Act of 2023, shorter trains, increased quality of life and better safety inspections of rolling stock with any Congress member or staffer willing to listen.

In addition to holding this important series of meetings and reaching out to over 100 members of the House and Senate, SMART-TD representatives attended a press conference in support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he announced the introduction of the Healthy Families Act. This legislation includes provisions ensuring that every company with over 100 employees provides a minimum of 7 paid sick days to its employees. This bill has language in it that speaks directly to railroad companies.

The Healthy Families Act indicates the progress our union made in the 2022 national contract negotiations. In December 2022, Sanders pushed for similar legislation that was strictly aimed at railroaders — and though it won a majority of votes in both the House and Senate, it failed to get the 60 votes needed to carry a filibuster-proof supermajority and make it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

With the ramifications of this bill’s success weighing heavily on the quality-of-life improvements that SMART-TD continues to seek for our members, Sen. Sanders reached out to SMART’s Legislative Department and made a point of inviting our representatives to his press conference.

Following the successes of the day’s events, NLD Hynes expressed his gratitude to the army of SMART-TD leaders who made the trip.

“These men and women went above and beyond the call of duty to be here today, and because of them, we had a fantastic show of force in the halls of Congress. The validity of our issues speaks for itself, but when leaders from these different states show up to meet with their congressional and senate delegations, it makes an impact on these lawmakers,” he said. “They hear from Jared Cassity and me all the time, but when someone from home comes to meet with them in DC, it puts a face to our issues in a unique way.

“I want to thank each and every one of them for making the effort to come out this year, and with your help, we will deliver on the promise of the Railway Safety Act, the REEF Act, and all the issues that speak to the quality of life our members deserve and the dignity of the work they do each day.”

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will have some major shoes to fill with the April 13, 2019, retirement of Robert “Bob” Lauby, the agency’s chief safety officer.
Lauby had served in that capacity for FRA since September 2013. He was a frequent presenter at SMART Transportation Division regional meetings and worked to provide regulatory oversight for rail safety in the United States while overseeing the development and enforcement of safety regulations and programs related to the rail industry.


“Serving as the associate administrator for Railroad Safety and FRA’s chief safety officer is one of the highlights of my career,” Lauby said. “The job has been both challenging and fulfilling.
“Over the years, we grappled with many important issues and have significantly changed the industry for the better.”
Lauby had a hand in several regulatory safety efforts at FRA such as Positive Train Control, conductor certification, training requirements, drug and alcohol testing for maintenance of way employees, roadway worker protection, passenger equipment standards, system safety and others.
Other safety oversight improvements happened as a result of major accidents. Some of the major ones included crude-oil accidents at Lac Megantic, Ontario, Canada; Mount Carbon, W.Va.; and other locations; commuter train accidents at Spuyten Duyvil and Valhalla, N.Y.; and Amtrak passenger train accidents in Philadelphia and Chester, Pa.; Dupont, Wash.; and Cayce, S.C.
“No matter the challenges swirling around him, Bob had safety in mind,” said National Legislative Director John Risch. “He’s been great to work with and one of the most committed, level-headed professionals in the rail industry.”
Lauby said that he treasured any interaction he could have with members of rail labor as these helped to broaden his perspective about whom he was working to protect.
“I always took time to talk to the SMART TD membership to get their complaints, opinions, and perspectives on the latest industry issues,” Lauby said. “I often left enlightened or with a new perspective.
“Railroad managers are experts on what is supposed to happen. SMART TD members are experts on what actually happens. They always know what works and what does not work.”
In his more-than-40-year career, Lauby’s railroad and transit experience included safety, security, accident investigation, project management, project engineering, manufacturing and vehicle maintenance.
He joined the FRA in August 2009 as staff director of its newly established Passenger Rail Division in the agency’s Office of Safety and was later promoted to deputy associate administrator for regulatory and legislative operations at FRA. One of his responsibilities in that role was to oversee the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).
Prior to his time at FRA, Lauby was director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Railroad Safety, overseeing hundreds of rail accident investigations for NTSB and coordinating with our union’s Transportation Safety Team in many investigations. He was NTSB’s representative on RSAC.
Lauby addressed SMART TD members in a workshop at the 2018 Seattle, Washington, regional meeting.

“At our regional meetings, I would introduce Bob and tell the troops that Bob was the big gun and can handle all the tough questions, which he always did,” Risch said at a party celebrating Lauby’s retirement in late March.
Lauby said he took his multiple presentations at TD regional meetings, including at the Seattle regional meeting last July, seriously — he felt he owed it to the attendees to give them useful information.
“I looked forward to the meetings each year and spent hours preparing my presentation and preparing for the questions I would get at the end – during the Q and A session,” he said. “I wanted the material I presented to be timely and useful to the membership, and I always tried to include the inside scoop – the stuff nobody else would talk about!”
But the benefits from his visits and interactions went both ways, he said, and showing up at the meetings gave him a fresh perspective on the industry.
“I always enjoyed speaking to the SMART TD membership – both at the Regional Meetings and when they were on their jobs,” Lauby said. “Whenever I traveled by train, I tried to spend time with the train crew or ride the head end to find out the issues of the day.
“I learned more about railroading from the working men and women of the railroad industry than from anyone else.”
Lauby’s departure is leaving a vacancy that FRA will have a difficult time filling, Risch said.
“No one will really fill your shoes because there is no one with the knowledge and experience to do that,” he told Lauby at his retirement party. “You committed your working life to rail safety, you have been a good friend of mine and a good friend to railroad workers everywhere.
“We wish you all the best as you enter this next stage of your life.”
Lauby said his career leaves him with a sense of gratitude.
“I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the industry I love, in a role where I felt I could make a difference,” Lauby said. “I will miss the thousands of people I interacted with each year. That includes the FRA employees and railroad industry labor and management … all the folks I dealt with at the various RSAC meetings. People are the most important part of any organization and the railroad industry is no different.”

The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) on March 11 announced the railroad industry issues that the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, will prioritize in the coming months.
Of the highest importance, the policy statement identified continuing the progression of safety measures, including national legislation.
“More can and must be done to further improve safety, minimize risk on railroads, and ensure frontline workers and the communities they operate in are fully protected,” the TTD said in its policy statement. “By reauthorizing the now-expired Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), closing perilous loopholes in existing regulations, and advancing common sense safety regulations that prioritize a vibrant and healthy rail workforce, Congress and the administration have an opportunity and obligation to ensure that the future of rail is safer than ever before.”
The policy statement also identified five key points of focus:

  1. Addressing Fatigue with Common Sense Solutions
  2. Single Crew Member Trains are Unsafe
  3. Protecting Rail Workers from Assault
  4. Ensure Cross Border Safety and Security
  5. Working Together for a Safe and Risk Free Rail Industry

“Rail workers cannot be expected to do more with a reduced workforce, fewer resources, and less sleep while simultaneously improving safety and minimizing risks,” the TTD concluded. “Rail labor will work vigorously with Congress to ensure adequate safety measures are implemented through the reauthorization process and will challenge any attempts that are made at the expense of safety, workers’ rights and their jobs.”
The policy statement was released in conjunction with the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.
Read the full policy statement.

Chuck Akers, lifelong train engineer, was forced to retire early after three physicians concurred that his numerous experiences with collisions that were caused by vehicles and people blocking the tracks (he was cleared of any wrongdoing in all incidents), had culminated into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is on the rise  among our nation’s locomotive engineers and conductors. View the complete story posted by Roanoke.com, here.

safety_signMontana’s oversight of railroad safety falls short at a time when volatile crude oil train traffic from the Bakken region, already high, is only expected to increase, a new audit found.

Montana has no active rail safety plan and employs only two inspectors to cover the vast state, the Montana Legislative Audit Division report released Wednesday said. In addition, there is a lack of statewide emergency planning and hazardous-material response capability should an oil spill occur, the report found.

That’s a potentially precarious situation with a new crude oil transfer station in North Dakota coming online that should boost oil traffic crossing Montana from about 10 trains a week to up to 15 cars per week. One out of every five Montanans lives in an evacuation zone for an oil-train derailment, which is within a half-mile of a rail line, the report said.

Read more from ABC News.