As a direct result of the powerful message we’ve sent to two state legislators and the work by Oklahoma’s State Legislative Board, a two-person rail crew bill will be heard in the House of Representatives’ transportation committee.

Yet H.B. 1075 needs your continued help to progress through the legislative process. Please follow this link to encourage the Transportation Committee chairpersons in the state House and Senate to move on this critical rail safety legislation!

Our hearing for House Bill 1075 is Tuesday, February 27. There, SMART-TD Oklahoma State Legislative Director Kyle Pense and the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ken Luttrell (R 37th Dist.), will have the opportunity to speak our truth to power.

Oklahoma State Legislative Director Kyle Pense

Oklahoma members continue to play a significant role in applying needed political pressure to push 2PC through the process. This month, Brother Pense sent out a call to action to our Oklahoma members, and they answered. SMART-TD members, their friends and family have emailed and sent numerous messages supporting 2PC. These strategically chosen targets received roughly 120 emails each from Oklahoma residents. 

“We don’t have the deep pockets of UP, BNSF, and CPKC,” SLD Pense said. “We are pushing this 2PC bill by pounding the steps at the state House.”

Brother Pense took over as Oklahoma’s State SLD in 2020. He and his legislative board have been relentlessly knocking on office doors at the capitol building in Oklahoma City ever since. After four years, more of those doors are opening now than ever before.

This is not the first time 2PC has been introduced in Oklahoma. It is the first time this union has shown our bottom-up strength of member outreach in this state House. The results are in. You are being heard. Your messages and the cumulative gains made have put this year’s effort in a better position to become law than it has in years prior. Please continue the momentum!

Parliamentary procedures between the two chambers of the Virginia Legislature concluded Tuesday, and a two-person crew bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

“It was a big day and a big win in our state for rail safety for the public and the men and women who work on the railroad in Virginia,” Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs said.

According to Hobbs, the timeline for the governor to take action will progress in one of two ways. If Gov. Glenn Youngkin receives the bill while the Legislature remains in session, he has seven days to sign the bill and then a two-person crew minimum crew size will be the law.

If the bill is submitted to Youngkin after the Legislature concludes its business, Youngkin will have 35 days to act.

“I appreciate all the hard work our members have done — we’ll want one more major push by all of our Virginia SMART members to make sure the governor puts pen to paper to protect the public and workers,” Hobbs said.

Members are encouraged to send a message to Gov. Youngkin through the Legislative Action Center (LAC) letting him know that signing the bill is the correct course of action to keep safe train operations on Virginia’s rails.

The bill was supported by state Delegate Shelly Simonds in the House and state Sen. Jennifer Carroll Foy in the Senate.

In 2023, SMART-TD’s state legislative boards and our National Legislative Department made tremendous progress making two-person crews the law of the land in multiple states across the country. Less than a month into 2024, Nebraska and New Mexico are carrying this momentum into this year’s legislative sessions.

Both of these states put bills into play in last year’s sessions, and both saw some success. New Mexico and SLD Don Gallegos were successful not only in getting a 2PC bill through committee on the House side, but as we reported last year, Gallegos and his state legislative board were also able to get the bill passed by the New Mexico House of Representatives on the floor and had the bill sent to the state Senate. Unfortunately, it was met with enough hesitation that the bill stalled.

In Nebraska, their brand-new SLD Andy Foust off of BNSF’s property in Lincoln, saw his state’s 2PC bill get stonewalled in committee where he rallied more support than anticipated, but the bill never received a vote. In the process, Foust and his team made a positive impression on the legislators in Lincoln, and they spent time between legislative cycles fostering those relationships.

This year, the inroads made last year by both Brother Foust and Brother Gallegos are looking to pay off. In the very early stages of both states’ legislative process, there have been distinct signs that legislators have become more familiar with the need to establish a minimum crew size aboard trains.

In Nebraska, last year’s Transportation Committee Chairperson neglected to even put our bill to a vote in committee. This year’s bill was in the same committee and passed with an impressive 6-1 margin with a recommendation of passage by the full Legislature. One of the senators on the eight-member committee was vocal about her opposition to our bill until SMART-TD put out a Legislative Action Email Alert to our members of her district and they responded to it with enthusiasm.

The number of responses Sen. Carolyn Bosn received from our members/her constituents in Nebraska’s 25th District helped her remember that although BNSF and UP might provide campaign dollars there, SMART-TD members and the railroad families there are the ones who do the voting. The response from our members in Nebraska made Bosn think twice, and she ended up declaring “Present, Not Voting” rather than try to explain a “no” vote to Foust and our membership.

With Bosn opting not to vote in committee, the measure passed with a strong 6-1 vote. The rail safety bill, known as SB LB31, is now on its way to the floor of Nebraska’s full Legislature, where it awaits a vote and will hopefully make its way to Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk for a signature.

The bill has more than the impressive two 6-1 committee votes going for it. The bill is noted as a “Priority Legislation,” which means it is being fast-tracked to get a vote of the full Legislature. Along with its primary sponsor, state Sen. Mike Jacobson, Foust is proud to see that an additional 14 of the state’s legislators have signed on as co-sponsors. To say that some good work has been done to get a bill to this point that was not even given the courtesy of a committee vote in the last session is an understatement.

Moving ahead in New Mexico

In New Mexico, SLD Gallegos was successful last session in getting a 2PC freight train bill passed through their House of Representatives, but the clock ran out on the session while the bill was in the state Senate. 2024 is quickly becoming a very different story.

On January 23, Gallegos and SMART-TD’s State Legislative Board in New Mexico used the tracks laid last year to push this year’s version of their 2PC bill through the house at breakneck speed. The next committee hearing for the bill will be January 30 in the House Transportation, Public Works & Capital Improvements Committee where we hope to build on our momentum. For our members (especially LRs) attending the Regional Training Seminar in Albuquerque from March 5th through the 7th, it would be an excellent opportunity to get together with Brother Gallegos and the members of his state board to discuss their recent success and learn from the process they went through to get to this point.

Brothers Gallegos and Foust and the progress of the legislation they’ve been championing show that our organization is off and running to a great start.

Given a second chance to act, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has chosen to side with safety.

In late 2022, a bill requiring two-person crews on freight trains in the state reached her desk and she vetoed it.

But something changed this year — perhaps it was seeing legislatures and governors in both Ohio and Minnesota to the west take the steps to pass legislation or the catastrophic derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that happened in February.

On Dec. 8, Hochul signed S.5775 into law, capping a superlative effort from SMART-TD’s New York State Legislative Board led by State Legislative Director Sam Nasca.

A mere three years ago, a bill establishing a minimum freight crew size did not even make it out of a state Senate committee. Now, New York is the third state this year to pass and have the governor sign 2PC legislation, bringing the total number of states to have implemented legislation or regulations regarding a minimum two-person crew to a dozen.

“Another state has come to the conclusion that a two-person crew is appropriate and necessary for safe railroad operations,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We thank all of the legislators, especially state Sen. Timothy Kennedy, who introduced the bill in his chamber, and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli for their leadership.”

“Congratulations to all on the TD New York State Legislative Board for pulling together and achieving another victory.”

The bill was introduced in March and establishes an escalating structure of fines for violations by Class I and II rail carriers that run freight trains without two on the crew in the state. It takes effect in January 2024.

A national regulation on crew size remains pending before the Federal Railroad Administration.

The state of Michigan is a great microcosm of the United States as a whole. It has major metropolitan areas, heavy industry, expansive agriculture and a diverse transportation network.  

Train tracks crisscross “The Big Mitten,” moving people to and from the state and getting products to both national and international markets. Belying their role in the supply chain, Norfolk Southern, CSX and a large number of shortlines have loomed large over the State House in Lansing for decades, peddling the kind of influence that reflects their role in the state’s economy as well as their bottomless lobbying budgets.  

Unfortunately for the carriers, another thing Michigan is known for is a hard-nosed and organized workforce. The most-recent demonstration of this has come from SMART Transportation Division’s own Don Roach — our state legislative director (SLD) in Michigan. Despite being outspent and outmanned in Lansing during his more than three years as SLD, Brother Roach and everyone on the State Legislative Board have not been outworked. This is being made readily apparent by the early results in this year’s legislative cycle with four pieces of legislation introduced and carrying momentum. 

First on the agenda is SB 100, Michigan’s two-person crew bill. With state Sen. Erika Geis as primary sponsor (she’s also chair of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee), it also has the additional push of nine cosponsors. With these 10 backers, the bill is already halfway to the total number of votes needed to get through the senior chamber.  

In addition to the 2PC bill, Michigan’s Senate is also looking at SB 139 to legislation limiting freight trains in the state to 7,500 feet with fines to carriers of up to $5,000 per infraction. With the number of auto rack trains rolling out of Detroit, having this law in their state of origin will help train crews up and down the Midwest and eastern seaboard. When the rack trains start coming out of Michigan with 75 cars rather than the 200-car monsters we’ve been wrestling with during Precision Scheduled Railroading, Michigan’s crew bases won’t be the only ones who benefit from this new law. Both rail congestion and road traffic congestion due to blocked crossings should see improvement. 

A third bill Michigan’s legislative team has in the works aims to defend our brothers and sisters in passenger rail and bus service. This bill that is ready to be dropped in Lansing seeks to make it a felony in Michigan for anyone to assault an employee of a commuter or passenger train or a bus driver. In addition to upping the level of criminal classification for such actions, the bill also seeks to strengthen the fines for these crimes, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per conviction.  

Finally, our Michigan contingent have their eyes on SMART-TD’s national goals. The most-recent legislation put on the state’s agenda is a resolution stating support from Michigan’s Legislature for the Railway Safety Act of 2023 introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bipartisan collaboration. State resolutions of support will play a large role in garnering support from Michigan’s members of Congress as well as serve as a lead for other states to follow. 

To sum it up, our union is leading by example in labor’s war against PSR. All of us at SMART are excited to see the progress being made in Michigan and elsewhere and look forward to what comes next. 

N.Y. Governor Kathy Hochul

The two-person crew bills introduced in New York state, Assembly Bill 1287B and Senate Bill 3953B, have passed both chambers of the state Legislature as of Tuesday, May 31. Both bills have been combined into Senate Bill 3953 and are now headed to the desk of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for signing.

The SMART-TD New York State Legislative Board urges all SMART members in the state to contact Governor Hochul and tell her to sign the two-person crew bill – Senate Bill 3953 — into law.

“We need our members to contact the governor’s office, urging her to sign the bill so we can wrap this effort up,” TD N.Y. State Legislative Director Sam Nasca said. “This is a big accomplishment, and a lot of effort went into this by a lot of members and others, which I want to offer my deepest thanks.”

Follow this link to contact Gov. Hochul, call her at 1-518-474-8390 or write to:

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

You’ve probably heard in the news over the past few days that the U.S. Senate has agreed on a new bipartisan infrastructure package. This article is to provide facts, highlight the ongoing differences between the House’s infrastructure bill and the Senate’s infrastructure bill, show where we stand and what can be done to step up as we fight for public and worker safety and for the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and engineer in the cab of freight locomotives.

  1. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a product of the Senate, where a bill needs a simple majority to pass — that means 51 votes. However, unless a bill has 60 senators in solid support, it is vulnerable to a filibuster by any who oppose the bill and thus cannot pass. This bipartisan bill has been a big deal in the news because something is being done about the nation’s infrastructure as some senators from both parties came up with a bill by working together after a long, long period of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. Let’s remember that this Senate bill has only been in existence since last Sunday, Aug. 1 — about three days — and things can change quickly.
  2. While the news of this Senate bill is good in some ways because of its increased funding for Amtrak and transit and protections of bus members, the bill lacks the two-person crew provision that appeared in the INVEST in America Act that we worked to get passed by the U.S. House in July.
  3. The House gets a chance to make additions, subtractions, and changes to anything the Senate passes in what is known as the conference process. Be assured that our allies in the House will fight to have portions of their bill reinstated that were left out of this Senate bill, but, as it was when we first passed two-person crew legislation out of the House in 2020, the divided Senate remains an obstacle. Already, we have come farther than we did last year, and this is thanks to involvement from our membership as well as how we improved conditions for success in November 2020.
  4. So the door is NOT CLOSED on a legislative solution from Congress coming through with this bill. A senator could amend the bill to add the two-person crew provision before a vote. The conference process also takes time, and we have strong allies in the U.S. House in Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne who worked to get the 2PC provision in the INVEST Act both times it passed the House. But it’s not DeFazio, Payne or the U.S. representatives who already voted in favor of the INVEST Act’s two-person crew provisions that we need to convince. Republican senators who helped to craft the “bipartisan” Senate bill didn’t include the provision in accordance with the wishes of their railroad industry allies.


So what can you do to help?
We need to be loud and persistent. We need all of you to help. With the work being done right now in Washington D.C. on the legislative, and later this year, on the regulatory channel, now is the time to mobilize across the nation to step up and get the Rule of 2 across the finish line. Red state, blue state, purple state, north, south, east and west. We need to call. We need to email. Share the image above on social media. We need to explain to people in Congress, especially senators:

  • That public and worker safety is non-negotiable. That lives have been saved because of the presence and combined actions of a conductor and engineer working together. That the people in the freight locomotive provide the same safety functions and duties as a pilot and co-pilot on an airliner. By disregarding the 2PC provision, American lives are going to be endangered.
  • That the two-person crew component within the original INVEST in America Act MUST be included as the Senate considers this bill. Anything less ignores rail worker safety and community safety, jeopardizes jobs and lets the railroads and their profiteering Wall Street masters dictate what they say is safe rather than what we KNOW is safe.

We have resources such as the LAC set up to message people. There are grassroots networks such as the Fight for Two Person Crews group on social media who can provide collective strength. We need to stand up and not be silent waiting for other people to do the work as we embark upon both the legislative and the regulatory paths to make the Rule of 2 the law of the land.
Keep in mind that second path — the regulatory one — to secure the Rule of 2 is via the Federal Railroad Administration where the agency would promulgate a rule establishing a minimum crew size. Under President Biden, FRA has announced that a reopening of examining a rule concerning crew size would be a priority of the agency this autumn as it attempts to fill the regulatory vacuum that was created under the prior administration.
More about that will be shared as time goes on, but we are farther along the legislative path than we ever have been. We need to use our collective voices to get our message out to Congress.
Let’s continue to persist, step up, go forward and get the word out to Congress. Please get in touch with your senators and talk about the Rule of 2.

In solidarity,

 

 
 
 
 
 

Greg Hynes
National Legislative Director — SMART-TD

Legislators in both the North Carolina state House and Senate have introduced bills to keep freight rail operations on the state’s more than 3,300 miles of track running safely and efficiently. A bus safety bill is also in the works in the state.
H.B. 408 and S. 348 require a crew of at least two qualified people in the operating locomotive of trains transporting cargo and hazardous materials in the state for public safety. H.B. 408 has four bipartisan primary sponsors including Rep. Wayne Sasser (R – Dist. 67), Rep. Carolyn Logan (D – Dist. 101), Rep. Charles Graham (D – Dist. 47) and Rep. Verla Insko (D – Dist. 56), and 30 co-sponsors. The Senate version of the bill got a late start due to the Ninth Circuit court ruling and so S. 348 only has two Democratic primary sponsors including Sen. Sarah Crawford (D – Dist. 18) and Sen. Julie Mayfield (D – Dist. 49), and three co-sponsors. Both bills have had their first reading and have been referred to the Transportation Committee and Rules Committee, respectively.

Ron Ingerick, SMART-TD North Carolina state legislative director

“It is vitally important to maintain the presence of two crew members in the locomotive,” said Ron Ingerick, North Carolina state legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division. “Despite any advances in technology, there is a safety factor called ‘the Rule of 2’ in having the engineer and the conductor in the cab, just like how airplanes have pilots and co-pilots. With the size and complexity of the modern freight train, each crew member has responsibilities, and simultaneously performs duties in providing safe and efficient operation. These crew members are the first responders to a grade crossing collision, derailment or other emergency situation.
“The public safety of our communities is non-negotiable, and H.B. 408 and S. 348 will help prevent potential accidents or derailments. The citizens of North Carolina deserve to feel safer with two crew members in the cab in the trains that roll through their communities, day and night.”
Another bill filed in the House looks to curtail railroads’ use of giant trains that block crossings. H.B. 438, filed March 29, has three Republican representatives as primary sponsors: Rep. Howard Penny (R – Dist. 53), Rep. Jerry Carter (R – Dist. 65) and Rep. Mike Clampitt (R – Dist. 119). The bi-partisan bill currently has 21 co-sponsors — two of which are the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee — and is still accepting more. H.B. 438 intends to place a limitation on train length, which has been growing from an average length of a mile and a half five years ago to now sometimes exceeding four miles. The main culprit is an operating strategy initiated in 2017 by the nation’s biggest railroads called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR).
“Since the evolution of PSR, trains in this state have increased in length and weight, with haphazard train builds, fewer safety-critical inspections, and maintenance being deferred —increasing the risk of derailments,” said Ingerick, who is an active railroader, as well as our N.C. state legislative director who brings awareness to legislators in Raleigh. “A train that is longer is harder to operate. Also, concerns have risen from local communities and emergency responders as these longer trains have increased instances of blocked crossings.”
Blocked rail crossings cause an inconvenience for motorists, who must find alternate routes, especially in rural areas. They also pose a safety risk to pedestrians who may attempt to go under or climb over rail cars to continue their travels. A blocked crossing can play a part in delaying or detouring emergency responses when seconds or minutes count, sending responders out of their way when their aid is needed.
“Railroads are looking at returns and how their stocks are doing on Wall Street,” Ingerick said. “PSR puts safety last and profit first and makes a dangerous business even riskier.”
Lastly, Ingerick reports that the Bus Safety Risk Reduction Act has been released from bill drafting and will be filed in the coming week. The bill will include risk analysis, barriers, de-escalation training and data collection.
“Overall, I feel that we’re in a good position right now concerning these bills, but we need continued involvement from the membership in order to get these bills passed,” Ingerick said.

Louisiana State Legislative Director Chris Christianson reports that legislators in his state have introduced a two-person crew bill – HB-776 – March 31 in the state House of Representatives. The bill, as currently written, requires two persons on all freight trains with the exception of hostler service or utility employees.
The bill also provides for penalties if carriers choose to violate the bill after it becomes law. For a first offense, carriers will be charged a minimum of $500, but not more than $1,000. A second offense increases the minimum to $1,000, but not more than $5,000 when the second offense is committed within a three-year period. For three or more violations, the bill provides for a minimum penalty of $5,000, but not more than $10,000 per offense within a three-year period.
The Louisiana Legislature has been adjourned until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a tough road ahead of us getting it passed with everything that is going on with COVID-19, but we are not going to give up,” Christianson said. “Right now, getting it moving in the Legislature will depend on how much time we have when the Legislature reconvenes.”
Click here to read HB-776.

SMART Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn reports that, despite a last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler to quash it, the two-person freight crew legislation bill passed through the state Senate by a 34-15 vote.


Krohn

Schoesler, a Republican, attempted to adjourn the legislative session rather than have the bill come up to a vote five minutes before the close of the legislative session on Friday afternoon, Krohn said.

“Schoesler attempted to shut down the Washington State Senate rather than allow our crewing bill to come to the floor for consideration and a vote,” Krohn said. “It’s an example of just how far the rail carriers and their allies are willing to go to kill off our safe train crewing bill as well as any other railroad safety legislation they oppose!”

That motion to adjourn was defeated by a party-line vote, and the bill subsequently was heard and voted upon early Friday evening.

Five Republicans and a Democrat who caucuses with them voted with every Senate Democrat in favor of the bill. The 15 senators who voted against H.B. 1841 were all Republican.

Krohn and the Washington State Legislative Board have been working for seven years to get the two-person crew legislation passed. Krohn has affectionately referred to H.B. 1841 as a “zombie” bill — it has been buried and put on hold numerous times by legislators but keeps coming back. It now enters the reconciliation phase because of differences in language involving short-line carriers between the Senate and House versions of the bill.

Krohn said the state House will consider amendments adopted by the Senate, and if representative do not agree upon the Senate amendments, a conference committee of two Democrats and one Republican from each chamber of the Legislature will be assigned to attempt to work out differences between the versions of this bill.

The deadline for the process is midnight March 12 — the last day of the 2020 legislative session. Once the reconciliation process is completed, the bill will be sent to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee.

“We may need to mobilize again to generate high levels of constituent contacts with state legislators to get this bill across the finish line,” Krohn said.

He urged members to be on the lookout for email blasts — contact him at hskrohn55@hotmail.com — to add your name and stay up-to-date.

He thanked all TD members, their families and friends and all who helped for their persistence in advocating for the legislation and getting it closer to the governor’s desk.

“We wouldn’t be here without your support and willingness to take action to help push our train crewing bill forward,” Krohn said.