A two-person crew bill is headed to the Virginia House of Delegates’ Commerce and Labor Committee and SMART-TD members in the region are asked to come show their support for the legislation. H.B. 440 is scheduled for a first hearing in the House Committee Room in the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 16, in the state Capitol Building, 1000 Bank St., in Richmond, Va. The time that the bill will be discussed is undetermined as the committee meeting begins a half-hour after the adjournment of the House of Delegates’ regular session that day. The bill has been introduced by Delegate Steve E. Heretick of District 79 and establishes fines for freight carriers who do not operate with two crew members in the cab with exceptions for hostler or yard service. “We’d never gotten it out of the subcommittee before,” Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs said. “Now it has gone straight to committee.” A great show of support from union members in the state will help to show the legislators that this legislation matters for the safety of both rail workers and for the public. “I’d love to fill the room with railroad folks,” Hobbs said. For more details on how to meet and show support, contact Hobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019) — U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today introduced the Safe Freight Act, (S.1979) legislation that would promote rail safety by mandating at least two-person crews on all freight trains in the United States. The bill is designed to correct the Federal Railroad Administration’s rollback in May of a proposed rule that would have established these necessary safety standards. The Safe Freight Act will specifically require that all freight trains have at least one certified conductor and one certified engineer on board, who can then work together to protect the safety of both the train and people living near the tracks. In 2013, there was a tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, where an unattended freight train carrying 72 tank cars of crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people, destroying much of the town and causing millions of dollars in environmental damage. “The FRA abdicated its responsibility as our nation’s rail safety agency when it withdrew the proposed two-person crew rule,” said Sen. Markey. “A series of tragic accidents have resulted in recent years from unattended and understaffed trains, making clear that we need enough crew on board to protect both property and the public. I am proud to lead the introduction of the Safe Freight Act with Senator Wyden to address this critical safety concern.” “The decision by the FRA to abandon its planned two-person crew rule makes no sense, especially in light of recent rail accidents,” said Sen. Wyden. “This is a matter of safety and security for rail crew and the public and experts agree. It’s now up to Congress to step in and require freight trains have the staffing required to keep folks safe.” A copy of the Safe Freight Act can be found here. Other senators co-sponsoring the Safe Freight Act are Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). “SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “There is no doubt that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. After several major train derailments, we must send a clear message to our lawmakers and the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Senator Markey for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue improve safety on our nation’s railroads for both our members and the general public.” “The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has led the fight for railroad safety for over 156 years,” said BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce. “Two-person crews make for safer, more efficient train operations, and two-person crews play a key role in safeguarding our Nation’s communities when a serious accident occurs. I congratulate Senator Markey for stepping up to lead the fight for a safer railroad industry and a safer America.”
The advocacy and hard work of SMART Transportation Division members and retirees, the Nevada State Legislative Board and a coalition that included Sheet Metal brothers and sisters, other rail unions and safety-conscious members of the public has paid off. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed A.B. 337 on May 15. Two-person crews are now required on Class I and II freight trains being operated in the state or the carriers will face steep fines. The bill’s signing caps a massive effort by SMART TD members that spanned years in the face of carrier opposition. “This law didn’t pass by accident. It was the hard work of Jason Doering, our Nevada state legislative director, and others that made it happen,” SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch said. “We all owe Jason and others who worked on this our thanks for keeping train operations safe in Nevada, for not just those who operate trains but for the public as well.” Doering and his board assembled a group of dedicated advocates who helped to spread the important message about how crew size is, first and foremost, about keeping communities safe. “Many people helped to get the word out about the public safety ramifications of this legislation,” Doering said. “Those concerted efforts paid off, and now we’ve ensured that the state’s railways stay safe with two crew members in each freight train’s cab.” The legislation was sponsored in the State Assembly by Susie Martinez, a Teamster who, Doering said, “treated him like family” and whose staffer, Carlos Hernandez, assisted in the early stages of getting the bill passed. Additional backers included Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, also a primary sponsor of the legislation, as well as Assemblywoman Shea Backus, who testified before the state Senate and expressed strong support during an Assembly Growth and Infrastructure Committee hearing, and Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, another co-sponsor whose father was a United Transportation Union member. “Really — all of the Nevada Assembly and Senate Democrats, as well as the governor, receive my thanks for their understanding of the important protection to public safety that this law provides,” Doering said. “There is too much risk involved in transporting hazardous materials and goods across our country and through our communities to have a single crewmember on trains that are a mile long or even longer.” The law establishes fines of $5,000 for a first offense, $10,000 for a second offense within three years and $25,000 for a third and all other offenses for Class I and II carriers that operate freight locomotives without at least two people in the cab. Hostling and helper services are not covered by the law. Doering and his board were stung by the 2017 veto by then-Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, of S.B. 427, a prior try at two-person crew legislation that had passed both houses of the Nevada state Legislature. But a change in leadership brought a new opportunity with Sisolak’s election last year. “No doubt we were disappointed in 2017, but this is a prime example of how elections matter,” Doering said. “We cracked open the door with our previous effort and laid the groundwork. With that change in leadership in the state Capitol, it was opened even wider.” The Nevada State Legislative Board especially wanted to thank members from SMART’s Sheet Metal Local 88 out of Las Vegas, who helped to amplify the message. “They were an extraordinary help!” Doering said. “Jeff Proffitt and Alfonso Lopez — we couldn’t have moved anything without their support. Sheet Metal put rail labor on the map in Nevada.” Also advocating for the legislation was Fran Almaraz, who helped set up meetings and facilitated a relationship with legislative leadership, Doering said. Assisting the cause as well were TD Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith, who provided guidance after succeeding earlier this year in getting two-person legislation made into law in his state, Dean Mitchell, who helped in researching and targeting the message and the TD Public Relations Department, which helped to compose an op-ed published by the Nevada Independent and put together print material to get the word out about the legislation. And, as he did with S.B. 427, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen’s Nevada State Legislative Board Chairman Matt Parker mobilized BLET members to advocate loudly in favor of the legislation. “It truly was a team effort,” Doering said. A.B. 337 was approved April 23 by the State Assembly by a 29-12 vote and in the state Senate on May 7 by 13-8 margin. Both votes were party line with Democrats voting in favor of the legislation. Nevada now joins Arizona, California, Colorado, West Virginia and Wisconsin as states that have legislation requiring two people to operate freight trains. “This successful passage in Nevada proves that our persistence pays off,” Risch said. ”Concerning two-person crews, the message of public safety did not change from two years ago and will not change going forward. It’s that simple. Two crew members are vital to ensuring that these trains are operated safely and that our communities are secure. “Legislators in Nevada knew this before, and they know it now. As a result of the 2018 election, the leadership in the governor’s office changed and now this safety-focused, common-sense bill has been made law.” A.B. 337 takes effect Oct. 1.
Two-person freight crew safety legislation is one step closer to becoming law in Colorado with the state Senate’s passage of House Bill 1034 (H.B. 1034). After its 19-15 passage on Feb. 25 in the Senate, the bill is on the desk of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis for consideration after a successful March 4 reconciliation vote in the House. Polis has three options — signing the bill to make it state law, vetoing the bill or not signing the bill. If he chooses not to sign the bill, it will then become law after 10 days of inaction. “We need to let the governor know that this is a grassroots effort with the safety of the public in mind,” Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith said. Through the process, members in the state, as well as their families and friends, have been instrumental in supporting the efforts of the Colorado State Legislative Board to get the two-person crew bill through the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk. Help is needed one more time for that final push. Members, their families and friends in Colorado all can voice their support for the legislation by following the link below: Show your support for the Colorado two-person crew bill. Smith said that he is optimistic that Polis, who as a U.S. representative was a co-sponsor of the 2017 Safe Freight Act legislation, will support the bill once he hears from SMART members, their families and anyone else in the state who is concerned about rail safety. H.B. 1034 first passed the Colorado House on Feb. 5 by a 39-23 vote.
State Legislative Director Carl Smith is urging all members from Colorado to contact their state representatives and ask them to support the state’s two-person crew bill, H.B. 1034. Smith says that members, their families and friends are encouraged to visit www.corailsafe.com to contact their legislators about supporting this bill. Better yet, union members can come out in person to express their support, Smith said. The bill, which was introduced Jan. 4 by state Reps. Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar, is set to be heard by the House Transportation Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Colorado State Capitol, 200 East Colfax, Denver. “We will meet in the basement at 11:30 a.m.,” Smith said. “You and everyone you know that cares about railroad safety must contact your state legislator by phone, letter or email before this date to tell them to support H.B. 1034. We need everyone! You, your family, your friends and neighbors. “It will take all of us.” Click here to contact your legislators. Click here to view the members that sit on Colo. House Transportation Committee. On Jan. 9, the Colorado State Legislative Board released the results of a survey that showed strong support among Coloradans for a law requiring two-person crews. The survey, conducted Jan. 2 – Jan. 5, 2019, asked 550 random Colorado residents older than 18 using both cell phones and landlines about issues centered around railroad safety. The results showed that 77 percent of Coloradans said that, given the chance, they would vote in favor of a two-person crew law. “More than three of four respondents to this poll understand the safety benefits of having more than one person operating a freight train. Safety is a top priority for them and requiring all trains in the state to be operated by a crew of at least two people, no exceptions, makes perfect sense,” Smith said in a press release about the survey results. To keep the state’s rails safe, legislators need to hear about the importance of keeping two people operating freight trains. Now is your chance to make your voice heard!
The Safe Freight Act, the two-person crew bill introduced Jan. 30 by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, has doubled its number of cosponsors in two weeks. On Feb. 12, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tina Smith of Minnesota joined in supporting the bill, bringing the total number of cosponsors to nine. Earlier in the month, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts indicated their support. Four senators — Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Angus King of Maine and Edward Markey of Massachusetts — were original cosponsors of the bill. All cosponsors of the bill thus far, with the exception of King, an independent, are Democrats. The two-person crew bill in the House of Representatives, H.R.233, introduced by U.S. Rep. Donald Young of Alaska, has 83 bipartisan cosponsors. SMART TD members are encouraged to make use of the Legislative Action Center to continue the momentum for this vital safety legislation by sending messages to their senators and representatives supporting these bills or thanking them for their support.
Although both the Nevada Senate and House approved S.B. 427 – the state’s two-person crew bill – Republican Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed the measure June 8. Click here to read Sandoval’s veto letter.