A message from President John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division:

This office is receiving numerous inquiries regarding two tentative agreements recently proposed by a general committee for its members on a portion of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. One of the agreements addresses crew consist issues and the other is a wage proposal contingent upon successful ratification of both proposed agreements.

While crew consist and wage proposals such as these are within the authority of each general committee to negotiate and propose to its members, it must be noted that it is the membership working under the jurisdiction of the respective committees who have final approval in accordance with the ratification requirements of our constitution. The proposed agreements, if approved by the affected members, will apply only to the members working under the jurisdiction of the negotiating BNSF General Committee of Adjustment GO 001.

It is noteworthy that the crew consist provisions of the proposed agreements can be implemented only in the event that regulatory authorities permit one-person train crews to operate on our nation’s railroads. Accordingly, the position of the SMART Transportation Division is not affected by the agreement proposals – simply stated, the only safe and secure operation of any train includes a minimum of two people on each and every crew. Issues of predictability, fatigue, task saturation, operating requirements, crossing separation for emergency reasons, security and other issues remain at the forefront of any discussion regarding crew size, and to date, all such concerns remain unresolved.

Although technology has produced many benefits for our industry and clearly aids in improving the safe movement of trains, it is imprudent for anyone to assert that technology can replace the safety and security of a two-person train crew. Operations requirements cause it to be necessary that crews perform a number of tasks concurrently while operating the train. This can result in what the National Transportation Safety Board calls “task saturation.” There are so many things to do that one of them falls off the radar screen.

No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different. The check, double check, extra set of eyes and ears watching both sides of the train and division of tasks are safety measures that cannot be duplicated by written rule or technology. Every safety professional knows this and to remove the second person is to compromise safety.

The dangers are great and not confined to trains carrying hazardous materials (review the runaway train wreck in San Bernardino in the 1990s where a loaded rock train left the rails with catastrophic results).

We as a society don’t permit corporate profits to compromise safety in food products, pharmaceuticals, hospitals and other industries and transportation should be held to the same standard. We will continue our efforts in every forum to secure legislative and/or regulatory action to protect the safety of our members, other employees and the general public.

CLEVELAND – As part of an ongoing effort to secure a law mandating a minimum of two crew members in the cab of all locomotives, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD) have provided their state legislative boards with model legislation to secure minimum crew size laws on the state level.
The state-lobbying campaign was developed jointly by the two unions.
“Significant research and work has gone into developing language that both minimizes the potential for a federal pre-emption challenge and maximizes the likelihood that the legislation will survive any such challenge,” wrote BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce and SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich in a cover letter introducing the model legislation to BLET and SMART local officers. “Therefore, when proposing legislation on this subject, it is imperative that you do not deviate from the model.”
Among other items, the legislation stipulates that any person who willfully violates the two-person crew law would be subject to financial penalties.
Crew size has become a hot button issue following the 2013 oil train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. While an official cause has not been determined, the train in question was operated by a single employee.
“We urge BLET and SMART Transportation Division officers to work with their counterparts in moving legislation forward on this issue of paramount importance to the members we represent,” President Pierce and President Previsich wrote.
On the national level, the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 3040) is currently making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. Representatives Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced the legislation on Aug. 2, 2013, in the aftermath of the Lac-Megantic tragedy, and the bill currently has 70 co-sponsors.
H.R. 3040 would require that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”

FRA_logo_wordsWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration April 9 announced its intention to issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations. The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on train securement and recommends a rulemaking on the movement of hazardous materials.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to assure the safety of those who work for railroads and shippers, and the residents and communities along shipping routes,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The proposed rulemaking on crew size is the latest effort in our comprehensive strategy to ensure crude oil is transported as safely as possible.”

The announcement follows the deliberations of three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Working Groups on Appropriate Train Crew Size, Securement and Hazardous Materials Issues. All three working groups were created at DOT’s request last summer in response to the Lac-Mégantic derailment. The emergency meeting was held to evaluate and consider wide-ranging proposals to further enhance railroad safety including the safe shipment of crude oil by rail. Two of the working groups produced recommendations that were adopted by the full RSAC for consideration in future rulemakings. In light of the working group’s failure to reach consensus on crew size, the FRA took action today to move forward with a rule-making.

“We believe that safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew – safety dictates that you never allow a single point of failure,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said. “Ensuring that trains are adequately staffed for the type of service operated is critically important to ensure safety redundancy. We commend the RSAC’s efforts and will use the valuable input received to formulate a proposed rule that protects the public and recognizes the nuance of railroad operations.”

“The FRA’s RSAC process confirmed that rail operational safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple-person crew,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “Both the conductor and locomotive engineer are certified and licensed under federal regulations and work cooperatively as a team. During this working group process, the committee also confirmed that there are many required tasks that are performed by our train crews each day in normal operations that a single crew member cannot perform by themselves.

“It takes two skilled and qualified employees to perform a normal brake test, to separate a train at a highway-rail crossing, to receive and acknowledge mandatory directives while moving, to make routine pick up and set out of cars from the train, and also to act as a first responder for indicated defects in equipment, derailments, unexpected application of brakes, and highway-rail crossing collisions.”

While existing FRA regulations do not mandate minimum crew staffing requirements, current industry practice is to have two-person crews for over-the-road operations. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will most likely require a minimum of two-person crews for most mainline train operations, including those trains carrying crude oil. It is also expected to include appropriate exceptions.

“Safety is good business in the rail industry. We are very disappointed that the Association of American Railroads and some short line railroads continue to keep their head in the sand when confronted with critical safety concerns. AAR continues to ignore the preventable accident that occurred less than 20 miles north of our border,” Previsich added.

FRA plans to issue an additional NPRM based on the consensus recommendations of the Securement Working Group and approved by the full RSAC that would prohibit certain unattended freight trains or standing freight cars on main track or sidings and require railroads to adopt and implement procedures to verify securement of trains and unattended equipment for emergency responders. It would also require locomotive cabs to be locked and reversers to be removed and secured. Railroads would also be required to obtain advance approval from FRA for locations or circumstances where unattended cars or equipment may be left.

The full RSAC also approved four recommendations of the Hazardous Materials Issues Working Group relating to identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments. The four recommendations, directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), include amending or revising the definitions of “residue” and “key train,” and clarifying its regulatory jurisdiction over the loading, unloading and storage of hazmat before and during transportation. PHMSA continues to advance a rulemaking addressing the integrity of DOT Specification 111 tanker cars and the safe shipment by rail of flammable materials such as crude oil.

On Aug. 29, 2013, the first-ever emergency session of the RSAC was held in response to the July 6, 2013, derailment of an unattended Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway freight train containing crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Building upon Foxx’s February agreement with the rail and petroleum industries, the FRA’s Emergency Order 28 and Safety Advisory 2013-06, PHMSA’s Operation Safe Delivery, Safety Alerts and a DOT Emergency Order, the three RSAC working groups reviewed existing regulations and standards to identify and mitigate the risks posed by such shipments and prevent future accidents.

“The unfortunate tragedy in Lac-Mégantic highlighted the need for sanity in intercity rail operations,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem. “Operating a long freight train through the communities that our industry serves with only one person on a crew is not only unsafe, but is also unsustainable.

“The safety improvements in our industry are directly linked to the training and certification of the two professionals on the locomotives and the other professional employees and their managers that are operating, repairing and maintaining our rail network throughout the United States. Our rail industry today is enjoying record profits, record productivity, and every stock broker is recommending a ‘buy’ on all railroad stocks. There is no argument that the current regulatory scheme in place today is a critical component of that productivity, and thus the high level of profitability.”


two-person_crewMembers of the SMART Transportation Division and all of rail labor have the opportunity to make it federal law to have two qualified persons working on all freight trains operating in the United States a reality.

Now is the time to contact your legislators in the House of Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 3040.

Introduced in the House Aug. 2 by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), this legislation will require that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer … and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”

“This legislation is not only about the safety of the American public and the safety of railroading operating crews, it is an opportunity to prevent what in my opinion is an unsafe operating practice – having only one crew member aboard a train,” said SMART TD President John Previsich. “This measure will not only protect our communities, it will protect our jobs.”

The legislation reflects heightened concerns over crew size arising from the tragic July 6 derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic fuel train in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) recently sent memos to Capitol Hill opposing this important piece of legislation, stating in part: “H.R. 3040 mandates freight trains operate with a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor without taking into consideration the realities of current industry practices and the overall rail safety record in the United States.”

In surveys conducted by DFM Research on behalf of the SMART Transportation Division, 78 percent of citizens in five congressional districts in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas and Colorado and the state of Kentucky, support a federal law requiring freight trains to operate with a crew of two.

In a recent letter to all members of Congress, the SMART TD’s Legislative Office wrote: “The reality is that 99+ percent of America’s trains already operate with two federally-certified crew members. It was the recent July 6, 2013, accident at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 people lost their lives and a town was destroyed, that gave rise to this legislation.

“That accident happened because a crew member, working alone, had his train roll away causing horrific death and devastation.

“There are many tasks that must be performed by the crew of a freight train that one person cannot accomplish alone.

“Under current Federal Railroad Administration regulations and railroad operating rules: a single person crew cannot make a Class I air brake test; one person cannot act as a first responder when a collision at a road crossing occurs; one person cannot inspect his or her train when it breaks in two or derails, including when there is the possible release of hazardous materials; and one person cannot inspect his or her train when cars in that train become defective.

“Another reality is that freight train crews work long hours, day and night, with few set shifts, and are on call 24/7. With as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes’ notice, we are required to report to work for a 12-hour shift, often operating trains laden with hazardous materials. Fatigue in the freight railroad industry is our number one safety problem, and having two crew members is the main way that we help mitigate fatigue. Having two crew members is also the best way to assure compliance with our complex operating rules. Rules such as properly securing your train so it doesn’t roll away and destroy a town.

“H.R. 3040 – the Safe Freight Act – is a bipartisan bill that will ensure that trains are operated safely everywhere in America. We respectfully ask that you support this important bill and consider becoming a co-sponsor.”

To send a message to your House and Senate representatives to co-sponsor and support this legislation, visit and select the “H.R. 3040 Two-person Crew Bill” tile at the bottom right corner of the homepage.

By entering your ZIP code and street address, a webpage prepared by the South Central Federation of Labor (of Wisconsin) will identify your representatives in both the House and Senate. After entering your email address, the website will send a prepared message to your legislators that reads, in part: “I am writing to you today to ask you to support H.R. 3040, the Safe Freight Act, which will improve railway safety by eliminating the risky practice of single-person train crews. It would ensure each train is operated by a crew of at least two people, including a certified engineer and a certified conductor.”

The SCFL webpage link was established by SMART?TD Wisconsin State Legislative Director Craig Peachy.

Contact your legislators today.

PORTLAND, Maine – A bankrupt railroad whose runaway train sparked a fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec is seeking financing to use two-person train crews in the U.S., a company trustee said.

The move to beef up the crews comes after criticism of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway’s decision to keep one-person crews in the U.S., said Portland lawyer Robert J. Keach.

Read the complete story at the Boston Globe.