Legislative Update January 2016

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE JANUARY 2016

By Kathleen Bisbikis, National 2nd Vice President, National Legislative Rep, BLET Auxiliary

Below are some of the most recent news items that affect all of us. Please feel free to share these with your local auxiliary. If you have information you would like to share with me for future updates, please send it to me at bletauxilliarylr@gmail.com.

INDIANA HR 1029 TWO PERSON CREW BILL 

Indiana State Legislative Board Chairman Brian Farkas and BLET members in Indiana are working diligently to get the Two Person Crew bill – HB 1029 – heard in the State House. If you live or work in Indiana, now is the time to pick up the phone and let the State Representatives know that you support HB 1029, and request a hearing on this important bill. The phone call literally only takes about two minutes out of your day and can help secure safety on the rail in your state. We know from past experience in states like California, where this same type of legislation passed, that our calls do make a difference!

Let’s add Indiana to the list of states where a minimum two-person crew is not just a good idea it’s the law!!

H.B. 1029 (Two-Person Crew) has been filed and assigned to the Roads and Transportation Committee in the Indiana House. Please call the House Switchboard at (800) 382-9842 and ask to speak to your state representative in order to voice support for this bill.

Please encourage your state representative to ask Chairman Soliday for a hearing on this bill. Due to this being a short session, time is of the essence. Call today!!!

ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE? 

November 8, 2016, could be one of the most important and ground-breaking elections in our history. Voter turnout is essential to a favorable outcome in the upcoming presidential race. The deadline to register or re-register to vote for any election is 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the 15th calendar day before that election. Please take the time to make sure everyone of legal voting age in your home is registered in time. If you still need to register and would like to do so online, please go to https://teamster.org/election-center where you will be guided through the registration process. If you would prefer to register in person, you can go to any of the listed sites to fill out a voter registration card.

The National Transportation Safety Board Announces its 2016 Wish List

On Wednesday, January 13, 2016, the NTSB announced its annual “wish list” for safety for the coming year. Several items listed would change regulations to US Railways. One of the item they would like to see is the removal of the older style DOT-111 tank cars. They feel the DOT-111-style tank car is too dangerous to haul flammable liquids near populated areas, and has been blamed for in the past for high profile crude oil explosions in both Canada and North Dakota. “The deadline for implementing such tank rules is 2025,” the NTSB said. “Until these tank cars are removed from service, people, their towns, and the environment surrounding the rail system remain at risk.”

In addition to the tank cars, the NTSB has also expressed its disappointment in last year’s extension of the PTC (positive train control) deadline from 2015 to 2018. NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said Congress should have forced railroad companies to meet the original 2015 deadline for installing the automated train system. The mandate was set after a commuter rail crash in California in 2008, but railroads successfully lobbied lawmakers last year to give them more time. “Every PTC-preventable accident, death, and injury on tracks and trains affected by the law will be a direct result of the missed 2015 deadline and the delayed implementation of this life-saving technology,” Hart stated.

Amtrak Completes Activation of ACSES along the Northeast Corridor

Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) is a system that works similar to that of positive Train Control (PTC) on freight lines. Amtrak activated its final section of ACSES on December 18, 2015, along the Northeast Corridor between Washington D.C. and Boston. It has also been activated between Philadelphia and New York, and Washington D.C. and New York, and all before the original statutory deadline of December 31, 2015. It is believed that had ACSES been activated earlier, it may have prevented the May 22nd derailment outside of Philadelphia where five people were killed and hundreds injured. That crash is still under investigation by the NTSB.

BLET & SMART–TD Petition FRA for Speed Signs

Driving on the highway and having no speed signs to remind you of the posted speed in that area would be considered unreasonable. Why should it be any different on the railroad tracks? Yet, for some reason, railroads in certain areas either don’t have signs posted or are removing them. In the interest of crew safety, as well as the public’s safety, the BLET and SMART Transportation Division unions have joined together to petition the Federal Railroad Administration to mandate regulations that uniform warning speed signs be placed in advance of permanent speed restrictions. The unions have asked that the signs be standardized in size, shape, and color.

AMTRAK On-Time Performance

Everyday thousands of people use Amtrak as a means to commute to and from their jobs in cities across the nation, but they don’t always get there on time because of unexpected delays. It’s a chance you take when you drive on the nation’s highways and it’s a chance you take when you ride the rail. If you have experienced more than your fair share of delays, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) would like to hear from you and has given the public the opportunity to voice their concerns and share their stories. In accordance with Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the STB is proposing a definition of “on-time performance.” The deadline to submit stories on how Amtrak train delays have affected you is February 8, 2016. The STB will be looking at and redefining what is considered to be “on-time” performance as it relates to passenger trains. It is currently considered to be on-time if the train reaches its terminal no later than 5 minutes after its scheduled arrival time per 100 miles of operation, or 30 minutes after scheduled arrival time, whichever is the less. You can email the STB at STBHelp@stb.dot.gov, referencing Docket No. EP 726 and let them know how you have been affected. If you prefer to submit a filing in the traditional paper format, they request you send an original and 10 copies to: Surface Transportation Board, Attn: Docket No. EP 726, 395 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20423-0001.