Legislative Update June 2012

NTSB Safety Recommendations

On May 24, 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board issued safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, which were derived from the NTSB’s investigation of the July 14, 2009, collision of a Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad train and 19 stationary railcars from a BNSF Railway local train in Bettendorf, Iowa. These recommendations were issued to address incorrect alignment of a hand-operated switch in non-signaled territory, inadequate job briefing between train crewmembers, inadequate job briefing requirements for train crewmembers and train dispatchers prior to releasing track occupancy authority, and the absence of appropriate switch position technology. The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Require railroads to install, along main lines in non-signaled territory not equipped with positive train control, appropriate technology that warns approaching trains of incorrectly lined main track switches sufficiently in advance to permit stopping. (R-12-27)

  1. Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Section 218.105(d)(1) to require that, until the appropriate switch position technology is installed on main track switches in non-signaled territories that are not equipped with positive train control, train crews releasing track authority to the dispatcher must hold job briefings with the dispatcher and clearly convey the position of all main track switches that were used prior to releasing track warrant authority. (R-12-28)

  1. Require that until appropriate switch position warning technology is installed on main track switches (in non-signaled territory not equipped with positive train control), when a main track switch has been reported relined for a main track, the next train to pass the location approach the switch location at restricted speed. That train crew should then report to the dispatcher that the switch is correctly lined for the main track before trains are allowed to operate at maximum authorized speed. (R-12-29)

The NTSB reclassifies the following previously issued recommendation to the FRA:

Require that, along main lines in non-signaled territory, railroads install an automatically activated device, independent of the switch banner that will, visually or electronically, compellingly capture the attention of employees involved with switch operations and clearly convey the status of the switch both in daylight and in darkness. (R-05-14)

Negotiations Continue on Surface Transportation Reauthorization

The House-Senate conference committee on the federal surface transportation reauthorization bills, H.R. 4348 and S. 1813, kicked off its first official meeting with all 47 House and Senate conferees (33 Representatives and 14 Senators) on May 8. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was named as the chairman of the conference committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica (R-FL) was named as vice chairman.

Background on the House-Senate Conference: Back on January 31, the original five-year, $260 billion Surface Transportation Bill, H.R. 7, was introduced by Rep. Mica; however, it was blocked by House Republicans for several reasons and never made it to the House floor. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a $109 billion bipartisan transportation and infrastructure bill on March 14 that would have financed the program for two years. The House Republican leadership was never able to secure the floor votes needed to pass H.R. 7, and instead passed a 90-day extension bill, H.R. 4348, on March 29. That extension is set to expire on June 30. The House is technically using its three-month extension bill (H.R. 4348) as the conference vehicle with the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion measure (S. 1813).

As you may recall from the March update, H.R. 7 contains a number of provisions that are detrimental for rail employees, including: (1) privatizing food and beverage service and other state-supported services on Amtrak, which would result in nearly 15% of Amtrak employees losing their jobs; (2) significant cuts to Amtrak’s operating funding (3) delaying the implementation of Positive Train Control systems on the nation’s railroads by five years; and (4) weakening the Federal Railroad Administration, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for that agency to create regulations that are good policy.

Please contact your U.S. Representative and Senators, especially those who have been named as conferees (see list below), to ask them to support a transportation reauthorization bill that will provide a level of certainty to our industry that is currently lacking due to the nine short-term extensions under which the federal programs have been operating since 2009.

House Conferees

 

Republicans

▪     Rep. John Mica, Florida

▪     Rep. Don Young, Alaska

▪     Rep. John Duncan, Tennessee

▪     Rep. Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania

▪     Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia

▪     Rep. Rick Crawford, Arkansas

▪     Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington

▪     Rep. Larry Bucshon, Indiana

▪     Rep. Richard Hanna, New York

▪     Rep. Steve Southerland, Florida

▪     Rep. James Lankford, Oklahoma

▪     Rep. Reid Ribble, Wisconsin

▪     Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan

▪     Rep. Ed Whitfield, Kentucky

▪     Rep. Doc Hastings, Washington

▪     Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah

▪     Rep. Ralph Hall, Texas

▪     Rep. Chip Cravaack, Minnesota

▪     Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan

▪     Rep. Patrick Tiberi, Ohio

Democrats

▪     Rep. Nick Rahall, West Virginia

▪     Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon

▪     Rep. Jerry Costello, Illinois

▪     Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York

▪     Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida

▪     Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland

▪     Rep. Leonard Boswell, Iowa

▪     Rep. Tim Bishop, New York

▪     Rep. Henry Waxman, California

▪     Rep. Ed Markey, Massachusetts

▪     Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas

▪     Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon

▪     Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia

Senate Conferees

 

Democrats

▪     Sen. Barbara Boxer, California

▪     Sen. Max Baucus, Montana

▪     Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia

▪     Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois

▪     Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota

▪     Sen. Charles Schumer, New York

▪     Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida

▪     Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey

Republicans

▪     Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma

▪     Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana

▪     Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah

▪     Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama

▪     Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas

▪     Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota