Archive for the ‘National’ Category

BLET/SMART TD statement on Positive Train Control, crew size following fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

May 19, 2015

(The following is a joint statement by Dennis R. Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and John Previsich, President, SMART Transportation Division, regarding questions that have arisen since the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015.)

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Previsich

CLEVELAND, May 19 — Members of BLET’s Safety Task Force and SMART Transportation Division’s National Safety Team, in addition to representatives from the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference (BMWED), are working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to assist in the investigation of the catastrophic May 12 derailment of Amtrak Train 188.

Significant progress has been made in understanding how the accident occurred on May 12. That portion of the investigation is not yet complete, however, and even more work needs to be done to determine why the events of that tragic night transpired the way they did.

BLET and SMART TD do not make official comments about any ongoing NTSB investigation. Due to the number of press inquiries concerning issues not under investigation, however, we are providing the following information on why Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor are manned by a lone engineer in the control cab and why Positive Train Control (PTC) has not been installed on the Corridor.  The answers to both questions begin with the United States Congress.

pierce


Pierce

Why a One-Person Train Crew?
In 1981, Congress passed legislation (the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981) that ended the previous Conrail requirement that there be a second crew member in the control cab of commuter rail trains on the Northeast Corridor.  Armed with that legislative precedent — and mindful of where its funding originates — Amtrak has since 1983 refused to crew Northeast Corridor trains with more than one employee in the cab – the locomotive engineer.  Although BLET and SMART TD have steadfastly maintained that there should be two crew members in the cab of all trains to ensure public safety, only Congress can change the 1981 legislation that reduced crew size on the Northeast Corridor.   But this is only one piece of a very large, complex puzzle.

Why No Positive Train Control?
On the heels of another catastrophic railroad accident in Chatsworth, Calif., the federal government mandated in 2008 that Positive Train Control (PTC) be put in effect by the end of this year.  That was seven years ago. Even with that mandate in place, and with the exception of some railroads such as BNSF Railway, the industry at large has spent the interim finding reasons to avoid implementing PTC technology. They have created the situation about which they all now complain — they say they cannot meet the December 31, 2015 deadline.  Each death caused by the delay of PTC implementation is one too many, yet Congress is preparing to consider a blanket 5-year extension to 2020.  This is most certainly not in the public interest.

Since 2005, the NTSB has completed 16 investigations of railroad accidents that could have been prevented or mitigated with PTC. These 16 accidents claimed 52 lives — many being BLET and SMART TD members — and injured 942 people, with damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. NTSB has publicly stated that the accident on May 12, 2015 was also PTC preventable. There is no disagreement over the value of PTC technology.

That said, there is no technology available today that can ever safely replace a second crew member in the cab of the locomotive.  The only thing on a locomotive that is not a machine is the crew. The uncontrolled external environment in which trains are operated along with regulatory and operational demands of a safe transportation service demand a crew of at least two fully trained and qualified employees in the control cab of every train. PTC is only a safety overlay that ensures a safer operation, and no technology can replace the level of safety provided when two crew members are on board and can serve as a check and balance to one another.

Even with all the safety-related technology that the government has mandated on commercial airlines, the public would never accept an airline operation with a single person in the cockpit. There is no reason that rail employees and rail passengers’ lives should be viewed any differently.

Contrary to what some in government may say, the only place that crew size and PTC do connect is when it comes to funding. That is especially true in the case of Amtrak, because the government has woefully underfunded Amtrak since its inception. Additional crew members and new technology both cost money, and so long as those in Congress see fit to underfund the operation, they undermine their own mandate and shortchange the safety of the traveling public.

# # #

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents more than 55,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The SMART Transportation Division is headquartered in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted, Ohio. It is a broad-based, transportation labor union representing about 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, mass transit and airline workers in the United States. It is a division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers based in Washington, D.C.

RRB announces fall 2015 dates for Informational Conferences, Pre-Retirement Seminars

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

CLEVELAND, June 8 — The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has announced a schedule of dates for the agency’s fall 2015 Informational Conferences and Pre-Retirement Seminars.

Informational Conferences will be held in 14 locations across the country, beginning September 11 in Roanoke, VA, and Duluth, MN. Started nearly 60 years ago by the RRB’s Office of the Labor Member, the conferences provide rail union officers with a comprehensive overview of the provisions and financing of the railroad retirement and unemployment insurance systems. These officials, in turn, pass on to their fellow rail labor membership the information acquired at the conferences.

Pre-Retirement Seminars are planned for August 28 in Houston, TX, and September 18 in Chicago, IL. Designed for railroad employees and spouses planning to retire within 5 years or less, the seminars familiarize attendees with the retirement benefits available to them, and also guide them through the application process. The program began in 2014 on a pilot basis.

Informational Conferences are open to union officials and their spouses by invitation only. Labor representatives who do not receive an invitation to a conference in their area should contact the RRB toll-free at 1-877-772-5772 and request that they be added to the agency’s invitation database. Registration for each conference begins at 8 a.m., with the program starting at 8:30 a.m. and concluding at 12:15 p.m.

Pre-Retirement Seminars are open to the railroad public. However, persons wishing to attend are asked to print and complete a registration form, which is available by visiting the RRB’s website at www.rrb.gov, and selecting the Office of the Labor Member’s Educational Materials link in the Spotlight section of the home page. Seminar space is limited and registration is accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Completed forms should be mailed or faxed to the RRB office listed on the form as soon as possible. Check-in for each seminar begins at 8 a.m., with the program starting at 8:30 a.m. and concluding at 12:30 p.m.

Individuals who have not previously submitted documents required when filing a railroad retirement annuity application, such as proofs of age, marriage, or military service, are encouraged to bring this material (original documents or certified copies required) to the seminar. Attendees should also bring along an additional copy of each item to leave with the RRB field personnel leading the seminars.

Those unable to attend the seminars but still seeking pre-retirement information should contact the RRB. Individual retirement counseling is available in person at an agency field office, or by phone by contacting the RRB toll-free at 1-877-772-5772.

Fall 2015 Informational Conference Schedule

SEPTEMBER
11 – Roanoke, VA
11 – Duluth, MN
18 – Fort Worth, TX
18 – Harrisburg, PA
25 – Salt Lake City, UT
25 – Milwaukee, WI

OCTOBER
9 – Spokane, WA
9 – Nashville, TN
16 – Louisville, KY
16 – Pittsburgh, PA
23 – Philadelphia, PA

NOVEMBER
6 – Houston, TX
20 – New Orleans, LA

DECEMBER
4 – Tampa, FL

Fall 2015 Pre-Retirement Seminar Schedule

Visit www.rrb.gov and select the Office of the Labor Member’s Educational Materials link in the Spotlight section of the home page for registration forms and contact information for the following seminars.

RRB Office: Houston
Date: Friday, August 28, 2015
Location: Leland Federal Building, 1919 Smith Street, 1st Floor Conference Room, Houston, TX 77002 Phone: 877-772-5772.

RRB Office: Chicago
Date: Friday, September 18, 2015
Location: Lipinski Federal Building, RRB Headquarters, 844 N Rush Street, 9th Floor Auditorium, Chicago, IL 60611, Phone: 877-772-5772.

Monday, June 08, 2015
bentley@ble-t.org

 

U.S. is paying the price for not investing in trains, and it’s stupid

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Mon May 25, 2015 at 09:55 AM PDT

U.S. is paying the price for not investing in trains, and it’s stupid

byLaura ClawsonFollow forDaily Kos Labor

Amtrak train

attribution: Jack Snell/Creative Commons
House Speaker John Boehner may think it’s “stupid” to suggest that the recent fatal Amtrak crash had anything to do with lack of funding, but the evidence keeps piling up that Boehner’s the stupid one here. The United States spends far less than its peers on rail, and:

As a consequence, industry experts say, despite having some of the least-extensive passenger rail networks in the developed world, the United States today has among the worst safety records. Fatality rates are almost twice as high as in the European Union and countries like South Korea, and roughly triple the rate in Australia.Analysts say the impressive safety record in Europe and Asia is the result of steady government spending of billions of dollars on development and maintenance of railroad infrastructure — including sophisticated electronic monitoring and automated braking systems developed over the past 20 years.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, the American investment in rail networks is just a quarter of that in Britain and one-sixth that in France and Australia, while Japan spends nearly three times as much per person as the U.S. does.

Over the past decade, even developing countries including India, Russia and Turkey have consistently invested far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.

Not exactly grounds for a “We’re number one” chant, there.We’re looking at a consequence of Republican refusal to invest in American infrastructure. It’s played out not just in less safe trains but in slower trains and fewer trains. If Republicans hadn’t stood in the way all these years, we could have had a speedy, energy-efficient, safe rail network and thousands of jobs creating and maintaining it. Instead, we have a desperately underfunded, inadequate rail system and John Boehner saying it’s stupid to see the facts for what they are.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon May 25, 2015 at 09:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, and Daily Kos.

State Battles Roundup

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

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State Battles Roundup

Photo courtesy WFIU Public Radio on Flickr

In many states, legislative sessions have ended recently or are about to end and local governments are often active year-round. This means tons of legislation, both good and bad, is moving, providing opportunities for working families and their allies to pass laws that will help make people’s lives easier or stop laws that will make things worse. Here is a look at some of the key state battles that recently have passed or could be on the agenda this week or next.

Indiana: Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a series of anti-worker bills, including a repeal of the prevailing wage for construction and the prohibition of local governments from establishing their own local prevailing wage laws, a law that both weakens wage theft rules and allows companies to charge employees up to 5% of their salary for required uniforms and equipment, the undermining of teachers’ voices on the job, and others.

Massachusetts: The Boston City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance providing for up to six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child for certain city employees.

Minnesota: The Minneapolis City Council passed a measure that will allow city workers to earn up to three weeks of paid parental leave. The plan goes into effect in July.

Missouri: Extreme members of the state legislature used a procedural move to get past a filibuster and ram through “right to work” legislation, although Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has indicated he will veto the measure when it gets to his desk.

New Jersey: Two union members won local elections last night, bringing to 817 the number of candidates to graduate from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO Labor Candidates program and win election to office. John Amodeo of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 won a seat on the Margate City Commission and Harry Kumburis of IUOE Local 68 was elected to the Cedar Grove Township Council.

New Mexico: The Albuquerque City Council passed a equal pay measure that provides incentives for companies that offer equal wages to both female and male employees.

Executive PayWatch 2015: CEO Pay Continues to Skyrocket

Executive PayWatch 2015: CEO Pay Continues to Skyrocket

CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations received a 16% pay raise in 2014, and the pay gap between CEOs and the typical worker widened to 373-to-1, according to the latest data from the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch. Top executives of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies received, on average, $13.5 million in 2014, even as the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned only $36,000 in annual salary in 2014.

The data from the 2015 Executive PayWatch underscore the work that needs to be done to combat the nation’s persistent income inequality and push for higher wages for working families. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked more of the country’s big corporations:

America faces an income inequality crisis because corporate CEOs have taken the raising wages agenda and applied it only to themselves. Big corporations spend freely on executive perks and powerful lobbyists to strip rights from workers, but when it comes to lifting up the wages of workers who make their companies run, they’re nowhere to be found. Too often workers are seen as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. Americans deserve better from those who have earned so much off the backs of working men and women, and we must start by adding transparency to the CEO pay process and requiring companies to disclose their CEO-to-median employee pay ratios.

 As one of the most egregious examples of this type of inequality, mega-retailer Walmart is highlighted in this year’s PayWatch. Doug McMillon, the company’s CEO, earns $9,323 an hour. His starting employees get only $9 an hour, meaning it would only take those workers 1,036 hours to earn one hour of McMillon’s pay.

Tiffany, a former Walmart worker, explained the struggles caused by the company’s low wages:

In 2013, I earned about $12,000 as a full-time employee, which, at Walmart, isn’t always 40 hours each week. These poverty wages forced my family to receive public assistance. Walmart doesn’t value me. I believe in working hard and that my work should be valued. This is why I will not stop fighting until Walmart commits to raising wages and begins valuing all of its workers.”

The Executive PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies. The website offers visitors the ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives, highlights the 100 top-paid CEOs and breaks out CEO pay data by state and by industry. The site also tracks and grades votes cast by 106 of the largest mutual fund families on executive compensation at the public companies they invest in. Mutual funds own more than one-fifth of all shares in U.S. public companies, giving them a great deal of influence in determining executive pay at these companies.

Executive PayWatch also gives you a chance to take action and ask the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to require big corporations to disclose their ratio of CEO to median employee pay.

The real reason for the GOP’s all-out war on Obamacare

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 01:35 PM PDT

The real reason for the GOP’s all-out war on Obamacare

During his press conference on Friday, President Obama pondered why the GOP’s “number one priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care.” But in attributing the 40 Affordable Care Act repeal votes, the threats to shut down the government over Obamacare funding, the tens of millions of dollars in misleading ads and another summer of town hall rage to the GOP’s “ideological fixation,” the President was only partly right.

At its core, the Republicans’ scorched-earth opposition to Obamacare has never been so much about “freedom” or “limited government” or any other right-wing ideological buzzword as it has been about political power, pure and simple. Now as for the past 20 years, Republicans have feared not that health care reform would fail the American people, but that it would succeed. Along with Social Security and Medicare, successful health care reform would provide the third and final pillar of Americans’ social safety net, all brought you by the Democratic Party. To put it another way, the GOP was never really concerned about a “government takeover of health care”, “rationing”, “the doctor-patient relationship” or mythical “death panels,” but that an American public grateful for access to health care could provide Democrats with an enduring majority for years to come

But what Utah Senator Orrin Hatch called a “holy war” to block health care reform didn’t start when Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, but instead when Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993. It was then that former Quayle chief of staff and Republican strategist William Kristol warned his GOP allies that a Clinton victory on health care could guarantee Democratic majorities for the foreseeable future. “The Clinton proposal is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party,” Kristol wrote in his infamous December 3, 1993 memo titled “Defeating President Clinton’s Health Care Proposal,” adding:

“Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996. But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse–much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for ‘security’ on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.”

And that, for Kristol, meant it had to be stopped at all costs:

“The first step in that process must be the unqualified political defeat of the Clinton health care proposal. Its rejection by Congress and the public would be a monumental setback for the president; and an incontestable piece of evidence that Democratic welfare-state liberalism remains firmly in retreat.”

As the American Prospect recalled, Kristol’s war plan:

Darkly warned that a Democratic victory would save Clinton’s political career, revive the politics of the welfare state, and ensure Democratic majorities far into the future. “Any Republican urge to negotiate a ‘least bad’ compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president ‘do something’ about health care, should be resisted,” wrote Kristol. Republican pollster Bill McInturff advised Congressional Republicans that success in the 1994 midterm elections required “not having health care pass.”

So, Republicans and their media water carriers followed Kristol’s advice to the letter. In the Senate, long-time health care reform supporter Bob Dole adopted Kristol’s mantra, declaring “Our country has health care problems, but no health care crisis.” Long before she introduced the easily debunked “death panels” fraud, Betsy McCaughey almost single-handedly undid the Clinton health care reform effort with the false claim that “the law will prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better.” In 1993, GOP Senators Hatch and Chuck Grassley, among those who would 16 years later call the ACA’s individual mandate unconstitutional, joined 19 other Republican Senators in proposing their own bill that “would have required everyone to buy coverage, capped awards for medical malpractice lawsuits, established minimum benefit packages and invested in comparative effectiveness research.” (As Hatch later justified his turnabout, “We were fighting Hillarycare at that time.”)

The rest, as they say, was history. At least, that is, until history began repeating itself with the election of Barack Obama.

Continue reading below the fold.

The dire warnings from the right began within days of Obama’s election. Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute parroted the think-tank’s claim that Obama’s health care proposal is “socialized medicine” and sounded Kristol’s old clarion call:

“Blocking Obama’s health plan is key to GOP’s survival. Ditto Baucus’ health plan. And Kennedy’s. And Wyden’s.”

Approvingly citing Norman Markowitz’ assertion at PoliticalAffairs.net that “national health care [and other measures] will bring reluctant voters into the Obama coalition,” Cannon fretted that “making citizens dependent on the government for their medical care can change the fates of political parties.” For arch conservatives, that formula spells trouble for the GOP.James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute also picked up Kristol’s baton. Concerned that “creating the Obamacare Class would pull America to the left,” Pethokoukis echoed Cannon’s obstructionist line. Writing in US News, he recounted the grim warning from a Republican strategist who told him:

“Let me tell you something, if Democrats take the White House and pass a big-government healthcare plan, that’s it.”

Just two weeks after Barack Obama was sworn in, Kristol left no doubt that he believed the Republican Party should repeat the obstructionism that destroyed the Clinton health care plan in 1993 and 1994. GOP leaders in Congress, Kristol told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, should emulate the roadblock Republicans of the 1990’s to halt Obama’s economic recovery package now and everything else – including health care reform – later:

“But the loss of credibility, even if they jam it through, really hurts them on the next, on the next piece of legislation. Clinton got through his tax increases in ’93, it was such a labor and he had to twist so many arms to do it and he became so unpopular……That it made, that it made it so much easier to then defeat his health care initiative. So, it’s very important for Republicans who think they’re going to have to fight later on on health care, fight later on maybe on some of the bank bailout legislation, fight later on on all kinds of issues. It’s very important for them, I think, not just to stay united at this time, though that’s important, but to make the arguments.”

Of course, the arguments Republicans made during the right-wing’s health care “hissy fit” of 2009 and 2010 were all specious ones. Senate Minority Leader McConnell, who previously denied that 47 million Americans “go without health care” because they can go to the emergency room, repeated his mantra that “all of us want reform, but not reform that denies, delays, or rations health care”. “Death panels” became Politifact’s 2009 Lie of the Year. In 2010, that bogus GOP talking point lost its title to another, “government takeover of health care.”But when they weren’t inventing “facts” out of whole cloth, the GOP’s best and not-so-brightest in rare moments of candor gave away the Republican game on health care reform. In November 2009, Senator Hatch confessed his darkest fear about a Democratic win on health care:

HATCH: That’s their goal. Move people into government that way. Do it in increments. They’ve actually said it. They’ve said it out loud.Q: This is a step-by-step approach —

HATCH: A step-by-step approach to socialized medicine. And if they get there, of course, you’re going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody’s going to say, “All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party.”

Q: They’ll have reduced the American people to dependency on the federal government.

HATCH: Yeah, you got that right. That’s their goal. That’s what keeps Democrats in power.

In August 2011, the very short-lived GOP White House frontrunner MIchele Bachmann echoed the point that the successful entrenchment of health care reform would be mean a permanent Democratic majority. As CNN reported, Bachmann explained why at a campaign event in South Carolina (around the 1:41:00 mark in the video):

Bachmann stressed the need to repeal President Obama’s health care reform law, or so-called Obamacare, before it “metastasizes” like a cancer and “we will not be able to get rid of it.” “You can’t put socialized medicine into a country and think that ever again you can elect a Republican as president – or a conservative or even a tea partier as president – and think that somehow we’re going to get back to limited government,” Bachmann said. “It won’t happen because socialized medicine is the definition of big government.”

It’s wonder that after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act allowing adult children to join their parents’ policies, ending lifetime caps, prohibiting insurers’ bans on pre-existing conditions, enabling over 30 million Americans to get insurance cover and more, conservative analyst and former Bush speechwriter David Frum admitted as much, announcing “Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”But while Republicans continue to peddle horror stories about America’s future under Obamacare, the very satisfied residents of Massachusetts are telling a different story today. Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Medical Society released survey findings showing continued strong support for the 2006 law signed by Republican Governor Mitt Romney, one its architect Jonathan Gruber described as “the same f**king bill” as Obamacare:

The survey finds that 84 percent of Bay State residents are satisfied with their health coverage — considerably higher than the approximately 67 percent of Americans nationally who are happy with their health care. Specifically, respondents praised high quality of care and good access to medical services as the reasons for their satisfaction. An additional 75 percent said that finding the kind of medical care they need isn’t difficult.Those results track with earlier polls on Massachusetts’ reform law. In 2011, a survey administered by state insurance officials found that 86 percent of residents were pleased with the range of services covered by plans under the law’s insurance marketplace and 82 percent were pleased with their choice of doctors.

The popularity of “Romneycare” should come as no surprise. After all, the program now in its seventh year reduced the ranks of the uninsured from 10 percent to a national low of just two percent. Neither the supposed “rate shock” nor the hordes of angry residents forced to pay penalties for non-compliance came to pass: just 44,000 out of 6.6 million people paid the fine rather than comply with the individual mandate in 2010.To be sure, the national Affordable Care Act and the Massachusetts law are not exactly the same and different states are differentially situated. As the Washington Post explained in May, “Massachusetts is a relatively rich and liberal state that already had a fairly high rate of health insurance.” And there’s another reason why “the Massachusetts experience might not prove an apt guide to the national experience”:

Although the Massachusetts reforms are architecturally similar to the Affordable Care Act, they didn’t have to contend with a political party working relentlessly to undermine their implementation.

And in Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and everywhere else where Republicans are working relentlessly to undermine the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, millions of their constituents will suffer. While blue states like California, Maryland, New York and Oregon running their own insurance exchanges and accepting the federal expansion of Medicaid will provide their residents greater coverage and lower premiums, the tragedy that is red state health care will needlessly continue.Continue, that is, until constituents in Republican states demand the same access to and quality of health care they see their cousins enjoying in Democratic states. Starting next year, Americans will know who to blame for trying to deny them health care and who to credit for making reform possible. As Bill Kristol fretted two decades ago, that triumph will cement the Democrats’ brand “as the generous protector of middle-class interests.”

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 01:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by I Vote for Democrats and Daily Kos Classics.

A MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT AND CEO JOE BOARDMAN ON TRAIN 188

Friday, May 15th, 2015

 

A MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT AND CEO JOE BOARDMAN ON TRAIN 188
The derailment of Northeast Regional Train 188 was a terrible tragedy that we are responding to with every resource we have available. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation to determine the cause of the incident, and Amtrak is providing full cooperation.
With truly heavy hearts, we mourn those who died. Their loss leaves holes in the lives of their families and communities. On behalf of the entire Amtrak family, I offer our sincere sympathies and prayers for them and their loved ones. Amtrak takes full responsibility and deeply apologizes for our role in this tragic event.
We recognize that for everyone onboard the train, including those who suffered injuries, the healing process may be long. Within 24 hours of the incident, Amtrak set up a Family Assistance Center in Philadelphia to work closely with the family of passengers and crew on the train. We are also working with the individuals and families affected by this event to help them with transportation, lodging, and of course, medical bills and funeral expenses.
Amtrak is ever grateful to the City of Philadelphia—its first responders who bravely worked in difficult conditions, including the dark of night, to rescue and provide aid to hundreds; its hospital personnel who went into full alert as patients arrived at emergency rooms; its officials who quickly implemented a response plan; and its citizens who opened their doors to offer assistance.
Although our current focus is on the passengers and employees affected by this incident and the resulting service disruption along the Northeast Corridor, we must also take time to learn from this event. Passenger railroading is at its core about people; the safety of our passengers and employees was, is and always will be our number one priority. Our goal is to fully understand what happened and how we can prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future. We will also continue to focus on completing Positive Train Control implementation in the Northeast Corridor by December of 2015.
Thank you for your support of America’s Railroad during this difficult time.
Sincerely,
Joe Boardman President and Chief Executive Officer
Amtrak.com
Contact Us
Amtrak and Amtrak Guest Rewards are registered service marks of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.
Our mailing address is: Amtrak, Marketing Department, 10 G Street NE Washington, DC 20002

NTSB to Hold its Last Media Briefing on Amtrak Accident in Philadelphia

Friday, May 15th, 2015
Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEDIA ADVISORY

An independent federal agency

NTSB to Hold its Last Media Briefing on Amtrak Accident in Philadelphia

May 15, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold its fourth and final media briefing on its investigation into Tuesday night’s Amtrak accident in Philadelphia.

Event: Media Briefing by NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt
Date/Time: 4:30 pm ET, May 15, 2015
Location: Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel (Bromley Room)
Address: 1 Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

NTSB media contact in Philadelphia: Peter Knudson (202-557-1350, peter.knudson@ntsb.gov)

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Contact Information

Office of Public Affairs
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594

(202) 314-6100


You are subscribed to NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD. To unsubscribe, visit:
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An archive of press releases is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/default.aspx

 

NTSB Issues 7 Safety Recommendations as a Result of Its Investigation of the March 24, 2014 Chicago Transit Authority Train Collision with Bumping Post and Escalator at O’Hare Station

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONAn independent Federal agency
RAIL

NTSB Issues 7 Safety Recommendations as a Result of Its Investigation of the March 24, 2014 Chicago Transit Authority Train Collision with Bumping Post and Escalator at O’Hare Station

May 14, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issues the following safety recommendations:

To the Federal Transit Administration:

Develop a work scheduling program for rail transit agencies that incorporates fatigue science—such as validated biomathematical models of fatigue—and provides for the management of personnel fatigue risks, and implement the program through the state safety oversight program. (R-15-018)

Establish (through the state safety oversight program) scientifically based hours-of-service regulations that set limits on hours of service, provide predictable work and rest schedules, and consider circadian rhythms and human sleep and rest requirements. (R-15-019)

Identify the necessary training and certification needs for work schedulers in the rail transit industry and require the transit agencies—through the state safety oversight program—to provide additional training or certification for their work schedulers. (R-15-020)

Require (through the state safety oversight program) rail transit employees who develop work schedules to complete initial and recurrent training based on current fatigue science to identify and mitigate work schedule risks that contribute to operator fatigue. (R-15-021)

Require rail transit agencies to implement transmission-based train control systems that prevent train collisions. (R-15-022)

Require that new or rehabilitated rail transit vehicles be equipped with event recorders meeting Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standard 1482.1 for rail transit vehicle event recorders. (R-15-023)

http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-018-023.pdf

To the Chicago Transit Authority:

Install a transmission-based train control system on all passenger train routes. (R-15-024)

http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-024.pdf

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reclassifies the following safety recommendation:

To the Federal Transit Administration:

Facilitate the development and implementation of positive train control systems for rail transit systems nationwide. (R-09-008)

Safety recommendation R-09-008 is classified “Closed–Unacceptable Action/Superseded.” It is superseded by safety recommendation R-15-022.

http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-recs/recletters/R-15-018-023.pdf

# # #The letter is in the Portable Document Format (PDF) and can be read using the Acrobat Reader 5.0 or later from Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html).


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NTSB Investigates Train Derailment in Philadelphia

Friday, May 15th, 2015
Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD NEWS RELEASE

An independent federal agency

NTSB Investigates Train Derailment in Philadelphia

May 13, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a go-team to investigate an Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, Pa.

NTSB investigator Mike Flanigon is leading the team as investigator-in-charge. NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesman during the on-scene phase of the investigation.

Public Affairs Officer Peter Knudson will also be on-scene in Philadelphia to coordinate media-related activities. He can be reached at peter.knudson@ntsb.gov or by mobile phone at 202-557-1350. The team will arrive in Philadelphia later this morning.

Contact Information

Office of Public Affairs
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594

Peter Knudson
(202) 314-6100
peter.knudson@ntsb.gov


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U.S. Railroad Retirement Board Acting for Impaired Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board

Public Affairs     312-751-4777   877-772-5772

Chicago, Illinois  60611-2092       rrb.gov

 

For Publication

April 2015

 

Acting for Impaired Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries

 

According to Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) policy, every annuitant has the right to manage his or her own benefits.  However, when physical or mental impairments make a railroad retirement annuitant incapable of properly handling benefit payments, or where the RRB determines that the interests of the annuitant so require, the agency can appoint a representative payee to act on the annuitant’s behalf.  A representative payee may be either a person or an organization selected by the RRB to receive benefits on behalf of an annuitant.

The following questions and answers provide information for family members, or others, who may have to act on behalf of an annuitant.

  1. Does the RRB have legal authority to appoint a representative payee for an annuitant?

The Railroad Retirement Act gives the RRB authority to determine whether direct payment of benefits, or payment to a representative payee, will best serve an annuitant’s interest.  The RRB can appoint a representative payee regardless of whether there has been a legal finding of incompetence or commitment and, depending on the circumstances in a particular case, the RRB can select someone other than the individual’s legal representative to be the representative payee.

  1. What if a person has been given power of attorney by a beneficiary?

Power of attorney is a legal process where one person grants another the authority to transact certain business on his or her behalf; but the RRB, like the Social Security Administration, does not recognize power of attorney for purposes of managing benefit payments for a beneficiary.  For this purpose, the RRB uses the position of representative payee.

  1. Why doesn’t the RRB recognize power of attorney?

The Railroad Retirement Act protects a person’s right to receive benefits directly and to use them as he or she sees fit by prohibiting the assignment of benefits.  Power of attorney creates an assignment-like situation that is contrary to the protections given by this law.  The Act likewise gives the RRB exclusive jurisdiction in determining whether to appoint a representative payee for an annuitant.  If the RRB recognized power of attorney, it would be deferring to a designation made by someone outside of the agency and would, in effect, be abdicating its responsibility to the annuitant.

Also, events often occur which may affect an annuitant’s eligibility for benefits.  The responsibility for reporting these events to the RRB is placed, by law, directly on the annuitant or the annuitant’s representative payee.  When benefits are accepted, the annuitant or his or her payee attests to a continued eligibility for such benefits.  And if payments are misused, they can be recouped from the payee.  This is not true with power of attorney.

  1. How are these representative payees selected?

Generally, the RRB’s local field offices determine the need for a representative payee and interview potential payees.  The field office also advises the payee of his or her duties, monitors the payee, investigates any allegations of misuse of funds, and changes the method of payment, or the payee, when appropriate.

The RRB provides 15 days’ advance notice to an annuitant of its intent to appoint a representative payee, and the name of the payee, in order to allow the annuitant a period of time in which to contest the appointment.

  1. What are the primary duties and responsibilities of a representative payee?

The payee must give first consideration to the annuitant’s day-to-day needs.  This includes paying for food, shelter, clothing, medical care and miscellaneous personal needs.  Beyond day-to-day needs, railroad retirement benefits may be used for other expenses.

The payee is also responsible for reporting events to the RRB that affect the individual’s annuity, and is required to account for the funds received on behalf of the annuitant.

In addition, since railroad retirement benefits are subject to Federal income tax, a representative payee is responsible for delivering the benefit information statements issued each year by the RRB to the person handling the annuitant’s tax matters.

Periodically, the payee will be asked to complete a report which includes questions regarding how much of the railroad retirement benefits available during the year were used for the support of the beneficiary, how much of the benefits were saved, and how the savings were invested.  In order to complete the questionnaire correctly, a payee must keep current records of the railroad retirement benefits received and how the benefits were used.  The records should be retained for four years.

  1. What are a representative payee’s primary responsibilities for an annuitant’s Medicare coverage?

When an annuitant requires covered medical services, the payee must have the annuitant’s Medicare card available.  The payee must also keep records of the services received and the expenses incurred or paid, just as for any other usage of railroad retirement benefits.

  1. What if an annuitant is confined to an institution?

When annuitants are in a nursing home, hospital or other institution, their railroad retirement benefit payments should be used to meet the charges for their current maintenance.  Current maintenance includes the usual charges the institution makes for providing care and services.

The payee should use the benefit payments to aid in the annuitant’s possible recovery or release from the institution, or to improve his or her living conditions while confined.  Payments may be used, for example, to provide clothing, personal grooming supplies, transportation of relatives to visit the patient, trial visits to relatives or to places where the patient can be helped to recover, medical and dental care, and reading materials and hobby supplies.

  1. How should railroad retirement benefits not immediately required to meet an annuitant’s needs be handled?

Benefit payments which will not be needed in the near future must be saved or invested unless they are needed for the support of the annuitant’s legally dependent spouse or child, or to pay creditors under certain circumstances.  It is recommended that conserved funds be held in interest-bearing accounts.  Preferred investments are Federally-insured or State-insured accounts at financial institutions and obligations of, or those backed by, the Federal Government, such as U.S. Savings Bonds.

Funds should not be kept in the home, where they may be lost or stolen, nor can they be mingled with the payee’s own funds or other funds.

  1. How can a person get more information about being appointed as a representative payee, or whether the use of railroad retirement benefits for a particular purpose would be proper?

More information is available by visiting the agency’s website, www.rrb.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772.  Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the RRB’s toll-free number or at www.rrb.gov.