Archive for the ‘National’ Category

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Join us at our annual meeting to celebrate our 25th anniversary!  We will celebrate our accomplishments and look to the future of passenger rail.
Saturday, March 24 9:00a – 3:00p at Maggiano’s Banquets, 111 W Grand Ave., Chicago, IL
Click here to register
Since 1993, we’ve grown from a small group that could fit around a conference table, to tens of thousands of supporters around the Midwest. We are now the nation’s largest high-speed rail advocacy organization, and we’ve brought together lawmakers, businesses and advocates to support and improve passenger rail around our region.
We have a great line up of speakers, including:
Keynote

Martin Ritter, CEO, Stadler USA
The Stadler FLIRT (pictured above) is the first trainset to use modernized safety regulations that make trains safer, more cost-effective and more attractive to passengers.

Illinois Senator Steve Stadleman, Vice-Chairman, Senate Transportation Committee

Kitty Kurth, President, Kurth Lampe
Flexing your citizenship muscles – Making sure your ideas get heard

Audrey Wennink, Director of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Council
Show me the Money: The opportunity for sustainable transportation funding in Illinois

Levar Hoard, Managing Director, Urban Development Lab
The hydrogen fuel cell strategy – Hydroline

Chen-Yu Lin, Graduate Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Safety considerations on mixed-use lines

Chris Kopp, Transportation Planning Practice Leader, HNTB Corp.
Thoughts on a new Midwest Rail Plan

Dave Winters, Midwest High Speed Rail Association
Legislative update

Rick Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association
Progress and opportunities

Click here to register
Feel free to call the office at 773-334-6758 with any questions.
Sponsored By:

Stadler

Events
2018 Annual Meeting
March 24, 2018
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Maggiano’s, 111 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
Engage with industry leaders from rail, transit, construction, engineering, development, planning and architecture during MHSRA’s informative annual event.
Learn more and register now!
High speed rail study tour of Italy
Nov. 3 to 11, 2018
The best way to see how fast, frequent and dependable trains transform communities is to ride them and see the cities they serve.
Our 2018 trip will take us to Italy to see the Phased Network Approach in action, visit great stations and learn about local transit systems. And, of course, we will see the sights along the way.
Learn more, see the full itinerary, and register today.

MidwestHSR.org
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60625
(773) 334-6758

SMART-TD And BLET Join BRS in Ratifying Agreements with the Freight Railroads

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Accords Now Cover Over 81,000 in National Bargaining

Nearly 80 percent of the members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), including its Yardmasters Division, and 88 percent of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) members ratified new contract terms with the nation’s largest freight railroads.

Four of the six unions in the coalition known as the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) have ratified tentative agreements reached with the railroads in early October. The unions in the CBG represent almost 60 percent of the 145,000 employees covered in this bargaining round.

“I want to thank the unions for their dedicated efforts,” said Chairman Lance Fritz. “I’m pleased we were able to negotiate a deal that was ratified by our employees, ensuring the Union Pacific team can continue its vital role building America.”

Earlier this week, two other CBG members, the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), announced the ratification of their tentative agreements.

“Ratification of these agreements demonstrates that collective bargaining in the rail industry succeeds when the parties are committed to doing the hard work necessary to find common ground,” said A. Kenneth Gradia, chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the railroads’ bargaining representative. “These agreements serve as a pattern for the resolution of national negotiations with the rest of the rail unions.”

“The 20,000 UP employees represented by BLET, BRS and SMART-TD will be well served by this voluntary agreement,” said Joe O’Connor, vice president-Labor Relations.

In addition to Union Pacific, the NCCC represents more than 30 railroads, including BNSF, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern and Norfolk Southern, in national bargaining with 12 rail unions. Bargaining began in 2015.

Additionally, the NRLC website contains information on the negotiation process and issues being negotiated.

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Ratifies Agreement With The Freight Railroads

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Ratifies Agreement With The Freight Railroads

Members of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) have ratified new contract terms with the nation’s largest freight railroads. The BRS is the second in the six-union coalition known as the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) to ratify the tentative agreements reached with the railroads in early October. The American Train Dispatchers Association announced its agreement was ratified by the membership Nov. 27.

“We’re glad to hear that BRS members have endorsed this agreement,” said A. Kenneth Gradia, chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the railroads’ bargaining representative. “We are hopeful that similar announcements will be forthcoming in the next few days from other unions in this coalition. As I’ve noted, these agreements serve as a pattern for the resolution of national negotiations with the rest of the rail unions.”

The other four unions in the CBG are: the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers; the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), including its Yardmasters Division.

The unions in the CBG represent 85,000 employees, almost 60 percent of the 145,000 employees covered in this bargaining round, which began in 2015.

The NCCC represents more than 30 railroads, including BNSF, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific, in national bargaining with the rail unions.

Additionally, the NRLC website contains information on the negotiation process and issues being negotiated.

National right-to-work

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Brothers,
See read the following email.
Click on this for full story.
http://www.washingtonexaminer. com/gop-introduces-national- right-to-work-legislation/ article/2613428?utm_campaign= Fox News&utm_source=foxnews.com& utm_medium=feed#.WJDdP9XXlxc. hotmail
The national right-to-work legislation likely would be a major blow to organized labor because it would allow millions of workers to opt out of union membership for the first time.
Reps. Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Steve King of Iowa are sponsoring the legislation, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act to prohibit what unions call “security clauses.” These are provisions that permit union-management contracts that require all employees to join a union or pay one a regular fee as a condition of employment.
“At least 80 percent of Americans are opposed to forcing employees to pay dues as a condition of their employment, and our bill would protect workers by eliminating the forced-dues clauses in federal statute. Right-to-work states, like South Carolina, have seen first-hand that job creation and economic growth comes from expanded freedoms. We need to expand common-sense reforms, like those in the National Right to Work Act to protect American workers and create jobs,” Wilson told the Washington Examiner.
Chuck M. Schulz
Wisconsin State Legislative Board – Chairman
Teamsters – Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
2768 Oakwood Circle
Oshkosh, WI 54904
chairman@wislb.org
Cell /Office (920) 410-2953

Supreme Court denies review of BLET victory on two-person train crews

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

BLET NEWS FLASH

Supreme Court denies review of BLET victory on two-person train crews

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/newsflash.asp?id=5923

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, January 17 — The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has secured another significant victory for rail workers — this time from the highest court in the United States — in the Union’s ongoing campaign to protect two-person train crews. On January 9, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition filed by the Wheeling and Lake Erie (W&LE) asking that the nation’s highest court review and set aside the 2015 finding by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the railroad’s use of managers in place of Union conductors was a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act.

In September 2013, BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce authorized a strike by W&LE Conductors over the W&LE’s repudiation of Collective Bargaining Agreements that cover the locomotive engineer and trainmen operating crafts. Specifically, the Carrier ignored longstanding crew consist agreements and operated single-person operations, refusing to assign available conductors, in an effort to eliminate Trainmen.
When W&LE challenged the strike, a federal district judge issued an injunction on the ground that the dispute was “minor” and had to be arbitrated. BLET never wavered in its position that the refusal to call Conductors was an outright contract abrogation warranting a strike, and appealed that ruling. In April 2015, a unanimous three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with BLET and reversed the lower court. The panel found that W&LE’s “claim that the Trainmen Agreement allowed it to man trains without union conductors is frivolous or obviously insubstantial, and the dispute is major.” The Court of Appeals vacated the injunction and remanded the case back to the District Court with instructions to dismiss W&LE’s complaint. The Carrier then tried unsuccessfully to get the entire Court of Appeals to vacate that decision.
Most recently, and in a last ditch effort to gain the right to ignore its agreements with BLET, W&LE petitioned the Supreme Court to take the case. BLET filed a brief in opposition, supporting the decision of the Court of Appeals, and on January 9th, the Supreme Court rejected W&LE’s petition. Consequently, the “major dispute” holding stands, vindicating the Union’s position that if W&LE wants to change the rule, it must accomplish the change at the bargaining table, not by unilateral action.
“I must first thank our members on the W&LE for helping us fight to preserve the Conductor’s job and for standing strong against the Carrier’s attempts to implement one-person trains,” President Dennis Pierce said. “When the decision was made to strike the W&LE, our members were united in their resolve and stood shoulder to shoulder on the picket line,” he continued. “This final decision by the highest court in the land reminds us all of the importance of strong contract language, followed by strong union activism to protect our contracts. The now unimpeachable decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is not only important for our W&LE members, but for all operating employees and rail labor in general. The nationwide fight over operating crew size is far from over, but this victory helps to ensure that union contracts requiring two crew members are enforceable by the union, even to the point of a strike.
“I also want to thank General Counsel Mike Wolly and his team for preserving this critical court victory on behalf of our members,” President Pierce added.
A copy of the court ruling is available for download from the BLET National Division website (PDF).
http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/Supreme_Court_WLE.pdf

All Aboard Wisconsin

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
Inline image 1
NEWS FROM ALL ABOARD WISCONSIN
January, 2017
Happy New Year!!
From the Officers and Board Members of All Aboard Wisconsin.
 
Moorman Announces Realignment of Amtrak Management Responsibilities, Reporting Chain.
  After having been on the job as Amtrak President and CEO for about one calendar quarter, veteran railroader Charles “Wick” Moorman has opened the New Year by announcing a reorganization of Amtrak’s senior management responsibilities and a realignment of the “reporting chain” for subordinate managers and supervisors.  In a January 4 letter to all Amtrak employees – (a .pdf copy of which is attached to this newsletter) – Moorman laid-out “five key objectives” for the reorganization, which will become effective on February 1, 2017:
  • Building a world-class safety culture with a relentless focus on training, risk reduction, positive reinforcement and personal accountability;
  • Developing and consistently providing competitive products and services;
  • Creating the teams and processes necessary to serve and grow our customers across all business segments;
  • Gaining support for and delivering on investments that sustain, improve and grow our business; and
  • Harnessing innovation, technology and partnerships to enhance and accelerate our business.
  To facilitate his stated goals, Moorman is reorganizing Amtrak’s Senior Management into six “direct reporting” business groups to “streamline decision making, increase alignment between departments, and establish clear areas of accountability.”  The six business groups announced, and the Executive Vice President in charge of each are as follows:
  • Operations – Scott Naparstek, Chief Operating Officer
  • Marketing and Business Development –  Jason Moffetas
  • Finance – Jerry Sokol, Chief Financial Officer
  • Law – Eldie Acheson, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
  • Administration – D.J. Stadtler, Chief Administrative Officer
  • Planning, Technology and Public Affairs, Stephen Gardner
   Moorman’s letter goes-on to detail the subordinate managers assigned to each of the Business Groups and promises additional information and details on the specific  changes and responsibilities of each.  In his closing remarks, Moorman specifically calls attention to the priority importance safety improvements and calls for a “continued focus” on that area. 
 
Gottleib Resigns, Ross Announced as New WisDOT Secretary.  Mark Gottleib, who has served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation since January 2011, has resigned that post effective on January 6, 2017.   Gottleib, a Civil Engineer by training, first entered political life as Mayor of his hometown of Port Washington, and later ran-for and served several terms as State Assembly Representative prior to being named Secretary of Transportation by the then-new Walker Administration in January 2011.  He inherited his boss’ decision – already announced during the campaign – to turn-back over $800 Million in federal funds for the expansion of passenger rail service from Milwaukee to Madison; but worked quietly, somewhat “under the radar” of publicity, to support passenger rail projects such as the $22 Million renovation of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station’s passenger concourse which opened last summer, the continued operation and proposed expansion of the highly successful Milwaukee – Chicago “Hiawatha” service with station improvements at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport and Sturdevant.  Continuing studies for other expansion of passenger rail service, specifically the “TCMC” or “Second Train Study” for additional service between the “Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago”, over the same route as the Empire Builder and service to Superior as part of Minnesota’s proposed “Northern Lights Express” also continued forward during his term in office.  In addition, the Secretary conducted a statewide campaign during his tenure to seek public input on the needs and priorities for the State’s transportation system, and made clear that funding to meet those needs whould have to be a priority.  Despite recently announced support for transportation funding enhancements by legislative leaders, the Governor has made it clear that he opposes any transportation tax increases without corresponding decreases elsewhere. Gottleib’s future plans have yet to be announced. 
 
Current Professional Services Secretary David Ross was announced as the new Transportation Secretary by the Governor’s office concurrent with the announcement of Gottleib’s resignation/retirement.   Ross, the former Mayor of the City of Superior, has indicated his support for the Governor’s position on Transportation funding.  Announcement of the state’s Transportation Budget proposal for the 2017-2019 biennium is still pending. 
 
Kane Retires from AAW Board.  Dan Kane, LaCrosse resident and representative of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) State Conference Board, has announced his retirement from the Board of Directors of All Aboard Wisconsin.  The action comes concurrently with Kane’s retirement from both his “day job” at the LaCrosse Municipal Transit Utility, and his position as the Chairperson of the ATU State Conference Board, which coordinates operations and policy among all of the ATU Local unions in Wisconsin.  Dan’s interest, contributions and wise counsel while a member of the AAW Board has been greatly appreciated.  On behalf of the officers and other Board members, we wish him all the best in a well-deserved retirement. 
 
Look for AAW Booth at “Mad City Model Railroad Show”.  Following a positive experience at Milwaukee “Trainfest” last November, All Aboard Wisconsin will have a booth at the 50th Anniversary “Mad City Model Railroad Show and Sale”, held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on February 18-19,  2017.  Like the Milwaukee show, the Madison event attracts thousands of members of the public who have some interest in trains; whether they be scale models or “the real thing”.  It’s an excellent place to share information about what’s available now for passenger rail service in our region, and our mission to expand passenger rail and connecting public transportation and intercity bus service in Wisconsin.  As with the Milwaukee show, we will be looking for volunteers to help staff our booth at the Mad City show.  If you can help with set-up on Friday, or help staff the booth on either Saturday or Sunday, please let either Vice President Mark Quam or me know.  Watch for additional AAW events this spring, including an appearance at the Titletown Train Show in Green Bay on April 29 and 30.  
 
Goyke to Continue as AAW Legislative Director.   All Aboard Wisconsin is pleased to announce that Gary Goyke will continue as Legislative Director for the organization for the coming year.  While Gary has reduced his consulting practice to spend more time with his family and other pursuits; he has retained several clients, including AAW.  We are indeed fortunate to continue to be able to take advantage of his years of experience, great skill, and many contacts on our behalf.  Gary will also continue as Corporate Secretary and a member of both the 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 Boards of AAW.   
 
Housekeeping Details – Keeping the “Home Fires Burning” at AAW:
  • Mailing Address Change:  Please note that effective immediately All Aboard Wisconsin’s “official” mailing address has changed.  Please send all future mailings to 5302 Lighthouse Bay Drive, Madison, WI  53704.  Mail already sent to the 754 Williamson Street address will still be collected there until January 31, 2017; so if you recently sent us mail there we’ll still receive it.  
  • Have You Renewed??  Thanks so much to everyone who’s renewed their All Aboard Wisconsin memberships for 2017 so far!  Oops!  What’s that you say – you forgot to renew??  Well, everybody’s busy over the holiday season, so maybe it’s just possible that our appeals last month to renew your All Aboard Wisconsin membership for 2017 got overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the season.    Yes, we got a nice “payoff” from the Fall Conference again this year, but “every little bit helps” – and remember your dues not only help us pay our day-to-day operating expenses, they also demonstrate our members’ support to foundations and other donors that we approach for additional funding.  So, if you haven’t renewed your membership for 2017 yet“Why Not Do It Today”?!  Just fill out the membership form attached to this e-mail, and pop in your check for the level of membership you desire (please consider becoming a “Sustainer” for just $75), and mail it off to:  All Aboard Wisconsin, 5302 Lighthouse Bay Drive, Madison, WI  53704.
     
  • Recruiting Board Members:  With one open board position coming into the end of this year, and the just announced retirement of another Board member, Corporate Secretary Gary Goyke is recruiting for volunteers to serve on All Aboard Wisconsin’s 501(c)(3) Board which manages the day-to-day affairs of the Association.  Have questions?  Just give Gary a call at (608) 219-5237.  Then send him a letter indicating your interest and a brief resume to:   All Aboard Wisconsin, 5302 Lighthouse Bay Drive, Madison, WI  53704.

Passenger rail news

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

 

New_Amtrak_logo

Ticket revenue increases for train from Chicago to Indianapolis.  Ticket sale revenues have increased by 14 percent in the year since the Hoosier State passenger train from Indianapolis to Chicago changed ownership and management a year ago.  The Indianapolis Star reports that Wednesday is the first anniversary of the line’s three-year partnership among Amtrak, Iowa Pacific Holdings, the Indiana Department of Transportation and cities along the route.  http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/ticket-sales-increase-for-train-from-indianapolis-to-chicago/

 

Amtrak: Delays Cut By Nearly 25 Percent Due To New Locomotives.  As Amtrak prepares to roll out the last of 70 new locomotives, the passenger rail corporation says the engines have helped reduce delays by more than 20 percent.  The new engines were introduced three years ago and are used on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line between Washington, D.C., and Boston, and its Keystone service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.  http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/08/04/amtrak-delays-cut/

 

Amtrak wants to pick developer by summer 2017 to renovate Baltimore’s Penn Station.  Amtrak officials said Wednesday they plan to pick a developer by this time next year to renovate Baltimore’s century-old Penn Station, a project that’s been stalled for years.  The quasi-public railway took a step toward tackling the station’s countless overdue infrastructure improvements by soliciting qualifications from developers, consultants, engineers and other potential bidders. Rina Cutler, Amtrak’s senior director of major stations planning and development, said officials want a vision for the station to come from those who would take on the project.  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/commuting/bs-md-amtrak-penn-station-redevelopment-20160810-story.html

 

Freight Railroads Fight New Rule for Amtrak Trains.  Freight railroads are challenging in federal court a new stricter way of measuring on-time performance for Amtrak trains, the latest wrinkle in a battle over how far freight trains must go to enable passenger trains to arrive on time….Amtrak and freight railroads have faced off in recent months as the Surface Transportation Board and other regulators try to fine-tune a system that will improve Amtrak’s on-time performance. Under the law, if any passenger train route averages less than 80% on-time for any two consecutive quarters, the law gave the board the right to determine the cause. If it’s due to a freight railroad’s failure to give Amtrak preference, the regulator can award damages or other appropriate relief.  Amtrak won a recent skirmish over the definition of “preference”—who gets to go first—when the Surface Transportation Board decided to keep the status quo. Much is at stake. Freight railroads are currently struggling with profitability after boom years driven by a surge in crude-by-rail and commodities went bust, sending volumes plunging. Amtrak has been trying to boost service and reliability of its intercity and long-haul routes around the country. http://www.wsj.com/articles/freight-railroads-fight-new-rule-for-amtrak-trains-1471426202

 

AMTRAK NAMES INDUSTRY VETERAN WICK MOORMAN PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

New_Amtrak_logo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amtrak announced that it has named Charles W. “Wick” Moorman as its next president and chief executive officer. Moorman, retired chairman, CEO, and president of Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS), will lead the company, effective September 1, 2016, in the next fiscal year.

 

Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Board of Directors of Amtrak said, “We are very pleased that someone with Wick’s experience and vision will lead Amtrak during this critical period as the company charts a course for future growth and improvement.  Under CEO Joe Boardman, and with the support of the Administration and Congress, Amtrak has achieved record levels of performance and investment.  The Board believes Wick can build upon this success in the coming year by launching initiatives to further enhance safety and customer service, modernize our operations, and guide our implementation of the FAST Act.”

 

“It is an honor and privilege to take on the role of CEO at Amtrak and I look forward to working with its dedicated employees to find ways to provide even better service to our passengers and the nation,” said Moorman. “At Norfolk Southern, our team fostered change by placing a solid emphasis on performance across all aspects of our business which helped develop a stronger safety and service culture throughout the company. I look forward to advancing those same goals at Amtrak and helping to build a plan for future growth.”

 

Moorman, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., comes to Amtrak after more than 40 years at NS where he rose from management trainee to CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors. Having worked with NS from the ground up, Moorman gained an appreciation for the many facets of railroad operations and used this knowledge to modernize the way NS conducted business, served customers and worked with communities. A graduate of Georgia Tech and Harvard Business School, Moorman serves on the boards of Duke Energy Corporation, Chevron Corporation, the Virginia chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the Georgia Tech Foundation.

 

“Wick’s deep operational background and track record of building teams and driving innovation is exactly what we need to provide unparalleled service to the more than 500 communities we serve,” said Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors Jeffrey Moreland. “We are confident that, working together with the Board, Wick can formulate a strong plan to take Amtrak to the next level and assemble the management team and expertise to carry it forward.”

 

Moorman succeeds current CEO Joe Boardman, who announced his intention to retire last fall.   “I have been humbled to lead this extraordinary organization over the past eight years,” said Boardman. “I look forward to spending time with my family and wish Wick all the best as he brings his excellent experience to Amtrak.”

 

“The Board and I thank Joe for his dedicated service to Amtrak and its customers and for his long career in public service.  Under his leadership, Amtrak delivered record ridership, introduced a series of safety initiatives and modernized its fleet.  For this, he should be proud,” Coscia said.

 

Moorman currently holds securities of a rail carrier. Amtrak will ensure that any conflict will be avoided as is required by federal law.

 

About Amtrak®

Amtrak – America’s Railroad® – is dedicated to safe and reliable mobility as the nation’s intercity passenger rail service provider and its high-speed rail operator. With our state and commuter partners, we move people, the economy and the nation forward, carrying more than 30 million Amtrak passengers for each of the past five years. Formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is governed by a nine member board of directors appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Anthony R. Coscia is board chairman and Jeffrey R. Moreland is vice chairman. Amtrak operates more than 300 trains daily – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Learn more at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and other information. Check us out at blog.Amtrak.com, Like us on Facebook.com and Follow us on Twitter @Amtrak.

Feds weigh minimum train crew sizes

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration is considering a rule that would require most trains to have a minimum number of crew members.
During a Friday public hearing on the proposal, union groups, policymakers and stakeholders weighed in on whether most rail operations
should be staffed with at least two qualified workers.The regulation, proposed in March, would establish crew-size standards for most
main line freight and passenger rail operations. Currently, only a two-member crew is required for trains carrying crude oil.
The FRA reopened the public comment period in order to get feedback from Friday’s hearing.
Union groups argued that the step is essential for protecting against the human error and fatigue that can lead to deadly accidents, pointing
to an Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia last year and a deadly oil train explosion in Quebec in 2013.
“Safely operating a train is no easy task. In fact, operating a train has long been the job of a team of workers,” said Edward Wytkind, president
of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. ‘This team also works together during emergencies, such as dangerous rail accidents, when
timely action and quick thinking can save lives and prevent destruction.”
The trade group supports the proposal but called on the FRA to make the final rule stronger by requiring that two-person crews consist of a
certified engineer and certified conductor. Industry leaders say that there is no evidence that having an additional crew member on board would
improve safety. Instead, they maintain that the rule would stifle innovation and harm productivity.
“The proposed rule is a textbook example of unnecessary regulation,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the
Association of American Railroads. “The Department of Transportation… is backing a rule that would freeze rail productivity and chill innovation.”
But Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) testified that her state witnessed the benefits of a multiperson train crew first hand during a derailment in
Casselton in 2013, when several crew members on board were able to help pull crude oil cars away from the fire.
“Having two crew members on board won’t necessarily prevent derailments, but it will help mitigate accidents when they occur,” she said.

RRB announces change in service hours for field offices

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/newsflash.asp?id=5831

(Source: U.S. Railroad Retirement Board press release)

CHICAGO, April 26 — Effective at noon on June 1, 2016, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) field offices around the country will be closed to the public on Wednesday afternoons. Field office representatives will not be available to assist walk-in customers or to answer the phones during Wednesday afternoons only. All RRB offices will remain open from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, and during their usual hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the remaining weekdays, except for Federal holidays.
The change is necessary due to reduced staffing levels, coupled with increased workloads in several key areas, and will allow the staff in the RRB”s nationwide network of 53 field offices to focus on processing applications for benefits, conducting necessary verifications for pending applications or claims, resolving complex cases and reducing backlogged workloads.
RRB customers will continue to have the opportunity to conduct most business through the agency website (http://www.rrb.gov) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or by calling the RRB”s nationwide toll-free telephone number, (877) 772-5772, and speaking with a field office representative during regular business hours.
Current railroad employees can use the www.rrb.gov website to apply for and claim unemployment benefits, file a claim for sickness benefits, check the status of their unemployment or sickness claim, view their statement of account under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, view their service and compensation history, or get an annuity estimate. Annuitants currently receiving benefits can request a letter verifying the amount of their annuity, a duplicate tax statement, a replacement Medicare card or a copy of their service and compensation history. All services are accessible through the “Benefit Online Services” section of www.rrb.gov or by calling the RRB”s toll-free number at (877) 772-5772.