Vice President Tolman testifies before House on PTC

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 15 — BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman urged Congress, the railroads, and governmental regulators to ensure that Positive Train Control (PTC) is fully implemented by the current deadline of December 31, 2018. During his testimony, Vice President Tolman also discussed the problem of electronic device distraction (Trip Optimizer and LEADER); the government and industry’s failure to address rail worker fatigue; the danger of excessive train lengths; and the need for two person train crews.

Tolman began his testimony by expressing his anger and frustration at having to yet again testify at a hearing where preventable rail accidents and fatalities were the main topic of discussion.

“We strongly urge you to take all appropriate measures to ensure the current PTC deadline is met,” Vice President Tolman testified on February 15 before a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. “It is time to get past decades of the industry’s ‘can’t do’ excuses, and it is time for all of Congress to get on board the safety train.”

With passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), Congress mandated the implementation of PTC nationwide by the end of 2015, then — under pressure from railroads — extended that deadline until the end of 2018. Many PTC-preventable crashes and deaths have occurred during the three year deadline extension.

“Some railroads have dragged their feet since the [2008] mandate and persuaded Congress to go along with the dithering and — with the [2015] deadline looming in the face of threats to cripple the economy and strand passengers — Congress granted an eleventh hour extension,” Vice President Tolman testified. “We warned Congress in 2015 that their actions would result in people dying from collisions that PTC could prevent. Congress was convinced by the railroad industry that more time was needed. Here we are years later and PTC is not fully implemented. Safety has waited too long and lives have been lost during the last extension.”

According to a 2015 report from the National Transportation Safety Board, PTC could have prevented 145 rail accidents that killed 288 people and injured 6,574 since 1969, when the agency first recommended the technology.

Regarding electronic device distraction, Brother Tolman was critical of the Trip Optimizer and LEADER systems in use on certain North American rail carriers. “Human factor issues will require close attention to be paid to human-machine interface problems as more screens with more buttons and submenus come online to interface with PTC,” Tolman said. “We also recognize the challenges PTC will place on train crews who will be forced to interact with more computer screens in the locomotive cab. This will only increase the potential for electronic device distraction, given the already widespread use of technologies such as Trip Optimizer and LEADER.”

While PTC was mandated by the RSIA of 2008, the law also addressed the issue of rail worker fatigue. However, the fatigue has not been sufficiently addressed in the past 10 years. Vice President Tolman reminded Congress of this glaring oversight during his testimony.

“[Fatigue] has been wrestled with for decades and Congress made an attempt to alleviate it in the RSIA in 2008. However, the regulator’s effort in meeting the requirements of the Act has not produced any measurable results a full decade after Congress mandated that the management sit down with labor and work out genuine fatigue mitigation plans.”

Vice President Tolman warned Congress about the danger of excessive train lengths. “Freight trains have been getting longer and heavier in recent years. Some of these trains have been over three miles long. This creates technical challenges with maintaining brake pipe pressure that aids a train in slowing and stopping. There are currently no federal regulations or laws that address train length. This needs to change.”

Vice President Tolman encouraged all members of Congress to consider bipartisan support for two-person crew bills that are progressing though the House and Senate. He thanked Representative Don Young for introducing the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 233) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp for introducing S. 2360, a companion bill in the Senate. Both measures would require two-person train crews on freight trains.

“On the railroad, train crews consisting of Engineers and Conductors form a solid team that moves trains across the United States safely every day,” Vice President Tolman said. “True safety requires two crew members on every freight train, and such a goal should have no party lines.”

The hearing was titled “Oversight of Positive Train Control Implementation in the United States.” Additional witnesses included: Richard Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, Amtrak; Juan D. Reyes III, Chief Counsel, Federal Railroad Administration; Robert Sumwalt, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board; Edward Hamberger, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of American Railroads; and Paul Skoutelas, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Public Transportation Association.

A copy of Vice President Tolman’s testimony can be found here (PDF):

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/PTC_final_2.15.18.pdf

Criminal prosecution for unintentional mistakes is blatantly unfair to locomotive engineers and trainmen

 


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 12 — In the wake of recent dramatic and highly visible railroad accidents in the United States and Canada, there has been a trend to criminalize railroad workers and prosecute them as the sole cause of these tragedies. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen stands opposed to such actions. 

It is a travesty that criminal charges were filed against three former employees of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway for the tragedy of July 5, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The trial against them began in September of 2017 and concluded on January 19, 2018. What jurors found out is that railroading is a complex system of operations, and many factors go into a safe operation. Determining the root cause of a particular accident is far more complex than simply blaming the workers, but that all too often is what many rail carriers and government agencies have done.

In 2017, criminal charges were brought against the locomotive engineer of Amtrak train 188, which crashed in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015. Those charges were dismissed in 2017 after a judge ruled that the crash was accidental, not criminal. The engineer’s lawyer argued in part: “The law recognizes there’s a big difference between an accident and a crime.” However, a second judge has ruled that dismissal of those charges was wrong, and has reinstated charges of reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, and one count of causing a catastrophe. 

The operating employees who crew trains and locomotives — locomotive engineers, conductors, brakemen and switchmen — have extraordinary safety-critical tasks and responsibilities not found in other industries. An operating employee’s readiness for safety-critical constant vigilance is a personal obligation. But this personal duty must be effectively supported — not thwarted — by a management devoted fully to the fundamentals of safety. 

Railroad crew members sometimes go on duty without being allowed sufficient rest, and with accumulated sleep deficits, consequently constituting a profound safety problem on and along the tracks. Laws are such that crew members are not given enough time to simply rest and have a normal life. On the Amtrak property, many of our locomotive engineers work six-day assignments resulting in operations in excess of 2,500-3,000 miles per week. At times, the crew members are harassed and intimidated if they repeatedly request to lay off for needed rest. Moreover, they have to contend with abiding by unrealistic attendance policy standards imposed by the carrier that often result in disciplinary action despite the fact that additional time off is both necessary and fully warranted. Crew members who are harassed and intimidated by railroad managers are less likely to provide feedback regarding unsafe operations. Such feedback is crucial to safe train operations. 

To please Wall Street investors, railroads have furloughed so many workers that the few who remain are often overworked and stretched too thin. Railroads are increasing the length of freight trains to dangerous levels, trying to do more with fewer workers. Well-rested crew members are essential to safe train operations. 

Railroad crew members sometimes complain that they are not given sufficient familiarization trips to become acquainted with the lines over which they operate. Proper training is essential to safe train operations. 

At times, crew members protest to railroad managers about hazardous operations, but their protests simply go unheeded. Properly maintained equipment and tracks are essential to safe train operations. 

This is not to make excuses, but an effort to explain that it takes more than just blaming the worker to determine the root cause of railroad accidents. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims, families and workers touched by the accidents mentioned above. But criminalizing the worker is not part of the solution to eradicate similar tragic accidents from happening again. 

 

AVR Notification Changes

Brothers, 

 
   Here are some changes to the AVR: 
 
When being called to step up or fill a vacancy the "Option 9" has been changed from Refuse Call to Decline call. This will allow the you to decline the call with out being put into refuse status. Similar to the way it use to be. 
 
There will be a messages that now incorporates later in the call that confirms you are being called to step up vs being called. 
 
The option for "not qualified" like before now takes the you back to a crew caller, vs being skipped or laid off... 
 
 
Let me know if there are any questions. 
 
Brian 

 

Two-person crew bill introduced in the US Senate

Heitkamp introduces two-person crew bill in U.S. Senate

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 1 — On January 30, 2018, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced S. 2360, a bill that would mandate a minimum crew size for freight trains in the United States. 

The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It has immediately garnered four Senate co-sponsors: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Senator Ed Markey (D-MA); Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Senator Angus King (I-ME).

This bill marks the first time a minimum crew-size bill has been introduced in the United States Senate. Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced a companion bill — H.R. 233, known as The Safe Freight Act —in the 115th House of Representatives on January 3, 2017. It currently has 75 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Text of the Bill will be available usually 1-2 days after introduction of the bill on the floor of the House or Senate.

“The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has long advocated for the safety benefits that come from having a minimum of two persons in the cab of the locomotive,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “We support this legislation and are actively lobbying for additional co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. Our Brotherhood thanks Senator Heitkamp and Representative Young and all co-sponsors for their support of safe freight train operations in the United States.”

Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) has long been an advocate for rail safety improvements, even more so since a collision between a crude oil train and a derailed grain train in Casselton, N.D., on December 30, 2013, which caused a huge fire and evacuation. The impact of the Casselton derailment was lessened significantly thanks to the bravery of the multiple crew members who were aboard the locomotive. 

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), “the heroic actions of the grain train’s (three) crewmembers potentially prevented the environmental and property damages from being much worse” in the Casselton derailment. They pulled a cut of 50 tank cars to safety away from the burning derailed cars. The crew later went back and removed 20 additional cars from the scene of the fire. “That wouldn’t have happened if there were only one-person crews,” President Pierce said. “The BLET continues to oppose single-person freight operations as adverse to worker and public safety.”

Like Senator Heitkamp, Senator King (D-ME) is also an advocate for rail safety. His home state of Maine is near Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where an oil train derailment and subsequent fire resulted in 47 fatalities on July 5, 2013. A one-person train crew operated the oil train in the Lac-Megantic tragedy. 

Details of the bill can be found here.

PTC - Broadcast Message

Brothers, 

 
  I know there are some of you receiving a Broadcast Message concerning PTC - EMS Integration. There is language in this message that you can be withheld from service on Feb 1 if not completed and/or charged with 1.13. 
 
I have spoken to the Superintendent, he has assured me that everyone will be given a proper amount of time to get this CBT Module completed. If you have not done so, I would complete this training within your next tour of duty.   
 
 
Brian 

 

Two year extension to “Cadillac tax”

Brothers,
 
 
The one good thing about the Government pause/shutdown is there is an additional extension to the Cadillac tax to Dec.31, 2021.
 
Regarding the Cadillac tax extension, the language was codified in Division D, Sec. 4002 of the CR:
 
SEC. 4002. DELAY IN IMPLEMENTATION OF EXCISE TAX ON HIGH COST
EMPLOYER-SPONSORED HEALTH COVERAGE.
Section 9001(c) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act is amended by striking ‘‘December 31, 2019’’ and inserting
‘‘December 31, 2021’’.
 
Sec. 4002 is on page 11 of the CR text, found at this link: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr195/BILLS-115hr195enr.pdf
 
 
John P. Tolman
Vice President & National Legislative Representative
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
Teamsters Rail Conference

BLET Statement on Not-Guilty Verdict in Lac-Megantic Trial

BLET Statement on Not-Guilty Verdict in Lac-Megantic Trial

(The following is a statement from Dennis R. Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and President of the Teamsters Rail Conference.)

 
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, January 22 Although it remains a travesty that criminal charges were ever filed, justice was served in the unanimous not guilty verdict issued by jurors in the Lac-Megantic trial in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on January 19, 2018.
 
The trial against three former employees of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) began in September of 2017, and the jury deliberated for nine days prior to reaching their verdict. The trial laid bare the dangerous tendency of certain rail carriers to cut corners on safety. Leading up to the tragedy of July 5, 2013, the MMA Railway had begun the dangerous practice of one-person train operations, and the trial exposed how employees were forced to work with equipment that contributed to the accident.
 
As the jurors rightly determined, blaming the workers for the Lac-Megantic catastrophe was the wrong thing to do. Railroading is a complex system of operations, and many factors go into a safe operation. Determining the root cause of this tragedy is more complex than simply blaming the workers, but that all too often is what many rail carriers and government agencies do.
 
Our hearts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families who were touched by the tragedy of July 5, 2013. It is our hope they and the three workers who were wrongly accused can find some closure from this verdict.
 
###
 
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) represents more than 57,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
 
The Teamsters Rail Conference represents more than 70,000 rail workers employed as locomotive engineers, trainmen and maintenance of way workers across the United States as members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED).

PTC on Marion Subdivision

When operating south to or or out of Paducah on the Marion, don’t forget that PTC is effect on the Marion Sub between MP 323.95 and MP 337.0. When you get your track warrant that covers these limits, it is important to open up the “Authority” menu and check to see that your track warrant is in the system and correct. If you are operating with PTC and it is not in there, as soon as your train drops to 15 MPH in those limits, the system will engage and think that you do not have authority. It will then put you into penalty or emergency. 

 

One possible cause for your track warrant for authority for that segment not showing up in the PTC computer is your train destination may have changed in route. For example, a Chiles train changed to a P&L train. If this happens your train symbol may have been changed without you knowing it. Although your track for authority on paper is correct, in the PTC system it is actually issued to the new train symbol. To correct the issue, you will have to have the dispatcher change your track warrant for bulletin number and train symbol. 

After this is done, log out of PTC and reinitialize with the new track warrant for bulletin number. After the system synchronizes, your track warrant for authority should now appear in the AUTHORITY menu. Verify that it is correct. 

 

If going south with a load, I would recommend not going by King if your track warrant for authority covering the PTC limits is not in the PTC computer. This is because when the PTC system stops you, you will be on the steep part of the hill. 

 

 

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