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Labor unions have a new point man on infrastructure

Greg Regan took the helm of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department in the worst of circumstances but with the best possible preparation.

The circumstances: In the midst of a global pandemic that threatened his members’ jobs and lives, Regan’s boss and mentor, Larry Willis, died tragically in November after succumbing to injuries from a bike crash.

The preparation: Willis’s leadership and trust, which gave Regan and the team Willis had carefully put together the confidence to step up when the moment demanded it.

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Increased road deaths prompt calls for improved vehicle tech

Amid skyrocketing road deaths in the United States, members of Congress emphasized at a hearing Tuesday the role autonomous vehicles (AVs) can play in improving safety but called for other technology to be implemented in the short term.

Lawmakers remain determined to encourage faster AV development and deployment and to legislate on the nascent technology. But with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) available to help reduce serious crashes, automakers must offer that technology as standard, some said.

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Lawmakers raise driver privacy concerns on Capitol Hill

“Heavy-duty truck driving is already a highly surveilled occupation; can you speak to the impact this has on workers, and ways that Congress can create policies that can balance a worker’s right to privacy with the fact that automated vehicle [AV] technology needs large quantities of image data to work effectively?” Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., asked witnesses at the hearing before the Consumer Protection subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, responded that the aviation industry should serve as a guide “in how they balance worker privacy with the necessary safety constraints that are inherent in some of the monitoring equipment in aircraft. We have struck that balance before so we can certainly do it here.”

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I-40 Bridge Crack Puts Spotlight on Nation’s Infrastructure

Lawmakers are expected to make headway on President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion dollar infrastructure proposal this week, as Arkansas’ aging infrastructure made headlines with the discovery of a large crack in the Interstate 40 Hernando de Soto Bridge across the Mississippi River that led to its indefinite closure last week.

Ed Mortimer, vice president of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said shipping and supply-chain disruptions will likely become more common if significant spending isn’t directed toward major transportation improvements.

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U.S. labor leader calls for human drivers in automated vehicles

A senior American labor union leader will tell U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that the government should require human operators in all self-driving passenger services to take over in the event of an emergency.

Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department for the AFL-CIO, will tell a U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee that autonomous vehicles place “millions of jobs at risk” and any legislation to speed deployment of self-driving cars should not apply to commercial trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more, according to his written testimony released by the panel on Monday.

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US rail industry defends safety record amid staffing cuts

Even as railroads are operating longer and longer freight trains that sometimes stretch for miles, the companies have drastically reduced staffing levels, prompting unions to warn that moves meant to increase profits could endanger safety and even result in disasters.

More than 22% of the jobs at railroads Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern have been eliminated since 2017, when CSX implemented a cost-cutting system called Precision Scheduled Railroading that most other U.S. railroads later copied. BNSF, the largest U.S. railroad and the only one that hasn’t expressly adopted that model, has still made staff cuts to improve efficiency and remain competitive.

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State Of U.S. Infrastructure Demands Bold Action

Podcast Hosted by Paul Sweeney and Matt Miller for Bloomberg. Ed Mortimer, Vice President of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department for AFL-CIO, discuss the latest on infrastructure.

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Amid hyperloop, maglev hype, calls intensify to better fund Amtrak

Emerging rail technologies got their chance to shine in a congressional hearing last week, but countering them were calls to invest in Amtrak and existing rail service.

Advocates for various new travel modes — including hyperloop and maglev, some of which are still years away from becoming reality — urged greater federal investment during the second half of a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

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Uber and Lyft drivers need the PRO Act’s ‘independent contractor’ protections

The win by Uber and Lyft over their workers in a hotly contested—and expensive—California referendum last year, giving the firms absolute control over their drivers, shows the need for passing the PRO Act, says Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department. Enacting it would bring those and other “independent contractor” workers under federal labor law protection, he states.

Without the PRO Act, those 10.5 million independent contractors must depend on “a hodge-podge” of state and local labor laws to protect their rights, pay, and the right to organize, he told Press Associates Union News Service in a telephone interview.

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Just transition needed in transit electrification, labor leaders say

President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for a major investment in EVs and electrified transit, with a focus on what a senior administration official described as “infrastructure for the future.” But the labor groups said as public transportation agencies forge ahead with plans to electrify their vehicles, transit workers, including operators and mechanics, are not being prepared to transition to an electric future away from traditional diesel-powered vehicles.

In an interview, ATU International President John Costa said only about 3% of the group’s membership is trained on the technology and how to maintain it safely, even as agencies increasingly turn to EVs. The differences between traditional vehicles and EVs include the different personal protective equipment required to maintain them, the use of rubberized tools and the difference in motors. Operators must also be retrained, as a new style of driving is required to reduce strain on the battery from braking, he said.

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