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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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Bill would create aviation response plan for pandemics and study disease transmission on airplanes

Democratic leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced legislation Thursday that would require the transportation secretary to develop an aviation-sector plan for managing disease outbreaks.

The Healthy Flights Act of 2021 — introduced by Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), the committee’s chairman; and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the aviation subcommittee chairman — also makes clear that the Federal Aviation Administration has the authority to impose requirements to protect passengers and airline workers during public health emergencies. In addition, it would require that people wear masks on airplanes and in airports, and that airline employees and some FAA personnel be given personal protective equipment during public health emergencies linked to respiratory diseases.

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Biden’s Infrastructure Package Is Designed to Boost Unions

As reported by Kate Davidson and Amara Omeokwe for The Wall Street Journal President Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan to invest in infrastructure, clean energy and caregiving over the coming decade would be a boon for construction workers, truck drivers, electricians and home health aides. Both critics and supporters of the initiative say it will also […]

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Unlikely alliances push for action on infrastructure, but will they last?

As reported by Kate Ackley and Jessica Wehrman for Roll Call As President Joe Biden lays out a multitrillion-dollar plan Wednesday in Pittsburgh to remake the nation’s infrastructure, lobbying interests across sectors and spanning the ideological spectrum are forming tenuous alliances to prod Congress to act. The debate is expected to dominate the K Street […]

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Labor to DOT: Scrap Trump administration’s automated vehicles plan

As Reported by John Gallagher for Freightwaves Two prominent labor unions want the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to reject the Trump administration’s automated vehicle (AV) strategy for relying too much on the viewpoint from industry without enough attention paid to potential damage to worker safety and jobs. The 38-page Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan (AVCP), […]

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‘It’s Going to End Up Like Boeing’: How Freight Rail Is Courting Catastrophe

As reported by Aaron Gordon for Vice Just before 5 a.m. on August 2, 2017, Alice Murray was fast asleep when her entire house shook, almost as if a freight train had crashed into the block, she told the Cumberland Times-News. That’s exactly what happened. About 30 yards away, just off Cleveland Street in Hyndman, […]

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Court ruling may make it harder to cut train crew sizes to 1

An appeals court has rejected the Trump administration’s decision to drop a proposal to require freight trains to have at least two crew members, a plan that was drafted after several fiery crude oil train derailments.

The ruling Tuesday from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will likely make it harder for the railroad industry to reduce the number of crew members in most trains from two to just one. It opens the door for states to require two-man crews on freight trains that haul crude oil, ethanol and other hazardous commodities.

The court ruled that the Federal Railroad Administration acted arbitrarily when it dropped the safety measure President Barack Obama’s administration drafted in response to explosions of crude oil trains in the United States and Canada. The FRA said in 2019 that safety data didn’t support requiring two-man crews on all freight trains.

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As transit agencies ramp up mask enforcement, Congress airs concerns about safety of transportation workers

As Reported by Michael Laris for The Washington Post Bus passengers in Oklahoma City were first required to wear a mask in July to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. But the city’s small transit agency was hesitant to enforce it, partly out of fear of jeopardizing its relationship with the federal government, which helps […]

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