Wonder how grain gets from farms to ranches in order to keep livestock fed through the winter, or how your flour got to the grocery store? What about how coal makes its way from the mine to the power plant so it can power your air conditioner, or how paper makes it from the mill to the newspaper printer?
Often, the answer is freight rail. Each year, 1.7 billion tons of freight – ranging from food to coal to scrap metal – are carried by rail across the United States. At TTD, our goal is to make sure that happens safely, so that risks are minimized for rail workers and the communities trains pass by. We fight for legislation and regulation that ensures all freight trains are crewed by at least two workers, in order to avoid accidents like the deadly Lac-Mégantic accident in 2013; for regulations that ensure that those operating these up-to-15,000-ton trains are well-rested; and for the implementation of technologies like alerters and shunting to keep signal workers and other railway workers safe.
We’re encouraged by efforts in this Congress and last to address these issues. For example, last year Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Rail Safety Improvement Act and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the Rail Safety Enforcement Act, both of which included several reforms that TTD and rail labor have long championed. This year, we continue to focus on ensuring the passage of comprehensive rail safety reauthorization legislation that provides this fatigued workforce with predictable work schedules, prevents the unsafe operation of single-person crews, and adds protections to prevent signal employees and other workers from being injured or killed by moving trains.
TTD is equally engaged in efforts to ensure the safety of the materials transported by freight rail. In recent years, the volume of hazardous materials being transported by rail has boomed and with that comes increased risk and an increased need for safety regulation. TTD advocates for the development of strong emergency response plans, improved communication with local emergency responders, and enhanced tank car and break standards.
There is still work to be done to ensure that adequate safety measures are implemented and that increased safety does not come at the expense of workers’ rights, and TTD and our affiliate unions continue to undertake that work.