[As published by Julian Hattem in The Hill]
Transportation unions want new regulations for train crews and bus drivers.
The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO on Tuesday endorsed potential federal mandates to require at least two crew members on all U.S. freight trains, protect bus drivers from physical assaults and make sure they are paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.
The measures will make trains and buses safer for workers and the general public alike, the organization of 32 unions said.
The call for stronger rules for train crews comes three months after a train manned by one worker derailed in a Canadian border town, killing 47 people.
“It is imperative that a second crewmember be on hand not only in cases of emergency, but also because long shifts and unpredictable work schedules out of the hands of rail employees can lead to incidents caused by fatigue,” Edward Wytkind, the president of the union organization, said in a statement.
The group wants members of Congress to support a legislative effort from Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), called the Safe Freight Act, which would go beyond steps that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) took to strengthen train safety after the July crash.
Wytkind said that the union has “serious concerns” about the ability of the FRA’s review process to bring about strong new rules on its own.
Additionally, the labor group wants lawmakers to get behind Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, which would require that intercity bus drivers get paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week.
Buses are currently run like “sweatshops on wheels,” Wytkind said, with drivers working long hours for low pay.
Making sure drivers are paid overtime would reduce how long they have to work to make ends meet, which could lead to fewer crashes, the unions said.
Another way to safeguard drivers would be stronger protections to make sure they are not assaulted or abused on the job, and that they have clean bathrooms to use.
“It is time for labor and management, together with the federal government, to sit at the table and come up with solutions to protect workers and the traveling public,” Wytkind said.