Reported by Joanna Marsh for Freightwaves.
Rail union representatives are poised to adopt a policy statement that urges Congress to pass a rail safety bill — one that mandates a minimum of two-person crew sizes on all passenger and freight trains, regulates train lengths exceeding 7,500 feet and ensures adequate inspections of rail cars, locomotives and brakes.
The latest policy statement of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO cites at least 18 areas where regulations and guidance via the Federal Railroad Administration can bolster existing rail safety practices. TTD expects to formally adopt the statement at its spring summit on Wednesday, when 37 unions, including all U.S. rail labor unions, are convening at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington.
“The scope and ambition of legislation from Congress must reflect the scope of the problem. Rail workers witness the effects of their employers’ total disregard for safety every single day on the job,” TTD said in the statement.
Besides addressing key union priorities on train crews, train length and inspection times, the policy statement calls for regulations for defect detection technologies that would cover testing, maintenance, repair, data tracking and crew alerts; provisions that would ensure that rail workers can call a safety stand-down when workers deem conditions as unsafe; assurances that the railroads are providing visual warning equipment to watchmen and lookouts; and plans to immediate phase out FRA-granted safety waivers to Class I railroads. The safety waivers have been a point of contention for the unions, which say the waivers have been used to pit technological tools against workers’ responsibilities.
TTD said the policy statement reflects practices that could lessen or further prevent train derailments, including those such as the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio, which involved the controlled release of vinyl chloride from punctured tank cars, causing concern among local residents about the derailment’s environmental impacts.
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