National Legislative Office

Welcome to the website of the National Legislative Office of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

This site is intended to be a resource for BLET members, as well as anyone who is interested in the legislative and regulatory activities of our union.

As the site evolves it is our hope that it will be a useful tool in helping the BLET to continue to maintain, expand and deepen its relationships with Congress, labor leaders, government agencies and the general public.     Read Vice President Tolman's welcome message...

April 11, 2014

BLET Fighting to Protect Worker, Public Safety in Rulemaking

Statement by National President Dennis R. Pierce

Dennis Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Division of the Teamsters Rail Conference, issued the following statement concerning the April 9 announcement by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that the agency planned to issue a proposed rule regarding railroad industry crew size:

“Since the FRA’s announcement on Wednesday of plans to issue a proposed regulation regarding crew size on America’s freight and passenger trains, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has received numerous requests for comments. While it is not our practice to publicly comment on a pending rulemaking — and although no substantive comment can be made on FRA’s proposal, which has yet to be published — recent attempts by the industry’s lobbying arm to change the debate compel me to respond.

“It is undeniable that last summer’s catastrophic runaway, derailment and explosion that devastated the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic was facilitated, if not directly caused, by operational adjustments that had to be made by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway’s decision to operate the runaway train with a single-person crew. The outrage over that tragedy led to numerous regulatory changes in Canada and here in the United States to enhance railroad safety.

“The Congress has taken notice of this crisis, as well, and the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 3040), which would require a two-person crew on virtually all freight trains, is pending before the House of Representatives. We applaud the legislators who introduced that bill, and we are working toward its passage.

“FRA also has made its position clear. We agree with Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo that ‘safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew’ and with the agency’s position that ‘a second crew member provides safety redundancy and provides a method of checks and balances on train operations.’ Safety is our goal, and FRA’s goal, in supporting a minimum crew size of two employees. Each and every day when our members go to work, their goal is to perform their jobs in the safest and most professional manner possible. BLET members are honest and dedicated working class Americans, and working as part of a two-person train crew will give them a better chance of returning home to their families and loved ones at the end of the day.

“Unfortunately, however, the rail industry seems hell-bent on hijacking this issue and converting it into a process to further pad its already historic profit levels. From the day FRA placed crew size before its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, the railroads have attempted to hold the issue hostage to the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) technology, a stance that was publicly confirmed by the Association of American Railroads earlier this week. PTC is a necessity as it will save lives, but it should never be the basis for a waiver of the two-person train crew requirement, which — sadly — is what rail management is hoping to achieve.

“To be clear, PTC is a significant upgrade and overlay on existing signal and train control technology. It will save lives and reduce accidents and property damage. For these reasons it can and must be installed by the December 31, 2015 deadline Congress has set, and we will continue to oppose the industry’s request for a blanket 5-year extension of the deadline.

“However, at the end of the day — and while significant — PTC is only an upgrade and overlay on existing signal technology. It is not designed or required to prevent every accident. As just one example, the April 17, 2011 collision near Red Oak, Iowa, that led to a derailment and fire, and which claimed the lives of two crew members, would not have been prevented had PTC been installed on the line where the accident occurred.

“Nor is PTC designed or intended to perform all of the varied duties currently performed by the second operating crew member. In addition to in-cab safety redundancy at numerous levels, the public safety aspect of these duties include, among others, monitoring the ‘left’ side of the train for defects, observing the ‘left’ side of highway-rail grade crossings for drivers who fail to stop for the approaching train, and separating stopped trains blocking crossings to facilitate the movement of motor vehicles operated by first responders and other emergency personnel who must cross the tracks.

“The industry’s response is nothing more than a red herring, and it is unfortunate — if not reprehensible — that railroads are preying upon the legitimate safety concerns of railroad workers and the general public to further stuff their coffers. We also view the railroads’ response as a thinly-veiled threat against collective bargaining agreement provisions that address crew size, which would be unaffected by the proposed regulation, and which we will vigorously defend. We will continue to put the safety of BLET members, of all railroad workers, and of the American public first and foremost, and we will work with all our energy to ensure FRA develops a regulation that does just that.”

B.J. Trumble reelected Chairman of Michigan Legislative Board

B.J. Trumble was reelected by acclamation to his first full term as Chairman of the Michigan State Legislative Board at its Third Quadrennial meeting in Flint, Mich., on March 22.

A CN/Grand Trunk Western locomotive engineer, Brother Trumble is a member of BLET Division 33 in Battle Creek, Mich. He has held continuous membership in the Brotherhood since July 1, 1997. Brother Trumble was elected 1st Vice Chairman at the Board’s Second Quadrennial meeting in 2010, and moved up to Chairman following the retirement of Gregory D. Powell, the Board”s founding Chairman, on August 1, 2012.

Also elected by acclamation during the meeting were: 1st Vice Chairman Jason Girven, Division 1 (Detroit, Mich.); 2nd Vice Chairman and Secretary Treasurer Andy J. Goulet, Division 304 (Saginaw, Mich.); and Alternate Secretary-Treasurer Scott J. Hockin, Division 286 (Grand Rapids, Mich.). Elected by acclamation to the Board’s Auditing Committee were: Brother Girven; Chris D. King III, Division 831 (Detroit, Mich.); and Matthew M. Lashley, Division 122 (Port Huron, Mich.).

Representing the National Division at the meeting was John P. Tolman, BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative. Other special guests included: David K. Brown, Chairman of the Minnesota State Legislative Board; and Timothy R. Hanely, Chairman of the Ohio State Legislative Board. Retired members Greg Powell, Division 920 (Pontiac, Mich.) and Dave Fernald, Division 2 (Jackson, Mich.), were also in attendance. Brother Powell and Brother Fernald are two of the founding members of the Michigan State Legislative Board, which was established on February 28, 2002.

“I thank Brother B.J. Trumble and all members of the Michigan State Legislative Board for their selfless service to our Brotherhood,” said BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce, who expressed regret that he could not personally attend the meeting. “I know that they will have plenty on their plate during this upcoming election cycle, and I have every confidence they will do an excellent job of representing the interests of our members in the proud state of Michigan. It is also my pleasure to recognize retired Brothers Greg Powell and Dave Fernald. I thank them for their years of dedicated service to the Brotherhood and extend best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement.”

The BLET’s Michigan State Legislative Board represents more than 1,000 active and retired members from 14 different BLET Divisions.

April 9, 2014

FRA to issue proposed rule on minimum train crew size

(Source: Federal Railroad Administration press release, April 9, 2014)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced its intention to issue a proposed rule requiring two-person train crews on crude oil trains and establishing minimum crew size standards for most main line freight and passenger rail operations. The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on train securement and recommends a rulemaking on the movement of hazardous materials.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to assure the safety of those who work for railroads and shippers, and the residents and communities along shipping routes,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The proposed rulemaking on crew size is the latest effort in our comprehensive strategy to ensure crude oil is transported as safely as possible.”

Today’s announcement follows the deliberations of three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Working Groups on Appropriate Train Crew Size, Securement, and Hazardous Materials Issues. All three Working Groups were created at DOT’s request last summer in response to the Lac-Mégantic derailment. The emergency meeting was held to evaluate and consider wide-ranging proposals to further enhance railroad safety including the safe shipment of crude oil by rail. Two of the Working Groups produced recommendations that were adopted by the full RSAC for consideration in future rulemakings. In light of the working group’s failure to reach consensus on crew size, the FRA took action today to move forward with a rulemaking.

“We believe that safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew—safety dictates that you never allow a single point of failure,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said. “Ensuring that trains are adequately staffed for the type of service operated is a critically important to ensure safety redundancy. We commend the RSAC’s efforts and will use the valuable input received to formulate a proposed rule that protects the public and recognizes the nuance of railroad operations.”

While existing FRA regulations do not mandate minimum crew staffing requirements, current industry practice is to have two person crews for over-the-road operations. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will most likely require a minimum of two person crews for most mainline train operations including those trains carrying crude oil. It is also expected to include appropriate exceptions.

FRA plans to issue an additional NPRM based on the consensus recommendations of the Securement Working Group and approved by the full RSAC that would prohibit certain unattended freight trains or standing freight cars on main track or sidings and require railroads to adopt and implement procedures to verify securement of trains and unattended equipment for emergency responders. It would also require locomotive cabs to be locked and reversers to be removed and secured. Railroads would also be required to obtain advance approval from FRA for locations or circumstances where unattended cars or equipment may be left.

The full RSAC also approved four recommendations of the Hazardous Materials Issues Working Group relating to identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments. The four recommendations, directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), include amending or revising the definitions of “residue” and “key train,” and clarifying its regulatory jurisdiction over the loading, unloading and storage of hazmat before and during transportation. PHMSA continues to advance a rulemaking addressing the integrity of DOT Specification 111 tanker cars and the safe shipment by rail of flammable materials such as crude oil.

On August 29, 2013, the first-ever emergency session of the RSAC was held in response to the July 6, 2013 derailment of an unattended Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway freight train containing crude oil in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada. Building upon Secretary Anthony Foxx’s February Agreement with the Rail and Petroleum Industries, the FRA’s Emergency Order 28 and Safety Advisory 2013-06, PHMSA’s Operation Classification, Safety Alerts and a DOT Emergency Order, the three RSAC working groups reviewed existing regulations and standards to identify and mitigate the risks posed by such shipments and prevent future accidents.

April 7, 2014

Call to mobilize over Right-to-Work law in Missouri

The following is a message from Brian Kelley, BLET Missouri SLB Chairman concerning the Right-to-Work law in Missouri:

Dear Missouri BLET Members,

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED FROM ALL BLET MEMBERS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND WORKING CLASS AMERICANS LIVING IN MISSIOURI.

Every BLET member in the State of Missouri and their family members are being urged to contact their State Representative regarding House Bill 1770 starting Monday morning April 7th. HB 1770 is a divisive piece of legislation that will ask Missouri voters to decide if Missouri should become a Right-to-Work (work for less) State.

Please call your State Representative, tell them you are a constituent and politely ask them to vote “NO” on HB 1770. You may not actually talk with the legislator directly so please be respectful to their staff member when talking with them. If they should ask why you are against this bill you can use the following points:

1. Right to work bills like HB 1770 are big government interfering with private businesses. Corporations should be able to make agreements with their employees that best suit their business model. This legislation restricts that ability so I am opposed to it.

2. Workers in so called Right-to-Work states have lower wages, higher poverty, less access to health care and poorer education for their children. I want us to raise our standards not lower them.

You may locate your legislator at this link: http://www.house.mo.gov/legislatorlookup.aspx?

If you have any questions or need any assistance please call me at this number: 816-786-8475

Thank you for your involvement. It is much needed and much appreciated.

Fraternally,

Brian Kelley
BLET Missouri State Legislative Board Chairman

National President Pierce thanked Chairman Kelley for taking the lead on this important issue and called for all BLET Members and all Rail Conference members to mobilize on this important issue.

A PDF of HB 1770 can be viewed at: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills141/billpdf/intro/HB1770I.PDF

March 11, 2014

BLET’s Wyoming State Legislative Board announces scholarship program

The BLET’s Wyoming State Legislative Board (WYSLB) has announced a scholarship program for the upcoming school year. The deadline is June 1, 2014.

Wyoming State Legislative Board Chairman Cory Runion said the Board will award either two $1,000 scholarships, or, in the event of a single applicant, one $1,000 scholarship each year to an immediate family member of a BLET member in good standing and holding membership in a Division chartered within the state of Wyoming. The scholarships will be awarded based on the application along with the requested documentation chosen by the WYSLB scholarship committee.

Scholarship applications and all accompanying documents must be received by June 1 of each year. Specific eligibility requirements, detailed instructions and application forms (PDF) are available for download from the BLET National Division website, or can be requested from your Division Legislative Representative. Currently, the BLET has nine Division chartered in Wyoming — Division 31 (Bill); Division 207 (Casper); Divisions 44, 103 and 115 (Cheyenne); Division 94 (Gillette); Division 869 (Greybull); Division 142 (Rawlins); and Division 624 (Sheridan).

For questions of assistance in completing the application please contact your Division Legislative Representative.

Information and application form available here.

In January, the BLET National Division published its annual Scholarship Directory. While some deadlines have passed, there is still time to apply for several other scholarship opportunities. Click here for more information.

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