SMART - TD Local 306

Serving Sioux City, Mason City & Eagle Grove on UPRR Former C&NW Lines


Rail members – your comments on 2-person crews are needed! - 4/19/2016

Rail members – your comments on 2-person crews are needed!

On March 15th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a long overdue proposed regulation requiring that most trains in America have a minimum of two crewmembers. While SMART TD supports the core requirements of the rule, we believe that it can be strengthened and improved before this proposed regulation becomes final. We also expect the railroads to do everything in their power to weaken the rule. That is why we need your help.

As a railroad worker, you have firsthand knowledge of the importance of two-person crews and the dangers of single-person operations. That is why the FRA needs to hear your voice on this critical safety issue. Please follow this link to submit your own comments on the rule, citing your personal experiences and expertise in operating trains.

The most effective thing you can include in your comments is a personal story of how having two people on your crew prevented an accident from happening. It is not necessary to include all the details like train numbers or dates; just an overview of the incident and how having the second crew member made a difference. Examples of how the second crew member cleared a blocked crossing for an emergency vehicle or dealt with emergency responders during a derailment would also be very beneficial.

No one can make a stronger case for two-person crews than those who work — or have worked — on the front lines operating trains every day.

The deadline for comments is May 16, 2016.

Thank you for your help with this critically important issue.

Below is an excellent example of a comment submitted by retired member Daniel Potaracke from Wisconsin:

Agency: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Document Type: Rulemaking
Title: Train Crew Staffing
Document ID: FRA-2014-0033-0001

Thank You for this opportunity to comment on this important issue.

I started on the BNSF RR in 1972 and retired in 2013 after 42 years of service. In 1972, I was one of 5 crew members on a train. When I retired, there were just 2 people on a train, the engineer and I the conductor. I’ve seen lots of changes on the railroad and that is putting it very mildly. With all the technology, you would think it would be safer but, I believe it has actually gotten less safe for a number of reasons. The railroads went from handling and hauling basic cargo and smaller trains to now handling much bigger trains with lots more dangerous cargo in increasing amounts. I remember having “a few” dangerous shipments but, when I retired, I was responsible for having LOTS of dangerous and hazardous cargoes. Just before I retired, I had to sift through lots and lots of paperwork to make sure I had ALL the information and redundancy so if there was a problem, I had some solutions for emergency workers and whomever needed it. I’m not saying it is bad but, making sure I had the paperwork and having someone else to count on made it somewhat better; and, how else are shippers going to transport these dangerous cargoes other than the nations highways? From what I’ve read about the trucking industry, with one person driving a huge truck with dangerous materials and the fatigue the truck drivers put up with, I’m amazed there aren’t more crashes. Having 2 people on a train is definitely much more safe!

Having two sets of eyes and ears on the front end of ALL trains is essential for safety for everyone including the public, the employees and the railroads themselves. As a retired BNSF RR conductor, I’ve personally witnessed many “emergency” type incidents that warranted immediate attention and I’m not at all sure that they would have been caught by just one person. Splitting duties in such a way that there are two people onboard makes it easier for one of them to catch a problem vs having one person having so many things to be aware of and all at the same time. I know from personal experience that I’ve averted a few derailments or possible derailments because I’ve caught a problem on either my train or another passing train be it sticking brakes, cracked wheels or hot bearings and shifted loads or other problems.

As you know, the railroads carry so many commodities that are very hazardous including oil trains that will burn out of control for days at a time, nuclear waste, chemicals that are certain death with contact or inhalation and munitions and explosives.
Having two people on a train can catch a problem before a derailment with any of the above cargoes in a city or even out in the country where winds can blow dangerous inhalations to a city or town. Imagine a burning and exploding oil train in a congested city as big as Chicago or Minneapolis or even a small town where the entire population could be wiped out! We have all seen the images of burning oil trains; now imagine that in the middle of a city with populations living within a few hundred feet!

I sometimes wonder if the railroad companies are like the automobile companies that work out the risks or odds of a derailment or toxic release or something similar where they cross their fingers and hope nothing happens but, if something did happen, the chances are 1 in X amount of percent, they could live with that and the resulting monetary damages…or deaths…or whatever.

Please keep America safe with the railroads running safe with two people!

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Effective April 1: New administrator for STD & new provider for LTD - 3/29/2016

Effective April 1: New administrator for STD & new provider for LTD

Benefits, Premiums stay the same!

On Friday, April 1, 2016, a new insurance administrator for Short Term Disability (STD) and a new insurance provider for Long Term Disability (LTD) will be in place for all Bus and Rail members.

 Effective on and after April 1, 2016: STD

  • STD for Bus and Rail members will now be administered through Southern Benefit Administrators
  • STD Bus forms, click here.
  • STD Rail forms, click here.

 Effective on and after April 1, 2016: LTD

  • LTD for Bus and Rail members will now be provided through MetLife
  • LTD Bus forms, click here.
  • LTD Rail forms, click here.

Please Note:

  • STD active claims that were filed prior to April 1: Anthem will continue to process those claims:

STD Bus forms, Anthem, click here.

STD Rail forms, Anthem, click here.

If you have additional questions, please contact your Regional Field Supervisor, here.

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Rail workers: deadly tired…but still working - 3/23/2016

Rail workers: deadly tired…but still working

The following article was written by Georgetta Gregory, the railroad division chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations.

The rail business is an industry full of tired, stressed workers. It is an epidemic.

I know this first-hand because, before coming to the NTSB several years ago, I spent more than 30 years working in the freight railroad industry. While freight railroad managers and crews count on reliable schedules to make their shipments and make their customers happy, there is no routine schedule for the hundreds of thousands of crewmembers employed in this business. As a result, many railroad workers are literally walking and working in their sleep.

I was one of them.

One of my last jobs before coming to the NTSB was as a trainmaster for a major freight railroad. My duties included safely seeing the arrival and departure of trains in and out of terminals in California. I spent a large majority of my time reviewing train schedules and communicating with train personnel of arriving and departing trains. I coordinated the efforts of nearly 300 crewmembers, including yardmasters, dispatchers and engineers, to execute the transportation plan on my territory. Additionally, I was responsible for making sure all the work was done safely and in accordance with rules and regulations.

The job was very stressful and required long hours. It wasn’t unusual for me to work 80 hours a week. I often worked overnight, evenings, weekends and long hours.

Over time, I became chronically fatigued. I gained weight and began to lose my memory and other cognitive abilities. I had no routine schedule for sleep, because I worked irregular hours that were counter to my circadian rhythms. Eventually, I began to make mistakes at work and in my personal life – potentially dangerous ones.

Noting how my work and home life was suffering, I went to a sleep specialist. The doctor determined that I was fatigued at a dangerous level – to the point where the state of California took my driver’s license. Ironically, while I could no longer drive a car, I was still expected to carry out the meticulous details associated with managing rail yards.

I warned my bosses, but there was little help or response. I made suggestions for improvements, including encouraging the railroad to provide better lineups and opportunities for rest, but I felt unsupported and became concerned for the safety of my crews. Eventually, I left the railroad and began a new career.

My story is not unusual. And when I came to the NTSB as Chief of the Railroad Division, I quickly learned that the NTSB also realized the dangers of fatigue in the railroad business. As a result of our investigations in recent years, we have issued more than 25 recommendations related to managing fatigue—all still open, needing to be addressed.

One accident, in particular, involving a freight train perhaps best highlights the danger the NTSB is attempting to eradicate. In April 2011, an eastbound BNSF Railway (BNSF) coal train traveling about 23 mph, collided with the rear end of a standing BNSF maintenance-of-way equipment train near Red Oak, Iowa. The collision resulted in the derailment of 2 locomotives and 12 cars. The lead locomotive’s modular crew cab was detached, partially crushed, and involved in a subsequent diesel fuel fire. Both crewmembers on the striking train were fatally injured.

We determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the crew of the striking train to comply with the signal indication requiring them to operate in accordance with restricted speed requirements and stop short of the standing train because they had fallen asleep due to fatigue resulting from their irregular work schedules and their medical conditions.

As a result of that accident, we recommended that the railway require all employees and managers who perform or supervise safety-critical tasks to complete fatigue training on an annual basis and document when they have received this training, and that they medically screen employees in safety-sensitive positions for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

Both the conductor and the engineer had worked irregular schedules for several weeks leading up to the accident. During this time, work start times often varied significantly from day-to-day for both crewmembers. Changing work start and end times can make achieving adequate sleep more difficult, because irregular work schedules tend to disrupt a person’s normal circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, which in turn can lead to chronic fatigue.

More recently, we investigated an accident in New York where a Metro North Railroad locomotive engineer was operating a train with undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The train, on its way toward Grand Central Station in New York, New York, had 115 passengers on board. The engineer headed into a curve with a 30 mph speed limit traveling at 82 mph, resulting in a derailment. Sixty-one people were injured, and four passengers died.

The engineer experienced a dramatic work schedule change less than 2 weeks before the accident, with his wake/sleep cycle shifting about 12 hours. Previously, he had complained of fatigue but had not been tested or treated for sleep apnea. After the accident he had a sleep evaluation that identified excessive daytime sleepiness and underwent a sleep study resulting in a diagnosis of severe OSA. Following the study, he was treated successfully for OSA within 30 days of the diagnosis.

The NTSB issued safety recommendation to the Metro-North Railroad to revise its medical protocols for employees in safety-sensitive positions to include specific protocols on sleep disorders, including OSA.

We have issued numerous recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, as well, requiring it to develop medical certification regulations for employees in safety-sensitive positions that include, at a minimum, a complete medical history that includes specific screening for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, a review of current medications, and a thorough physical exam. If such a recommendation had been implemented at the railroad for which I worked, my fatigue most likely would have been caught earlier and mistakes avoided.

(Note: As I was writing this blog, I was heartened to hear that, on March 8, the FRA announced it was seeking public input on the impacts of screening, evaluating and treating rail workers for obstructive sleep apnea.)

And while the railroads and the federal regulators are responsible for addressing this epidemic, so too must railroad workers recognize the dangers of working while fatigued. Yet many are compelled to make money and want to stay ready to react at any hour of the day to avoid missing the opportunity to get paid. To a certain extent, I understand this. And that’s why we must also work with labor unions to address this issue and provide workers the opportunity for sleep, while still allowing them the opportunity to get a paycheck and progress in their careers.

Fatigue in transportation is such a significant concern for the NTSB that it has put “Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents” on its Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements. It is not just an issue in rail, but an issue in all modes of transportation that must be addressed.

As a former railroad worker and now as a supervisor of railroad accident investigators, I can tell you we still have a long way to go to address this issue. Doing so will require the joint efforts of the regulator, the operator, and the employee. These efforts must be undertaken, because we can’t keep running down this dangerous track.

For more information on Sleep Apnea and other sleep disorders, click here.

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SMART TD & TTD, AFL-CIO joint Op-Ed on FRA Ruling - 3/23/2016

SMART TD & TTD, AFL-CIO joint Op-Ed on FRA Ruling

This morning, The Hill published an op-ed article co-written by John Previsich, President of SMART TD, and Ed Wytkind, President of TTD, AFL-CIO, that underscores the importance of the FRA’s recent ruling, and the vital need for a minimum of two crew members on all freight and passenger trains. The article also shows that a majority of Americans, regardless of their political leanings, recognize that in terms of operating a locomotive, two crew members are safer than one – and they are in favor of federal legislation that prohibits one-person crew operations on either freight or passenger trains. In a recent survey, nearly 91 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans said they were in strong support of two-person crew mandates. Read the complete editorial here.

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Union Pacific workers file class action ADA complaint against railroad - 3/23/2016

Union Pacific workers file class action ADA complaint against railroad

On February 19, 2016, six current and former employees of Union Pacific Railroad Company filed a class action lawsuit in the Western District of Washington at Seattle (Case No. CV15-1865JCC), asserting that Union Pacific engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C 12101 et seq.

The case alleges that Union Pacific has forced numerous, long-time employees out of work due to their actual or perceived disabilities, even though they could effectively perform their jobs.

To read the entire story, or for more information, click here.

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SMART UTU Local 306

 

No job is so important, no service is so urgent that we cannot take the time to perform our work safely!

 

With AWTS boards being cut, ask a Local Chairman your questions about work and health/unemployment benefits

 

Your Local Officers are here to protect you - help us all by calling when you need assistance!  Don't settle for the carrier's attitutude toward you - be involved!

 

YOUR Union Meetings are:

Eagle Grove - 2nd Wednesday of each Month; Godfather's Pizza at 8:00 pm

Sioux City - 2nd Tuesday in February, May, August, November; Ramada Inn at 11:00

Mason City - as needed