Local 306

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

NTSB issues urgent safety recommendations - 2/15/2018

NTSB issues urgent safety recommendations

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued three urgent safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), acting upon the agency’s findings in two ongoing railroad accident investigations.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received one urgent safety recommendation based on NTSB findings in the agency’s investigation of the Feb. 4, 2018, collision of an Amtrak train and a CSX train near Cayce, S.C. The conductor and engineer of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision. The NTSB issued two urgent safety recommendations to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) based on findings from its investigation of the June 10, 2017, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) accident in which a roadway worker died near Queens Village, N.Y.

In the investigation of the train collision in Cayce, South Carolina, investigators found that on the day before the accident, CSX personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for the implementation of positive train control (PTC). The lack of signals required dispatchers to use track warrants to move trains through the work territory.

In this accident, and in a similar March 14, 2016, accident in Granger, Wyo., safe movement of the trains, through the signal suspension, depended upon proper switch alignment. That switch alignment relied on error-free manual work, which was not safeguarded by either technology or supervision, creating a single point of failure.

The NTSB concludes additional measures are needed to ensure safe operations during signal suspension and so issued an urgent safety recommendation to the FRA seeking an emergency order directing restricted speed for trains or locomotives passing through signal suspensions when a switch has been reported relined for a main track.

“The installation of the life-saving positive train control technology on the CSX tracks is not the cause of the Cayce, S.C. train collision,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

“While the collision remains under investigation, we know that signal suspensions are an unusual operating condition, used for signal maintenance, repair and installation, that have the potential to increase the risk of train collisions. That risk was not mitigated in the Cayce collision. Our recommendation, if implemented, works to mitigate that increased risk.” said Sumwalt.

During the investigation of the LIRR accident, the NTSB identified an improper practice by LIRR roadway workers who were working on or near the tracks. LIRR employees were using “train approach warning” as their method of on-track safety, but they did not clear the track, as required, when trains approached and their “predetermined place of safety” did not comply with LIRR rules and procedures.

The NTSB is concerned LIRR management is overlooking and therefore normalizing noncompliance with safety rules and regulations for proper clearing of tracks while using “train approach warning” for worker protection. The two urgent safety recommendations to the MTA call for MTA to audit LIRR’s use of “train approach warning” for worker protection, and, to implement corrective action for deficiencies found through the audit.

The full safety recommendation reports for these urgent safety recommendations are available online at https://goo.gl/z87Dpz and https://goo.gl/LVVef3.

NTSB finds nearly identical cause of two commuter rail accidents - 2/6/2018

NTSB finds nearly identical cause of two commuter rail accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that two commuter railroad terminal accidents in the New York area were caused by engineer fatigue resulting from undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.

The Sept. 29, 2016, accident on the New Jersey Transit railroad at Hoboken, New Jersey, killed one person, injured 110, and resulted in major damage to the station. The Jan. 4, 2017, accident on the Long Island Rail Road at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, injured 108 people. Both accidents involved trains that struck end-of-track bumping posts and crashed into stations.

The NTSB found the two accidents had “almost identical” probable causes and safety issues. The board also determined that these safety issues were not unique to these two properties, but exist throughout the country at many intercity passenger and commuter passenger train terminals.

When operating a train into a terminating track, the engineer’s actions, or lack thereof, solely determine whether the train stops before the end of the track. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there are currently no mechanisms installed in the U.S. that will automatically stop a train at the end of the track if the engineer is incapacitated, inattentive or disengaged. Some railroads have overspeed capabilities, including New Jersey Transit and the LIRR. However, as shown in these two accidents, once the engineer slowed the train to the prescribed speed, the system did not stop the trains before they reached the end of the track.

In addition to recommending safety-sensitive personnel be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, the board recommended the use of technology, such as positive train control (PTC), in terminal stations and improving the effectiveness of system safety program plans to improve terminal operations. The NTSB made two recommendations to New Jersey Transit, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the parent company of the Long Island Rail Road) and two to the FRA.

“Today’s new recommendations, if acted upon, have the potential to eliminate end-of-track collisions,’’ Sumwalt said. “That translates to protection for passengers on trains, and for people standing on terminal platforms.”

The complete accident report will be available in several weeks. The findings, probable cause, safety recommendations, Chairman Sumwalt’s prepared remarks and PowerPoint presentations used in a board meeting are all available at https://go.usa.gov/xnscj.

The New Jersey Transit Hoboken accident docket, containing more than 1,100 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGJ.

The Long Island Rail Road Brooklyn accident docket, containing more than 1,400 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGe.

SMART TD announces two-person crew bill has been introduced in U.S. Senate - 2/1/2018

SMART TD announces two-person crew bill has been introduced in U.S. Senate

Published: January 31, 2018

Washington, D.C. (January 31, 2018) – SMART Transportation Division announced today the introduction of the Safe Freight Act (S.2360) by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), which would require two crew members — one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor — on our nation’s freight trains.

S.2360 is a companion bill to H.R. 233, introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska). As of its introduction, the Safe Freight Act has five cosponsors in the Senate. H.R. 233 has 74 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

For several years, SMART Transportation Division has asserted that a minimum two-person train crew is a vital component of rail safety and sound public policy. In 2013, Transport Canada established a government mandate requiring two-person crews in response to the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster when a freight train carrying 72 tank cars of crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people after its single crew member left the train unattended. The United States has yet to follow suit with a federally promulgated rule or law, and only five states have implemented a two-person train crew requirement.

“We are very pleased that Sen. Heitkamp has introduced this vital rail safety legislation, said John Previsich, President of the SMART Transportation Division. “For the same reasons that we have a pilot and copilot on commercial jetliners, two qualified crewmembers are essential to the safe operation of trains through our nation’s communities. Bottom line economics should never be permitted to stand in the way of employee and public safety. The only safe way to operate a train is with two crewmembers on board the locomotive.”

Heitkamp has long supported requiring two-person train crews and is a key advocate for rail safety. On July 15, 2016, Heitkamp testified in favor of the pending two-person crew federal rule before the Federal Railroad Administration. The derailment of a crude oil train near Casselton, N.D., had led Heitkamp to launch an initiative to address emerging challenges in the wake of the state’s energy boom.

“When a disaster like the Casselton derailment sends shockwaves through our communities, we must do everything we can to prevent accidents and improve our ability to respond in the future,” Heitkamp said. “After the Casselton derailment, it was clear that having two crewmembers on board the train made all the difference to prevent the fire from escalating and threatening those living nearby. My legislation is a commonsense way to make our communities strong and safe while supporting an industry that is vital to North Dakota jobs and prosperity.”

S.2360 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for further consideration.

Joining Heitkamp as cosponsors are U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Increases in RRB annuity payouts, earning limits go into effect - 1/1/2018

Increases in RRB annuity payouts, earning limits go into effect

Most railroad retirement annuities, like Social Security benefits, were scheduled to increase Jan. 1 on the basis of the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the third quarter of 2016 to the corresponding period of 2017.

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) reports that Tier I benefits, like Social Security benefits, will increase by 2 percent, which is the percentage of the CPI rise. Tier II benefits will go up by 0.7 percent. Vested dual benefit payments and supplemental annuities also paid by RRB are not adjusted for the CPI change.

In January 2018, the average regular railroad retirement employee annuity will increase $42 a month to $2,711 and the average of combined benefits for an employee and spouse will increase $60 a month to $3,937. For those retirement-aged widow(er)s eligible for an increase, the average annuity will increase $24 a month to $1,353. However, widow(er)s whose annuities are being paid under the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001 will not receive annual cost-of-living adjustments until their annuity amount is exceeded by the amount that would have been paid under prior law, counting all interim cost-of-living increases otherwise payable. Some 50 percent of the widow(er)s on the RRB’s rolls are being paid under the 2001 law.

The cost-of-living increase is the largest since 2012, and follows a Tier I increase of 0.3 percent in January 2017.

The RRB was mailing notices in December to all annuitants providing a breakdown of the annuity rates payable to them in January 2018.

Earning limit increases

The RRB also announced that railroad retirement annuitants subject to earnings restrictions can earn more in 2018 without having their benefits reduced as a result of increases in earnings limits indexed to average national wage increases.

For those under full retirement age throughout 2018, the exempt earnings amount rises to $17,040 from $16,920 in 2017. For beneficiaries attaining full retirement age in 2018, the exempt earnings amount for the months before the month full retirement age is attained increases to $45,360 in 2018 from $44,880 in 2017.

For those under full retirement age, the earnings deduction is $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings over the exempt amount. For those attaining full retirement age in 2018, the deduction is $1 for every $3 of earnings over the exempt amount in the months before the month full retirement age is attained.

For employee and spouse annuitants, full retirement age ranges from age 65 for those born before 1938 to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. For survivor annuitants, full retirement age ranges from age 65 for those born before 1940 to age 67 for those born in 1962 or later.

When applicable, earnings deductions are assessed on the Tier I and vested dual benefit portions of railroad retirement employee and spouse annuities, and the Tier I, Tier II, and vested dual benefit portions of survivor benefits.

All earnings received for services rendered, plus any net earnings from self-employment, are considered when assessing deductions for earnings. Interest, dividends, certain rental income, or income from stocks, bonds, or other investments are not considered earnings.

Retired employees and spouses, regardless of age, who work for their last pre-retirement non-railroad employer are also subject to an additional earnings deduction in their Tier II and supplemental benefits of $1 for every $2 in earnings up to a maximum reduction of 50 percent. This earnings restriction does not change from year to year and does not allow for an exempt amount.

A spouse benefit is subject to reduction not only for the spouse’s earnings, but also for the earnings of the employee, regardless of whether the earnings are from service for the last pre-retirement non-railroad employer or other post-retirement employment.

Special work restrictions continue to be applicable to disability annuitants in 2018. The monthly disability earnings limit increases to $920 in 2018 from $910 in 2017.

Regardless of age and/or earnings, no railroad retirement annuity is payable for any month in which an annuitant (retired employee, spouse or survivor) works for a railroad employer or railroad union.

More information about RRB benefits is available at the agency’s website at www.rrb.gov or by contacting the RRB toll free at 1-877-772-5772.

SMART TD members ratify National Rail Agreement - 12/1/2017

SMART TD members ratify National Rail Agreement

By a margin of nearly four to one, SMART Transportation Division members have voted to APPROVE the new National Rail Contract. The voting was conducted by BallotPoint Election Services, who certified the following results for each craft eligible to vote:

Conductors 79.89% 20.11%
Brakemen 78.98% 21.02%
Engine Service 76.58% 23.42%
Yardmen 79.97% 20.03%
Yardmaster 86.68% 13.32%
Combined 79.57% 20.43%

The approved contract will have an effective date of December 1, 2017, with implementation of new pay rates and employee healthcare cost-sharing modifications planned for January 1, 2018. Employees’ monthly healthcare contributions will remain frozen at $228.89 for the life of the contract.

The term of the agreement is for five years, from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2019. In addition to a 3% increase previously negotiated and already implemented on January 1, 2015, the contract provides for full retroactive pay of 2% from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, and 4% from July 1, 2017, until implementation of the new rates. Thereafter, affected members will receive a boost in wage rates of 2.5% on July 1, 2018, and 3% on July 1, 2019.

The ratified contract will cover over 35,000 SMART TD members employed by BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern, Union Pacific and numerous smaller carriers, all of whom were represented in this round of bargaining by the rail industry’s National Carriers’ Conference Committee.

The SMART TD negotiating team was led by President John Previsich, who was assisted in the negotiations by Vice Presidents David Wier, John Lesniewski, Troy Johnson, John England, Doyle Turner and Jeremy Ferguson, along with General Chairpersons Danny Young (BNSF), Mark Cook (NS), Brent Leonard (UP) and Steve Mavity (CSX), all four of whom are nationally elected TD officers in addition to serving as General Chairpersons.

For this round of bargaining, SMART TD joined forces with five other unions to form the Coordinated Bargaining Group. The other unions in the CBG are the American Train Dispatchers Association; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers and the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers/SEIU.

President Previsich commented: “I believe that our negotiating team, along with the teams from the other unions in the CBG, are to be commended for staying the course during a long and tedious round of negotiations. The easy thing for them to do when the going got tough was to declare defeat and walk away from the negotiating table, as others have done, but our team never wavered. By rejecting the carriers’ unreasonable demands while staying at the table and continuing to negotiate, the team was successful in obtaining an agreement that achieved an approval rate of 79.57%.”


SMART-TD Local 306


Your Local Officers are here to protect you - help us all by calling when assistance is needed!  Don't settle for the carrier's attitutude - be involved!  A time claim is used to correct a violation of your contract - take the time to enter them and turn them in!


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


YOUR Union Meetings are:

Eagle Grove - Official Local Monthly Meeting - 2nd Wednesday of each Month; Godfather's Pizza at 18:30

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

Mason City - as needed