VIRGINIA - LO 051

Legislative Update - 4/19/2016

To:          All Concerned

From:    John Risch and Greg Hynes

Subject: Legislative Update 4/19

Today the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) passed $56.5 billion legislation to fund its programs for FY 2017. The bill includes several positive allocations for rail:

  • $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration –  $76 million above FY 2016 enacted level

  • $525 million for TIGER Grants – $25 million above FY 2016 enacted level

  • $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts) -- $161 million above FY 2016 enacted level

  • Amtrak: $345 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.075 billion for the National Network – total $30 million above FY 2016 enacted levels

  • New passenger rail grant programs created under FAST Act: $50 million for Consolidation Rail and Infrastructure and Improvement grants; $20 million for State of Good Repair grants; and $15 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants

The Senate also passed legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The legislation would authorize the appropriation of $155 million from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund for the Essential Air Service (EAS) for each of the FYs 2016 and 2017.

Both pieces of legislation face more hurdles before they become law, but we are pleased that they include positive developments for our rail and air members.

 

 

John Risch

National Legislative Director

SMART Transportation Division

304 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-543-7714 office

202-544-3024 fax

jrisch@smart-union.org 

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Comment on the FRA's Crew Size Rule - 4/19/2016

Dear Carl:

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 crew members. 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 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

Comment:
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!

 

 

In Solidarity,

John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division


 

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How is your U.S. Representative voting? - 4/14/2016

 

 

 

Dear Allan:

The primary way we determine if a Member of Congress receives the SMART Transportation Division’s endorsement is to examine how they vote on our issues. Another important factor is whether they are a member of the majority party; the current political reality is that nothing gets passed without the support of Republicans in Congress. Unfortunately, labor is often under serious attack by some very anti-union Republicans, so it is critical that we support labor-friendly Republicans who work to defeat anti-union proposals.
 
With the Legislative Action Center (LAC), we can now easily track legislation and provide a
legislative score to determine how your member of Congress is representing you on key votes -- scoring goes back to the year 2011. To find the current score of your Representative (Senators not scored yet), 
click on this link, then on your Member of Congress. The score is on a scale of 1-100 and can be found below the Representative’s picture. More information on the specific votes scored, and how your Representative voted, can be found further down the page. More information on the specific votes scored, and how your Representative voted, can be found further down the page.
 
Not all scores are equal; keep in mind that a Republican with a score in the 60s, 50s, 40s or even 30s was with us on some key issues, and may have been instrumental in defeating bad legislation. We appreciate the efforts of our Republican friends who often buck their party leadership. Also take into consideration that not all votes (or in this case, co-sponsorship of H.R. 1763) are equal, and that we sometimes weigh the votes of key legislation. For the year 2015, co-sponsorship of H.R. 1763 is worth the weight of two votes.
 
We are continuing to refine the LAC for the upcoming election, and
I would appreciate any feedback you may have. Let me know if you think the scoring makes sense, or not, or if some votes should be scored, or not scored, or anything else that SMART TD should consider when making our recommendations for 2016.

 

In Solidarity,

John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division

>>>
Buy-outs and Railroad Retirement Benefits - 4/8/2016

OFFICE OF THE LABOR MEMBER

U.S. RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD

 

The following is the questions and answers release for this month in text format.

 

If you have Internet access, you may click on or type the address shown below to view this release online.

 

http://www.rrb.gov/opa/qa_index.asp

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RRB Field Offices - 4/7/2016

 

On behalf of Walt Barrows, this is to advise you that starting in June 2016, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) field offices around the country will be closed to the public on Wednesday afternoons (starting at 12:00 pm). However, they will remain open for their usual hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the remaining weekdays.

The change is being implemented after much consideration and is necessary due to reduced staffing levels coupled with increased workloads in several key areas.  After reviewing several options, including all-day closure of field offices one day per week, we decided upon half-day closure on Wednesdays as a way to address workload issues with the least disruption to the public. 

On Wednesdays, staff in our nationwide network of 53 field offices will focus on processing applications for benefits, conducting necessary verifications for pending applications or claims, resolving complex cases, and reducing backlogged workload categories.  It will also help expand staff access to training that is needed to maximize consistency and productivity among all offices.

During this time, the claims representatives in those offices will not conduct routine face-to-face interviews or meetings, nor will they answer the phone. However, persons who call on Wednesday afternoons will have the opportunity to leave a voicemail message, which will be returned as soon as possible.

I should point out that the agency has lost 17 employees in the field since October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. Most of the departures have been retirements, as the RRB, like most other Federal agencies, has a significant number of long-term employees eligible for retirement. Almost half of our workforce will be eligible to retire within the next 5 years, and while we have been filling vacancies in the field, these positions have a longer break-in and training period before reaching full productivity, due to the complexity and variety of work they must perform.

In terms of workloads, the number of inquiries received by the field regarding unemployment and sickness benefits during the first four months of the fiscal year was almost equal to the number taken during the entire previous year. And telephone calls to field offices were up by 61,000 during that same period.

This is a significant change and I wanted to alert you so that you and your membership can be informed.  A formal press release that can be used on your websites and in your publications will follow.  Thank you for your understanding and support in this matter.  We will continue to monitor staffing levels and workloads, and make any adjustments to public hours should circumstances improve. 

Sincerely,

Michele Neuendorf

Office of the Labor Member

US Railroad Retirement Board

844 N. Rush Street

Chicago, IL 60625

312-751-4973

312-515-8375 cell

Michele.Neuendorf@rrb.gov

>>>
Under Pressure - 4/6/2016

ALLAN F,

More and more Republicans are starting to cave into pressure from working people like you to do their job and hold a hearing and vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

But we need to keep the pressure up because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republican leaders are hoping they can ride out the coming weeks into the summer recess and avoid doing their constitutional duty.

Click here now or dial 1-844-899-9913 to join a national call-in push today to demand Republican senators do their job and move quickly to hold hearings and a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

The pressure we’re putting on Republican senators is working. Late last month, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said he supports holding a hearing on Garland’s nomination. Moran isn’t the only Republican to break ranks with McConnell and Republicans leaders.

Sixteen Republican senators now say they’d be willing to meet with Garland, and a few others have called for hearings.

But time is running out to get Republican senators to do their job. We need to demand they take action before the summer recess happens and elections are in full swing.

Call now to tell Republican senators to do their job and hold hearings and a vote to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

In Solidarity,

Doris
-------------
Doris Crouse-Mays
President, Virginia AFL-CIO

Sent via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address or to stop receiving emails from Virginia AFL-CIO, please click here.

>>>
Our Spring 2016 Newsletter is now online! - 4/4/2016

Virginians for High Speed Rail
About | Donate | Members

Dear Allan:

Click the graphic or here to view our Spring 2016 Newsletter. There is a lot of great things happening in Virginia!

Regards,

Virginians for High Speed Rail

-Here is a link to our Mobile Version.

Virginians for High Speed Rail
5101 Monument Ave.
Richmond, Virginia 23230

You are subscribed to this organization's email list as wa3j@arrl.net. If you did not subscribe, or would no longer like to receive email updates, unsubscribe here.

>>>
Ted Cruz Calls For National Law To Cripple Unions | ThinkProgress - 4/3/2016
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Two-Person Crew Poll - 3/15/2016

To:       All Concerned

 

From:   John Risch and Greg Hynes

 

 

Progressive Railroading is conducting an online survey on whether two-person crews are necessary. 

 

Please click on the link below, go to the bottom of their home page and just click yes. 

 

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/

 

 

John Risch

National Legislative Director

SMART Transportation Division

304 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-543-7714 office

202-544-3024 fax

jrisch@smart-union.org 

 

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DC2RVA Rail Mail: Third Edition - 3/10/2016

Staying on Track

DC2RVA Rail Mail: Third Edition

Thanks for taking a moment to read DC2RVA Rail Mail. This quarterly e-newsletter covers important project updates about the Washington, D.C. to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail Project. 

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are working to improve intercity passenger rail service in Virginia to offer a viable, efficient transportation choice that is competitive with air and auto travel. As part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, DRPT is engaging the community to help complete a rigorous environmental analysis and preliminary engineering effort that reflects the region's vision for the Washington, D.C. to Richmond segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) corridor.

If you received this newsletter as a forward and would like to receive your own copy, please 
Join the Email List.  

 

En Español? Si necesita servicios de traducción para participar, por favor envíe un email a: espanol@DC2RVArail.com.  También puede llamar a la línea directa del proyecto para dejar comentarios: 888-832-0900. 

Stories from the Rail 

DRPT would like to thank all of those who participated in our "Share Your Story" Amtrak contest. Your stories helped confirm a lot of what we already knew – the public enjoys traveling by rail, but there are a lot of improvements to frequency and reliability that could be made to enhance the experience.

 

Read More

Meetings Summary – Public Review of Alternatives Meetings

The third round of public information meetings was held December 2015 in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Springfield to present the most feasible improvement alternatives for faster, more reliable intercity passenger rail service. The in-person and online meetings allowed DRPT to engage with more than 1,800 people.

 

Read More

Richmond Rails – A mini-documentary of Richmond's rail network

Richmond's complicated rail network is a byproduct of the historic railroads that were built there and the city's challenging topography. To better understand the complex issues in Richmond and to develop viable solutions, it's imperative to understand this history. We asked community leaders, project representatives, and historians to help us tell that story. 

 

Read More

DC2RVA Spotlight – Pete Burrus

Meet Pete Burrus, DRPT's new chief of rail transportation. While he may be new to DRPT, he is hardly new to the rail industry.

 

Read the Full Interview

Project Purpose and Need Statement Finalized

FRA and DRPT have finalized the DC2RVA Purpose and Need Statement. This document describes transportation issues in the region and identifies the passenger rail needs in the corridor. The Purpose and Need Statement provides the public with a better understanding of the basic transportation problems DRPT and FRA will be  addressing with the DC2RVA project. 

Read the Purpose and Need Statement

Comments or Questions? Contact Us.

Your input is vital throughout the project. Although we will be asking for specific comments within particular phases of the project, there are always opportunities to provide input. If you have a comment or a question, please use our electronic Comment Form.

Stay on Track

Visit our website at: DC2RVArail.com

Facebook: DC2RVArail

Twitter: @DC2RVArail

Call us toll-free at: 888-832-0900 or TDD 711

DRPT is committed to ensuring that no person is excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of its services on the basis of race, color or national origin, as protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For additional information on DRPT's nondiscrimination policies and procedures or to file a complaint, please contact the Title VI Compliance Officer, Linda Balderson, (804) 786-4440, 600 E. Main Street, Suite 2102, Richmond, VA 23219.

 

 

Washington, D.C. to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail Team
801 East Main Street Suite 1000
Richmond, VA 23219

Opt Out

>>>
NS Inward facing cameras 06/15/15 Implementation - 3/9/2016

 

FYI, see below and attached for the Norfolk Southern’s camera placements and policy.

 

 

 

 

To:     All T&E Employees

To:     Mechanical employees who may move engines in connection with their duties

 

Subject: Locomotive Inward Facing Camera Installation

 

Following recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Norfolk Southern, like other major railroads have already done, will begin installing inward facing cameras (IFCs) on locomotives in June 2015 to enhance the safety and security of our employees, our operations, and the public.  Equipping the locomotive fleet will be a multi-year process.  Norfolk Southern’s policy regarding the installation and use of the inward facing cameras and their data is outlined below:

 

·        The IFC will be located on the back wall of the locomotive cab behind the engineer when operating short hood lead, will be clearly visible to all employees and will have a wide-angle view of the operating cab;

·        Due to the IFC’s location, the restroom is not visible;

·        IFCs, similar to RailView, will record when the locomotive is moving and will cease recording four minutes after the locomotive stops;

·        A flashing green light will be clearly visible on the RailView interface display when the IFC and RailView cameras are recording;

·        IFCs will record only video and no audio;

·        IFC data retrieval and review will only take place following a serious incident/accident or following a triggering event such as, but not limited to, an emergency brake application;

·        As with RailView, the Norfolk Southern Law/Casualty Claims Department (and the Transportation Data Center at the direction of Law/Casualty Claims) will be the custodians of the data and will share the data with other departments for incident investigation consistent with this policy;

·        IFCs are designed to enhance the safety of operations.  Any tampering or vandalism of the cameras will not be tolerated;

·        NS will continue to utilize foreign locomotives received in interchange which may be equipped with IFCs.  The functionality and NS’ use of the IFC data from foreign locomotives remains as outlined in Operations Bulletin dated July 18, 2014.

 

In the event the functionality of the cameras change or intended use of the data changes through policy, regulation or law, we will notify you accordingly.  Thank you in advance for your support of this critical safety initiative.

 

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NTSB report released on Lynchburg Oil Train Derailment - 3/2/2016

 

 

Accident Report Detail

 
Railroad Accident Brief: CSXT Petroleum Crude Oil Train Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release 

Executive Summary

?On April 30, 2014, at 1:54 p.m. eastern daylight time, 17 CSX Transportation (CSXT) tank cars on petroleum crude oil unit train K08227 derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia. Three of the derailed cars were partially submerged in the James River. One was breached and released about 29,868 gallons of crude oil into the river, some of which caught fire. (See figure 1.) No injuries to the public or crew were reported. At the time of the accident, it was cloudy and raining lightly; the temperature was 53°F.The CSXT estimated the damages at$1.2million, not including environmental remediation.

 

Figure 1. Accident scene.

 


Probable Cause

?The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was a broken rail caused by a reverse detail fracture with evidence of rolling contact fatigue.

For more details about this accident, visit www.ntsb.gov/investigations/dms.html and search for NTSB accident ID DCA14FR001.


Accident Location: Lynchburg , VA USA  
Accident Date: 4/30/2014
Accident ID: DCA14FR008

Date Adopted: 3/2/2016
NTSB Number: RAB1601
NTIS Number:  

Related Report

Related Recommendations

Related Events

Related Investigations


 

 

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Railroad Retirement annuities not taxable by state - 2/11/2016

 

Railroad Retirement annuities not taxable by state

February 11, 2016
RRB_seal_150px
According to Section 14 (45 U.S.C. Section 231m) of the Railroad Retirement Act retirement annuities are not taxable for individual state income tax purposes.
 
Bruce Rodman, of the Public Affairs/Office of Administration of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board says, “Both of our primary enabling statutes – the Railroad Retirement Act and the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act –
specifically exempt the benefits paid under them from state income taxes. However, if a person doesn’t know this – and sometimes this might stem from people using free tax-prep software or obtaining volunteer assistance in filing their returns – and declares it as taxable income, the state tax collection agencies probably won’t know any better.”
 
The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) also states on the
FAQ section (see #18) of their website that railroad retirement, unemployment and sickness benefits paid by the RRB are not subject to state income tax. However, these benefits are taxable on the federal level.
 
Many tax preparers and even states are not aware of these statutes and may attempt to tax your annuities. It is up to us to make sure that our annuities are not taxed by the states in which we live.
 

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2016 Presidential Election Endorsement - 1/20/2016

In December, we conducted a member survey about the upcoming 2016 election. The survey was focused on issues, not candidates, to ensure that member feedback informs our union’s electoral efforts in every race, at each level, both in 2016 and beyond.

Members overwhelmingly responded that jobs and the state of the economy are the most important issues affecting them. On qualifications, members widely indicated that we want leaders to possess the competency, broad experience, and serious approach needed to tackle the domestic and international challenges facing America and our working families.

Those preferences, combined with the survey’s numerical results, led the SMART General Executive Council to endorse Secretary Hillary Clinton for President in the upcoming 2016 election.

Clinton stood out to members based on her strong leadership, experience, competency and support for working families. She offers a detailed and thorough plan to build on our apprenticeship programs, which build demand for union labor.

She also looks to improve freight safety, expand rail transportation and transit. At the same time she will boost spending on construction and address environmental concerns by investing in energy efficiency and the HVAC industry. All of these involve the way we earn a living every day.

I want to add that the survey showed a solid response for Senator Bernie Sanders. He has a lifetime of unwavering support for working families and the issues we all care about, and he has brought them to the forefront in this campaign season. For all of that we all owe him our gratitude.

With the endorsement process complete, we now look to mobilize across the nation to help ensure Hillary Clinton is elected to serve as the next President of the United States so that pro-labor and fair-minded candidates are elected to office that put working families and our union issues at the top of the nation’s agenda. 

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January Conferance Call Minutes - 1/13/2016

From: Jenny Miller
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2016 12:10 PM
To: Jenny Miller
Subject: Minutes - January 7, 2016 Conference Call

 

January 13, 2016

 

To:       State Directors

 

From:   John Risch and Greg Hynes

 

Inward facing cameras

With passage of the FAST ACT, retaliation with inward-facing cameras only applies to passenger trains.

 

H.R. 1763 Update

There are now 52 cosponsors – 46D and 6R.  Now that Congress is back in session, it’s time to get back to work on getting more cosponsors.

 

Federal crew size rule

The Federal crew size rule should come out within a month.  While we are waiting, please continue to work on the state level to enact state two person crew legislation. 

 

State Legislative Director Meeting

As stated in the Constitution, the ASLD needs to convene a meeting every four years.  We are working with SLD Trujillo to decide on a date. 

 

State Reorganization Meetings

As a reminder, all state legislative boards need to have their reorganization meetings this year between January 1 and May 31st.  Please let us know when your meeting is and if you would like to invite either John or Greg.  All boards need to hold in-person meetings. 

 

Endorsements

A memo will be going out soon about the 2016 endorsements.  Please prepare to make your recommendations.

 

Yellow Boards

FYI, CP is no longer using yellow boards. This is a serious problem and this office has sent a petition to the FRA requesting a rulemaking that mandates uniform warning speed signs in advance of a permanent speed restriction.

 

Railroad Retirement

A petition is going around stating that President Obama is going to take away Railroad Retirement. This is not true – the President is not going to take away Railroad Retirement.

 

New SLDs

Welcome to our new State Legislative Directors:  Gerald Sale (AR), Jimmy Mallon (DE) and Jason Hayden (MO).

 

 

The next call will be February 1, 4PM EST

 

John Risch

National Legislative Director

SMART Transportation Division

304 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Washington, DC 20003

202-543-7714 office

202-544-3024 fax

jrisch@smart-union.org 

 

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Longevity of Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries - 12/9/2015

Longevity of Railroad Retirement Beneficiaries

 

Every three years, the Railroad Retirement Board’s Chief Actuary conducts a study of the longevity of its annuitants, as part of a valuation of future revenues and benefit payments. The following questions and answers summarize the results of the most recent longevity study.

1.     What were the study’s findings on the life expectancy of retired male railroaders?

The most recent data reflected a continued improvement in longevity. Using data through 2012, the study indicated that, on the average, a male railroader retiring at age 60 can be expected to live another 22.4 years, or approximately 269 months. Studies done three, six and nine years ago indicated life expectancies of 21.9, 21.3 and 20.7 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary. The study also indicated that a male railroader retiring at age 62 can be expected to live another 20.7 years (248 months), while the previous three studies indicated life expectancies of 20.1, 19.6, and 19 years, respectively. A male railroader retiring at age 65 can be expected to live another 18.2 years (approximately 218 months). The previous studies indicated life expectancies of 17.7, 17.1, and 16.6 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary.

2.     How did these life expectancy figures compare to those of disabled annuitants?

As would be expected, disabled annuitants have a shorter average life expectancy than those who retire based on age. At age 60, a disabled railroader has an average life expectancy of 17.7 years, or 4.7 years less than a nondisabled male annuitant of the same age. Studies done three, six and nine years ago indicated life expectancies of 17.2, 16.4 and 15.8 years, respectively, for this category of beneficiary. Nonetheless, the difference in life expectancy at age 60 between disabled annuitants and annuitants who retire based on age has remained relatively stable, ranging between 4.7 and 5 years. 

3.     Are women still living longer than men?

In general, women still live longer than men. This is shown both in the Railroad Retirement Board’s life expectancy studies of male and female annuitants and by other studies of the general United States population.

For example, at age 60 a retired female railroader is expected on the average to live 25.6 years, 3.2 years longer than a retired male railroader of the same age; and at age 65, a retired female railroader is expected on the average to live 21.1 years, 2.9 years longer than her male counterpart. Spouses and widows age 65 have average life expectancies of 21.2 years and 19 years, respectively.

4.     Can individuals use life expectancy figures to predict how long they will live?

Life expectancy figures are averages for large groups of people. Any particular individual’s lifetime may be much longer or shorter than the life expectancy of his or her age and group.

According to the study, from a group of 1,000 retired male employees at age 65, 930 will live at least 5 years, 820 at least 10 years, 655 at least 15 years, and 445 at least 20 years. Of female age annuitants at age 65, 590 will be alive 20 years later.

5.     Where can I access the Railroad Retirement Board’s longevity study?

The entire longevity study is available on the agency’s website at www.rrb.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

# # #

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CP rail chief sees 'huge cash flow' from selling Norfolk land - 11/24/2015

 

Frederic Tomesco and BloombergBloomberg

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. expects to generate substantial proceeds by selling surplus land owned by Norfolk Southern Corp. if its proposed $28 billion takeover of the U.S. railroad goes ahead.

"I think we'll be able, like we did at CP, to take some of their yards that are probably not needed in my view, and convert them to maybe real estate and generate huge cash flow -- huge -- without having a negative impact on the railroad," Canadian Pacific Chief Executive Officer Hunter Harrison said in an interview at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York. "It's gravy. It could be a lot. That's why I'm excited."

Any proceeds from divesting real estate would come on top of an estimated $1.8 billion in operational savings contained in Canadian Pacific's merger proposal, said Harrison, who declined to give a specific revenue target.

Norfolk Southern has been cool to Canadian Pacific's bid, branding the offer "unsolicited, low-premium, non-binding and highly conditional" after it was disclosed Nov. 17. Harrison has indicated he is willing to sweeten the cash-and-stock deal in his campaign to create a transcontinental railroad.

Frank Brown, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, declined to comment Monday.

Harrison, 71, is seeking to replicate a strategy he put in place at Calgary-based Canadian Pacific after becoming CEO in 2012. He closed unneeded rail yards and intermodal terminals, and unveiled plans last year to develop or sell about C$1 billion ($748 million) of real estate. Canadian Pacific later formed a venture to market the assets with Dream Unlimited Corp.

Norfolk Southern operates about 20,000 route miles (32,000 kilometers) of track snaking through 22 eastern states, and serves each of the region's major container ports. Its connections with western railroads include Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri -- two cities served by Canadian Pacific.

"They probably have got the best mile-for-mile physical plant in the U.S., but I think they've got too much of it," Harrison said on Friday. "They've historically been driven and led by civil engineers -- wonderful civil engineers, that knew how to build great stuff. They have a franchise that's strategically located in the U.S. It covers the right gateways, it fits with us."

Since joining Canadian Pacific, Harrison has led a turnaround that transformed one of the North American industry's least-efficient operators into one of its leanest carriers. While Norfolk Southern now bumps along at the bottom of the major carriers as measured by operating ratio, a benchmark gauge that compares revenue to expenses, Harrison said he's convinced the situation can be fixed.

"We see no reason why we can't do there what we've done at CP," he said. "It may be even easier. They have a better infrastructure than we do. They have always been well respected for having a wonderful physical plant. Some of us have teased them about being gold-plated."

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune
>>>
Medicare Part B Premiums for 2016 - 11/18/2015

 

 

Shown below is Press Release No. 15-10 entitled “Medicare Part B Premiums for 2016.”  This release, along with its accompanying tables, can also be viewed online by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Medicare Part B Premiums for 2016

 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has announced that the standard monthly Part B premium will be $121.80 in 2016. However, most Medicare beneficiaries will not see an increase in their monthly Part B premiums because of a “hold harmless” provision in the law. Under that provision, Part B premiums cannot increase for current enrollees if there is no cost-of-living increase in social security benefits.

As a result, those individuals will continue to pay a monthly premium of $104.90, the same amount as in 2015. About 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will not see their Part B premiums increase due to this provision. However, the higher premium amount will apply to new enrollees in the program, and certain beneficiaries will continue to pay higher premiums based on their modified adjusted gross income.

The monthly premiums that include income-related adjustments for 2016 will be $170.50, $243.60, $316.70, or $389.80, depending on the extent to which an individual beneficiary’s modified adjusted gross income exceeds $85,000 (or $170,000 for a married couple). The highest rate applies to beneficiaries whose incomes exceed $214,000 (or $428,000 for a married couple). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that less than 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries pay the larger income-adjusted premiums.

Beneficiaries in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plans pay premiums that vary from plan to plan. Beginning in 2011, the Affordable Care Act required Part D beneficiaries whose modified adjusted gross income exceeds the same income thresholds that apply to Part B premiums to also pay a monthly adjustment amount. In 2016, the adjustment amount ranges from $12.70 to $72.90.

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) withholds Part B premiums from benefit payments it processes. The agency can also withhold Part C and D premiums from benefit payments if an individual submits a request to his or her Part C or D insurance plan.

The following tables (click here) show the income-related Part B premium adjustments for 2016. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for all income-related monthly adjustment amount determinations.  To make the determinations, SSA uses the most recent tax return information available from the Internal Revenue Service. For 2016, that will usually be the beneficiary’s 2014 tax return information. If that information is not available, SSA will use information from the 2013 tax return.

Those railroad retirement and social security Medicare beneficiaries affected by the 2016 Part B and D income-related premiums will receive a notice from SSA by December 2015.  The notice will include an explanation of the circumstances where a beneficiary may request a new determination.  Persons who have questions or would like to request a new determination should contact SSA after receiving their notice.

Additional information about Medicare coverage, including specific benefits and deductibles, can be found at www.medicare.gov.

#  #  #

>>>
Railroad Retirement Board's 26th Actuarial Valuation of the Railroad Retirement System - 11/3/2015

 

OFFICE OF THE LABOR MEMBER

U.S. RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD

 

On behalf of Labor Member of the Board Walter A. Barrows, we are providing the following link of the Railroad Retirement Board’s 26th Actuarial Valuation of the railroad retirement system.  This reflects the favorable financial condition of the Railroad Retirement System.

 

The RRB is required by law to submit a triennial actuarial valuation to Congress on the financial condition of the railroad retirement system.  The 26th actuarial valuation incorporates the reports required by Section 22 of the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974 and Section 502 of the Railroad Retirement Solvency Act of 1983, Public Law 98-76.

 

The 26th valuation was prepared by the Board’s Chief Actuary and his report describes the results of three valuations, each valuation differing from the others as to the employment assumption on which it is based.  Cash flow problems occur only under the most pessimistic employment assumption.  Even under that assumption, cash flow problems do not occur until the year 2047.

 

If you have any questions about this report, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

If you have Internet access, you may click on or type the address shown below to view this online.

 

 http://www.rrb.gov/pdf/act/valuation.pdf

 

NOTE:  If in printing the online version and you are not able to capture all of its content, you may need to adjust the margin settings on your browser.

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Disability Annuities for Railroad Employees - 10/9/2015

 

OFFICE OF THE LABOR MEMBER

U.S. RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD

 

The following is the questions and answers release for this month in text format.

 

If you have Internet access, you may click on or type the address shown below to view this release online.

 

http://www.rrb.gov/opa/qa_index.asp

 

NOTE:  If in printing the online version of the questions and answers you are not able to capture all of its content, you may need to adjust the margin settings on your browser.

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SMART TD applauds DOT's tank car final rule - 5/4/2015

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On Friday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its final rule for rail shipments of crude oil. The final rule includes many positives, including a requirement that most high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) are equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP). Please see our press release below to learn more about the important safety enhancements included in the rule. If you would like to read even more about the rule, follow this 
link to the DOT's press release.

SMART TD applauds DOT’s tank car final rule


May 1, 2015


Washington, D.C. –
 Earlier today, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its final rule for rail shipments of flammable liquids. The rule calls for enhanced safety standards for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFT), including stricter tank car construction standards, the phasing out of older tank car models, the use of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP), and will make permanent previously announced speed restrictions.
 
John Risch, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director, welcomed DOT’s final rule, specifically applauding the mandate of ECP brakes: “This is a game changer. I’ve operated trains with ECP brakes, and they are the greatest advancement in safety I’ve seen in my 35 years in the industry.”
 
According to a 
2006 FRA report, ECP brakes can stop trains 40-70% faster than conventional train brakes and allow for a graduated release, which is vital to the safe handling of trains in cold weather and on heavy grades. ECP brakes will save the lives of railroad workers and better protect the millions of Americans living near rail lines. The DOT’s ECP mandates must be fully complied with by May 2023.
 
Additionally, Risch expressed relief that the rule does not unreasonably restrict train speeds, something that would add to traffic congestion and further delay passenger rail service. The rule will restrict all HHFTs to 50 mph in all areas and restrict certain HHFTs to 40 mph in designated high-risk urban areas.
 
“While this rule will go a long way towards ensuring the safety of our nation’s railroads, more can be done. We now urge the DOT and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to ensure that all freight trains are operated by a minimum of two individuals – a certified conductor and certified engineer,” said Risch.
 

 

Sincerely,

John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division

>>>
SMART Rail Safety Task Force - 5/2/2015

 

   

RAIL SAFETY TASK FORCE

 

 

 

 

 

Hello SMART Members,

We are pleased you are receiving this E-newsletter from your Rail Safety Task Force.   The Task Force strives to identify and communicate best practices and techniques to improve situational awareness and keep situational awareness at its highest level.  Please distribute this email to everyone in your Local and be encouraged to stand up for safe work practices and work environments.  

Remember, the best way to correct an unsafe condition or practice is to Document and Report it. 

 

Thanks,

SMART Rail Safety Task Force

s_taskforce@smart-union.org

 

 

Recent tragedies in our Industry:

 

April 28th, 2015 - 1 Killed 1 Injured in Roswell New Mexico Train Accident

 

April 9th, 2015 - Conductor killed on the job near Saskatchewan

April 4th, 2015 - Conductor killed in Pine Bluff Arkansas

April 1st, 2015 - Carman killed on duty near Richmond, Virginia

 

 

Our fellow Railroaders killed in the Line of duty this year 2015:

  • Jesse T. Coburn III (48 years old)
  • Kye Garrett Stewart (35 years old)
  • Kevin Lee Eskew (54 years old)
  • Alexander T. Sassman (51 years old)
  • Glenn W. Steele (62 years old)

 

 

 

 

Do you see an unsafe trend developing, do you have an idea that will make our work place a safer one? Click Here and email your Rail Safety Task Force

 

 

 

 

 

>>>
VA State Legislative Board Vol 4 newsletter - 6/25/2014

Click "x"

>>>
COAL UNIT SHUTDOWNS - 6/25/2014

June 25, 2014

 

Memo to:  State Directors, General Chairpersons, International Officers

 

From:  James Stem and John Risch

 

                        Re:  Coal Plant Closures

 

Attached is a complicated chart that shows EPA's proposed state Greenhouse Gas (GHG) goals and the percent contribution from 2012 rates.  This is the attachment called "GHGNSPS-Existing Source Interim & Final Rate Chart."  The  GHG emissions these rules are focused on is CO2, the same stuff they use in soda pop.  The greatest emitter of CO2 is coal fired power plants, which is why the focus is there. 

 

The "Coal Unit Retirement"  attachment lists  coal plant retirements by state. 

 

Most importantly the attached excel spreadsheet is the latest  list by ACCCE that shows the actual coal-fired power plants that have already been shut down or are scheduled to close.  Note this spreadsheet are retirements caused mostly by  EPA clean air rules, like the "Mercury" rule and does not include the plants that will be forced to shut down because of the just released 111(d) "Existing Source" GHG rule.  EPA released their "Existing Source" GHG rule on June 2nd and they predict that rule will  close an additional 43-47 GWs of coal generation, most of which are likely to be shut down by 2020 a short 5 1/2 years from now. 

 

All totaled we are likely to lose a 1/3 of our coal fired generation fleet by 2020, or about 110 GWs of the 310 GWs we currently generate. 

 

Between now and 2020 there will be lots of law suits and we will be filing comments with EPA asking them to modify the "Existing Source" GHG rule. We will also be working on legislative proposals, but they are very challenging.

 

The key to all of this is to find and economical way to develop carbon capture and storage technology so we can capture CO2 at our coal plants.   We are working on legislation to fund development of that technology and on legislation that will allow tax credits to use CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.   The enhanced oil recovery initiative or NEORI stands the best chance for congressional action.  We have been involved with NEORI http://neori.org/ for the past two years and that legislation is finally getting some traction here on the hill. 

 

We are also working on coal export proposals.  Thanks go out the Herb Krohn our SLD in Washington and Randy Russ our SLD in Oregon for their work on three proposed west coast port developments.  These three ports, if developed, would have the capacity to export more than 100 million tons of coal annually. The coal would be mined in Wyoming and Montana in the powder river basin and shipped by rail to the NW.  

 

Coal is a big part of what our members haul.  Forty percent of all freight rail cars in America are coal cars, 25% of the freight rail industry's revenues derive from coal and 20% of all our freight rail jobs involve hauling coal.          

 

 

 

 

John Risch  -  James Stem

SMART – Transportation Division

304 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE                                        

Washington, DC   20003-1147

   (202) 543-7714

      Fax (202) 544-3024    

         Cell  (202) 256-8021

jrisch@smart-union.org

     jstem@smart-union.org

 

 

COAL UNIT SHUTDOWNS

 

 

 

As of May 8, 2014

 

 

 

? Since 2010, utilities have announced the retirement of a large number of coal-fired electric generating units.1 In addition to these retirements, a small number of coal units are converting to either natural gas or biomass. Most of these retirements and conversions have been attributed to EPA policies, although other factors may also play some role.2

1 In 2010, according to EIA, the U.S. coal fleet was comprised of 1,396 electric generating units at 580 power plants that represented a total electric generating capacity of more than 315,000 megawatts (MW).

2 "EPA policies" include EPA regulations and settlement agreements resulting from EPA’s New Source Review enforcement activities. Other factors contributing to the shutdowns in Table 1 include low natural gas prices. However, NERA analysis for ACCCE indicates that EPA regulations are the dominant reason for the majority of coal unit shutdowns.

? Table 1 lists 33 states with coal retirements and conversions that have been attributed to EPA policies. These retirements and conversions total 338 units and represent over 51,000 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity. Of this total, approximately 6,200 MW are converting to either natural gas or biomass.

? Table 2 lists all announced coal retirements and conversions, regardless of cause, through 2025. (Table 2 includes the units in Table 1 plus additional retirements and conversions that have not been attributed to EPA policies.) Table 2 shows that 421 units -- totaling nearly 63,000 MW -- are scheduled for retirement or conversion. These units are located in 38 states and represent approximately 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet. Of this total, approximately 9,600 MW are converting to either natural gas or biomass.

? Retirements and conversions are based primarily on public announcements by the owners of the coal units. Occasionally, we use other information sources that are highly reliable. These retirements and conversions are not based on modeling projections.

 

2

 

TABLE 1

 

 

Coal Units Retiring or Converting Because of EPA Policies3

 

3 Most of the coal units listed in the table are retiring; 39 units representing 6,222 MW are converting to either biomass or natural gas. STATE

MW CLOSING/CONVERTING

# OF UNITS CLOSING/CONVERTING

1. Ohio

7,041

41

2. Pennsylvania

5,548

30

3. Alabama

3,989

21

4. Kentucky

3,406

15

5. Georgia

3,249

15

6. Indiana

2,973

21

7. West Virginia

2,737

18

8. Virginia

2,349

16

9. North Carolina

2,198

17

10. South Carolina

1,759

14

11. Tennessee

1,558

12

12. Massachusetts

1,408

6

13. Texas

1,399

3

14. Illinois

1,395

9

15. New Mexico

1,375

5

16. Maryland

1,319

7

17. Colorado

1,172

11

18. Wisconsin

1,063

14

19. Florida

961

4

20. Iowa

670

21

21. Oregon

585

1

22. Louisiana

575

1

23.Minnesota

569

9

24. New York

475

3

25. Oklahoma

460

1

26. New Jersey

268

2

27.Missouri

198

7

28. Utah

172

2

29.Michigan

162

4

30.Montana

154

1

31. Kansas

92

2

32. Wyoming

45

4

33. South Dakota

22

1

51,349 MW

338 UNITS

 

>>>
FRA Personal Electronics Study - 6/24/2014

click "X"

>>>
Freight rail traffic for 2013 - 1/10/2014

Freight rail traffic for 2013 saw record intermodal growth, slight dip in carloads

The Association of American Railroads on Thursday reported that U.S. rail traffic for 2013 saw record intermodal growth with a slight full year decrease in carloadings. U.S. rail intermodal volume totaled a record 12.8 million containers and trailers in 2013, up 4.6% or 564,276 units, over 2012. Carloads totaled 14.6 million in 2013, down 0.5% or 76,784 carloads, from 2012. Intermodal volume in 2013 was the highest on record, surpassing the record high totals of 2006 by 549,471 units. Learn more.  

>>>
NS, Virginia sign agreement for Roanoke service - 1/9/2014

NS, Virginia sign agreement for Roanoke service

Published: January 9, 2014
ROANOKE, Va. – The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Norfolk Southern have entered into an agreement to improve rail related infrastructure between Lynchburg and Roanoke. The improvements will enable passenger rail to once again serve the Roanoke region. Gov. McDonnell's 2013 transportation funding plan was instrumental in funding the return of intercity passenger rail service to Roanoke.

"[The Department of Rail and Public Transportation] and Norfolk Southern continue their strong partnership to advance intercity passenger rail service in the state of Virginia," Gov. McDonnell says. "Intercity passenger rail service is central to the Commonwealth's economic growth, vitality and competitiveness in the region. Now the major population centers will have intercity passenger rail service."

"During this administration, new train service to Norfolk, and funding for the continuation of six state regional trains occurred," says Thelma Drake, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. "With the signing of this agreement, the state will be able to extend Amtrak Virginia daily intercity passenger train service to Roanoke within four years with direct same seat service to as far north as Boston."

Included in this agreement are track additions and realignments, signal and communication upgrades along the route, clearance adjustments, and a platform and train servicing facility in downtown Roanoke. Design work will begin immediately. In another effort funded by the state and NS, the downtown Roanoke rail connections are currently being reconfigured to improve the flow of train traffic through Roanoke, which is a prerequisite to reintroducing passenger rail service.
>>>
Sickness Whistleblower Protections - 10/2/2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

During our weeklong session in DC last week, we heard from our attorney, Larry Mann. on various topics. One of particular interest to those present, was the Whistleblower Protections for employees in the transportation sector.

Specifically, the revelation that "Availability policies where employee must work a certain number of days a year or is no longer a full time employee" is considered an example of Harassment and Intimidation, took most everyone present by surprise, and pleasantly, I must add.

Larry explained that such policies when used against an employee who suffers a sickness or illness, properly documented by their health care professional requiring rest from the railroad, is in fact a violation of the Act under the "Prompt Medical Attention" title of the Act. The very policy, however applied, can be a violation of the Act. We are gathering information in Florida, to use a specific case as the pilot of the complaint and will share as the case forms.

If you have such policies in the properties you represent, we encourage you to select a good pilot complaint to file. We also encourage you to work in cooperation with Larry Mann and our Washington office and please copy this Executive Board of the NASLD's on your process and final product.

Other violations of the Act, upon which our group decided to work together, was Incentive Programs, that reward individuals, in part or in whole, based on the number of reported injuries. This is to include picnics at supply points for zero injuries (in whole or in part), t-shirts, etc.

Our participation to such events, must be discontinued, as an organization, as we engage in the process of filing complaints for violations of the Act, at the various railroads, where we can get the information of this criteria, preferably, in writing.

We separated the group by railroad, with a lead person for each group. Thus far, identified, were the CSX working group, with Andres Trujillo as lead, and Norfolk Southern, with Patrick Corp as lead. Please provide these individuals with any and all information for the file, so we may prepare as comprehensive a case as possible.

Additionally, we are looking for available information on other properties, and a lead person to tackle the case. We will work in cooperation and under advise of Larry Mann and our Washington office in the preparation of the complaints and will file them as they are finalized. Once we have a pilot, we can always copy much of the basic content from one complaint to another for the different properties. For those leading the effort at each property, please copy this NASLD's executive board in your progress and final product.

Fraternally

Andres

Andres Trujillo, Director
SMART-TD Florida Legislative Board
14951 SW 82 LN. #17-401
Miami, FL. 33193
Phone: 786-348-5771
Fax: 786-360-5512

 

 

Patrick A. Corp
Virginia State Legislative Director
Transportation Division, SMART
P.O. Box 7355-0355
Roanoke, Va. 24019
540-589-4460


>>>
Emergency Order 28 - 8/2/2013

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Railroad Administration

[FRA Emergency Order No. 28, Notice No.1]

Emergency Order Establishing Additional Requirements for Attendance and Securement of Certain Freight Trains and Vehicles on Mainline Track or Mainline Siding Outside of a Yard or Terminal

 

 

·         First, in this EO, FRA is prohibiting railroads from leaving trains or vehicles that are transporting hazardous materials as described in Appendix A unattended on mainline track or mainline siding outside of a yard or terminal

o   Unless the railroad adopts and complies with a plan that identifies

§  The specific locations and circumstances for which it is safe and suitable for leaving such trains or vehicles unattended.

§  The plan must contain sufficient analysis of the safety risks and any mitigating circumstances the railroad has considered in making its determination. 

o   FRA does not intend to grant approval to any plan, per se. However, FRA will monitor such plans and if FRA determines that adequate justification is not provided, the railroad shall ensure that trains and equipment are attended until appropriate modifications are made to the railroad’s plan. 

·         Second, FRA is requiring railroads to develop specific processes for employees responsible for securing any unattended train or vehicles transporting hazardous materials as described in Appendix A that must be left on mainline track or a mainline siding outside of a yard or terminal. The employees responsible for securing the train or vehicles must lock the controlling locomotive cab door before leaving it unattended or remove and secure the reverser. The reverser is the directional control for the locomotive.  Removing it would put the locomotive in neutral, preventing it from moving forward or backward under the power of the engine.

o   Additionally, employees must communicate to the train dispatcher the number of hand brakes applied, the tonnage of the train or vehicle, the grade and terrain features of the track, any other relevant weather conditions, and the type of equipment being secured. The dispatcher is then required to record the information provided by the employee.

o   Finally, the dispatcher or other qualified railroad employee must verify and confirm with the train crew that the securement meets the railroad’s requirements. This requirement provides a check on those individuals setting hand brakes to ensure appropriate securement procedures are followed. The requirement is similar to FRA’s existing regulations that require employees to report to the train dispatcher when a main track switch in non-signaled territory has been restored to normal position and locked. FRA believes this type of notification and verification requirement will help ensure that employees responsible for securing equipment containing hazardous materials will follow appropriate procedures because the employee will need to fully consider the securement procedures in order to relay what was done to the dispatcher. Further, the dispatcher or other qualified railroad employee (e.g. a trainmaster, road foreman of engines, or another train crew employee) will be in a position to ensure that a sufficient number of hand brakes have been applied. 

·         Third, this E.O. requires that railroads review, verify, and adjust, as necessary, existing requirements and instructions related to the number of hand brakes to be set on unattended trains and vehicles and that railroads review and adjust, as necessary, the procedures for verifying that the number of hand brakes is sufficient to hold the train or vehicle with the air brakes released. FRA’s concern is that existing railroad processes and procedures related to setting and verifying hand brakes on unattended trains and equipment may not be sufficient to hold all trains and vehicles in all circumstances. FRA expects that the procedures and number of hand brakes required to be set will vary significantly, depending on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to:

o   The length and weight of the train or vehicle(s), the location, the grade and other terrain features of the track, the weather conditions, the type of equipment being secured, and whether the hand brakes apply on one or more trucks of a piece of equipment. 

o   The procedures should also ensure that an additional margin of safety is provided when determining the number of hand brakes to be set in order to compensate for the differing ability of individuals to set a hand brake at a specified level. FRA also expects railroads to develop appropriate procedures to be followed by their employees to test or verify that the number of hand brakes set will hold the equipment with the air brakes released. 

·         Fourth, this E.O. requires railroads to implement operating rules and practices requiring the job briefing of securement among crewmembers and other involved railroad employees before engaging in any job that will impact or require the securement of any train or vehicle in the course of the work being performed. This requirement is analogous to other Federal regulations that require crewmembers to have a job briefing before performing various tasks, such as confirming the position of a main track switch before leaving an area. The purpose of this job briefing requirement is to make certain that all crewmembers and other involved railroad employees are aware of what is necessary to properly secure the equipment in compliance with § 232.103(n).

·         Finally, FRA is requiring railroads to develop procedures to ensure that a qualified railroad employee inspects all equipment that any emergency responder has been on, under, or between for proper securement before the rail equipment or train is left unattended. One of the facts that has come to light in the aftermath of the Lac-Me´gantic derailment is that first responders were at milepost 7.4 near Nantes (along with an MMA employee) to check a report of a fire on the train.  This was well after the operator had secured the train and left it unattended.  Because it may be necessary for emergency responders to modify the state of the equipment if it is necessary for them to go on, under, or between equipment in order to perform their jobs, it is critical for the railroad to have a qualified employee inspect the equipment after the emergency responders have completed their jobs to ensure that the equipment is properly secured before it is again left unattended.

 

Finding and Order

While FRA recognizes that the transportation of hazardous materials by rail is extremely safe and that the vast majority of hazardous materials shipped by rail each year arrive at their destinations safely and without incident, FRA finds that there are gaps in the regulatory scheme that create an emergency situation involving a hazard of death, personal injury, or significant harm to the environment, with respect to securement of unattended vehicles and trains transporting a hazardous material of the type described in Appendix A to this E.O. on mainline track and mainline sidings outside of a yard or terminal. Accordingly, pursuant to the authority of 49 U.S.C. 20104, delegated to the FRA Administrator by the Secretary of Transportation, 49 CFR 1.89, it is hereby ordered that each railroad must institute and carry out the following measures, effective within 30 days after the date of this order:

 

1)      No train or vehicles transporting the type and quantity of hazardous materials described in Appendix A (Appendix A Materials) shall be left unattended on a mainline track or mainline siding outside of a yard or terminal until the railroad develops, adopts, complies with and makes available to FRA upon request a plan that identifies specific locations and circumstances when such trains or vehicles may be left unattended. The plan shall contain a sufficient safety justification for any determination allowing such trains or vehicles to be unattended. FRA will monitor such plans and if FRA determines that adequate justification is not provided, the railroad shall ensure that trains and equipment are attended until appropriate modifications to the plan are completed. FRA does not intend to grant approval to any plan. Railroads shall notify FRA when the railroad has developed a plan under this provision prior to the railroad operating pursuant to the plan.

 

2)      Railroads shall develop processes for securing unattended trains or vehicles transporting Appendix A Materials on a mainline track or mainline siding outside of a yard or terminal if permitted by the railroad’s plan required under paragraph (1) of this order that contains the following requirements:

a)      The controlling locomotive cab must be locked or the reverser on the controlling locomotive must be removed and secured.

b)      Employees who are responsible for securing trains and vehicles transporting Appendix A Materials must communicate to the train dispatcher the number of hand brakes applied, the tonnage and length of the train or vehicle, the grade and terrain features of the track, any relevant weather conditions, and the type of equipment being secured; train dispatchers must record the information provided; and train dispatchers or other qualified railroad employees must verify and confirm with the train crew that the securement meets the railroad’s requirements.

 

3)      Railroads shall review and verify, and adjust, as necessary, existing procedures and processes related to the number of hand brakes to be set on all unattended trains and equipment and shall ensure the means of verifying that number is appropriate.

 

4)      Railroads shall implement operating rules and practices requiring the job briefing of securement for any job that will impact or require the securement of any train or vehicle in the course of the work being performed.

 

5)      Railroads shall develop procedures to ensure that a qualified railroad employee inspects all equipment that any emergency responder has been on, under, or between for proper securement before the train or vehicle is left unattended.

 

6)      Notice of this E.O. shall be provided to all employees affected by this E.O..

 

Relief

Petitions for special approval to take actions not in accordance with this E.O. may be submitted to the Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety/Chief Safety Officer (Associate Administrator), who shall be authorized to dispose of those requests without the necessity of amending this E.O.. In reviewing any petition for special review, the Associate Administrator shall grant petitions only in which a petitioner has clearly articulated an alternative action that will provide, in the Associate Administrator’s judgment, at least a level of safety equivalent to that provided by this E.O..

 

Penalties

Any violation of this order or the terms of any written plan adopted pursuant to this order to provide alternate protection shall subject the person committing the violation to a civil penalty of up to $105,000. 49 U.S.C. 21301. Any individual who willfully violates a prohibition stated in this order is subject to civil penalties under 49 U.S.C. 21301. In addition, such an individual whose violation of this order demonstrates the individual’s unfitness for safety-sensitive service may be removed from safety-sensitive service on the railroad under 49 U.S.C. 20111. If appropriate, FRA may pursue criminal penalties under 49 U.S.C. 522(a) and 49 U.S.C. 21311(a), as well as 18 U.S.C. 1001, for the knowing and willful falsification of a report required by this order. FRA may, through the Attorney General, also seek injunctive relief to enforce this order. 49 U.S.C.20112.

 

Effective Date and Notice to Affected Persons

Upon issuance of this E.O., railroads shall immediately initiate steps to

implement this E.O.. Railroads shall complete implementation no later than

September 1, 2013. Notice of this E.O. will be provided by publishing it in the

 

Federal Register.

Review

Opportunity for formal review of this E.O. will be provided in accordance with 49 U.S.C. 20104(b) and section 554 of title 5 of the United States Code.  Administrative procedures governing such review are found at 49 CFR part 211. See 49 CFR 211.47, 211.71, 211.73, 211.75, and 211.77. 

 

Issued in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2013.

Joseph C. Szabo,

Administrator.

Appendix A to Emergency Order 28

    (1) Five or more tank car loads of any one or any combination of materials poisonous by inhalation as defined in 49 CFR 171.8, and including anhydrous ammonia (UN 1005) and ammonia solutions (UN 3318); or

    (2) 20 rail car loads or intermodal portable tank loads of any one or any combination of materials listed in (1) above, or, any Division 2.1 flammable gas, Class 3 flammable liquid or combustible liquid, Class 1.1 or 1.2[[Page 48224]]explosive, or hazardous substance listed in 49 CFR 173.31(f)(2).\7\7\ See 49 CFR 173.115 for the definition of Division 2.1 flammable gas, 173.120 for definition of Class 3 flammable liquid; and 173.50 for the definition of the various classes of explosives.

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Port of Virginia Handled Record Container Traffic in FY2013 - 7/10/2013

The Port of Virginia handled 175,864 20-foot-equivalent units in June, up 4.4 percent or 7,434 units compared with June 2012, wrapping up the port’s best fiscal year ever.

Export TEUs in June tallied 93,020, while import TEUs were 89,635, year-over-year gains of 3.8 percent and 5.1 percent respectively.

June’s totals also closed the port’s best performance for the first half of a calendar year. Since January, the port has handled 1.054 million TEUs, up 6 percent from the first half of 2012.

“There are a number of factors that we can attribute this success to: ocean carriers loading their vessels heavy to take advantage of our 50-foot deep channels, an increasing number of first-in and last-out vessel calls, our expanding rail service, our push into new markets like Greensboro, N.C., and an improving economy,” said Rodney W. Oliver, interim executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, in a written statement. “We’re also seeing a lot of interest to expand operations by some large port users and given that we believe the growth will continue.”

The port handled 2.165 million TEUs in fiscal year 2013, representing a 10 percent increase versus the previous fiscal year.

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CEO Pay and You - 4/15/2013

http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/CEO-Pay-and-You

An informative site showing the decline of the working class pay rate and the skyrocketing pay rate of US CEO's.

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AAR pans STB review of coal rail rates - 3/21/2013

The Association of American Railroads Wednesday took issue with a decision by the Surface Transportation Board, issued Tuesday, "not to factor into their review of coal rail rates product and geographic competition information affecting wholesale power markets."

STB’s decision, dated March 18, 2013, “denies a petition filed by the Association of American Railroads asking the Board to institute a rulemaking proceeding to consider reintroducing indirect competition as a factor in determining the reasonableness of rail rates for coal transportation.”

In response, AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger, in a statement, said, “We simply do not understand how the STB can refuse to acknowledge that the way Americans are getting their electricity is changing. The electric generating marketplace is undergoing a powerful transformation that the STB decision doesn’t take into account. The availability and low price of natural gas are greatly influencing what kind of energy is being used today by electric utilities.

“It is deeply troubling that the STB decision ignores what economists, energy analysts, and power companies already know: natural gas is displacing coal as the fuel for making electricity,” Hamberger said. “This decision not to consider the effect indirect competition has on coal rail rates seems to say the STB is siding with shippers who complain the loudest.”

STB has jurisdiction over rail rates only where a carrier does not face effective competition. Where railroads face effective competition, current law allows the market to determine the level of rail rates—and, says AAR, the shift in U.S. energy production reflects market forces in place and at work.

In a Nov.19, 2012 petition to STB, AAR asserted that nearly two-thirds of all rate cases during the last 15 years involved coal and, therefore, justifies the need to reassess the realities of today’s energy market and energy fuel sources when deciding whether or not to review rail rates for coal.

STB said it in part “found that any hardship would not be substantial because shippers that have effective indirect alternatives would be unlikely to pursue a rate challenge, and because a rate level constrained by effective indirect competition would be found to be reasonable.”
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RRB News Release: Budget Cuts Reduce Railroad Unemployment and Sickness... - 3/5/2013

RRB News Release: Budget Cuts Reduce Railroad Unemployment and Sickness...

RRB News

No. 13-4

March 2013

For Immediate Release

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board

Public Affairs 312-751-4777

844 North Rush Street 312-751-7154 (fax)

Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092 rrb.gov

Budget Cuts Reduce Railroad Unemployment and Sickness Benefits

As a result of recently implemented budget cuts, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) must reduce railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits by 9.2 percent.

These reductions stem from a sequestration order which President Obama filed on March 1, 2013, in accordance with the requirements of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The sequestration order sets aside a total of $6 million in funding under the railroad unemployment and sickness insurance program. Given the total amount of spending under the program, a cut of this size made benefit reductions necessary.

The 9.2 percent reduction in railroad unemployment benefits will reduce the maximum daily benefit rate from $66.00 to just under $60.00. As a result, the total maximum amount payable in a 2-week period covering 10 days of unemployment will drop from $660.00 to $599.28.

Certain railroad sickness benefits are reduced for regular tier I railroad retirement taxes of 7.65 percent. Applying the additional 9.2 percent reduction to these benefits will result in a daily benefit rate of $55.34 and a maximum 2-week payment of $553.44.

The maximum daily benefit rate will increase to $68.00 on July 1, 2013. For days of unemployment and sickness after that date, the reduction will result in a maximum daily benefit rate of $61.74 and a maximum 2-week payout of $617.44. The maximum daily benefit rate for sickness benefits subject to tier I payroll taxes will be $57.02, with a maximum 2-week total of $570.21. The total sequestration is actually spread out over nine years. This initial reduction will remain in effect through September 30, 2013. The initial reduction amount is based upon projected claims and benefits and may be adjusted as needed. Congress will subsequently determine the amount of any reductions in future years. In addition, any appropriations subsequently enacted in fiscal year 2013 could also result in changes to the reduction amount.

The law exempts social security benefits, as well as railroad retirement, survivor, and disability benefits paid by the RRB, from sequestration.

In fiscal year 2012, the RRB paid $11.3 billion in retirement and survivor benefits to about 573,000 beneficiaries, and net unemployment-sickness benefits of $89 million to about 26,000 claimants.

 

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News from the International President - 11/7/2012

Obama win offers working families brighter future

Posted On November 7, 2012 @ 1:21 pm In Leadership Messages,News,Recent Updates,Top Story |

By UTU International President Mike Futhey –

For UTU members employed in the airline, rail and transit industries, the Obama-Biden victory and U.S. Senate election results translate to:

* More, and more secure, transportation jobs.

* More support to increase funding for public transit, Amtrak, and high-speed and higher-speed rail.

* Strengthened protections of collective bargaining rights and the right to organize the unorganized.

* Assurance of a safer workplace.

* Protection of Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Medicare programs as we know them.

* Retention of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions that allow children to remain on your health insurance policy until age 26, prohibit insurers from limiting maximum patient care payments to those with serious chronic illnesses, prohibit denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, prohibit copays for certain preventive care procedures, and require insurance carriers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on patient care.

Moreover, continued control of the U.S. Senate by labor-friendly Democrats better ensures that presidential nominations to federal regulatory agencies are more likely to be approved, and that anti-labor legislation exiting the Republican controlled House of Representatives more likely will be blocked by the Senate.

We have many contacts within the Obama administration who understand the concerns and needs of transportation workers.

A few of the most outrageous members of Congress were defeated. Our National Legislative Office and state legislative departments look forward to working with the new Congress to help resolve the major issues facing our nation. We will continue to deliver a clear and consistent message to all members of Congress.

The vote re-electing President Obama and Vice President Biden was a clear victory for the middle class over the privileged landed gentry’s candidate, who was out of touch with working families.

We will continue to develop good working relationships with the leadership of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and our partners in the rail and public transit industries to grow our transportation alternatives with improvements in rail passenger service, rail freight service and all public transportation services.

We are thankful that many of our friends in the Republican leadership in the House were returned to office.

The most important function of a labor union is to advance the job security, wages, benefits, working conditions, and retirement security of its members. The re-election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and the continued labor-friendly Democratic control of the Senate will help to advance those objectives.


Article printed from United Transportation Union: http://utu.org

URL to article: http://utu.org/2012/11/07/obama-biden-offers-brighter-working-family-future/

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