April 28, 2003

CHICAGO (May 7)–The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has initiated a formal rulemaking process following a Petition by the UTU asking the Commission to establish safety standards for employee walkways in the railroad industry.

The Petition included suggested language for regulations governing maximum ballast size, maintenance of walkway surfaces, width and slope of surfaces, debris removal, and clearances around stationary objects such as switch stands.

Administrative Law Judge June Tate entertained a hearing on the union’s Petition in Chicago April 22. During the hearing, Judge Tate ordered the UTU Illinois Legislative Board and representatives of the state’s rail carriers to meet immediately with members of the Commission staff in an informal workshop.

The first workshop meeting was held later that same day. The parties discussed the safety measures requested by the union and exchanged suggestions on possible alternative language.

The judge also ordered the parties to continue meeting in workshops periodically and to report their progress to her in another formal hearing scheduled for June 24. A second workshop meeting was held May 7, and a third has been scheduled for June 17.

UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo said that if “substantial progress” toward adoption of a code of walkway safety standards has been achieved by the June 24 hearing, it is likely the judge will issue a short continuance to allow the parties time to finish their work.

“However, if by June 24 it appears that the parties are not progressing satisfactorily toward an agreement, the UTU is prepared to move for a formal hearing on its Petition,” he said.

“I am optimistic that we are going to see comprehensive walkway standards adopted in Illinois,” Szabo said. “But there are many details to be worked out, and we are not going to overlook details in a rush to reach a conclusion.”