April 5, 2002

CHICAGO(April 5–Following an April 4 meeting with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police and Secretary of State’s office, the UTU Illinois Legislative Board today announced a plan to fine-tune its effort to report violations of the state’s new crew-van safety law.

“As I stated when the Contract Carriers Safety Act was passed last year, it was anticipated that some snags and loopholes would surface when the time came to enforce the Act’s provisions in the field,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “As a result, we are asking our members to intensively monitor the vans they ride in for equipment, operational and driver violations and report immediately the details of violations they witness.”

Szabo said the most serious problem that has arisen in enforcing the
Act has been the discovery that some vans assigned to carrying railroad crews in Illinois are licensed outside the state.

“We are working through the issue of how the State of Illinois will enforce the Act against these ‘foreign’ vans,” Szabo said. “Therefore it is urgent that our members not only report suspected violations, but that they report on the form whether the van was domiciled in Illinois or a neighboring state. We are trying to ensure that enforcement and compliance are consistent regardless of whether the van is licensed inside or outside the state”

Szabo said it is equally important that reports document whether the van’s itinerary was entirely within the state of Illinois or whether it traveled across the state line.

“Ideally, it should make no difference whether a van makes an intrastate or interstate trip,” he said. “We want enforcement to be the same in either case. Although some crews that originate or terminate their runs in Illinois are shuttled to a lodging facility across a state line, most van itineraries stay within the state’s borders. Although we are awaiting clarification on this point, it is highly likely that these intrastate van runs are subject to Illinois law regardless of where the vehicles involved are licensed. Make sure you show on your complaint form whether the itinerary was inter- or intrastate.”

Szabo said Crew Van Safety Complaint forms are available from local legislative representatives and also may be filled out over the UTU Illinois Web site www.illini.utu.org. Paper forms also may be ordered by telephoning Legislative Board secretary Tina O’Brien at (312) 236-5353.

“If a member is on-line, that’s the fastest and easiest way to go,” Szabo said. “If you prefer to use paper, make sure you always have several complaint forms in your grip so you can start taking down details as soon as you see them. Mechanical defects in the vehicle; non-functioning or missing safety features, such as rear-view mirrors or tail lights; failure of the driver to observe traffic laws; and possible driver fatigure–all should be reported.”

Szabo said he and Asst. Legislative Dir. John Burner are continuing to meet with state officials in order to simplify, clarify and streamline the sometimes complicated lines of authority required to enforce crew-van safety.

“It is not always clear which agency has authority to enforce specific provisions of the Act,” Szabo said. “The State Police, the Secretary of State’s office, the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Department of Transportation all have a piece of the action.”

Szabo observed that “A certain lack of clarity about enforcement is common when new laws first take effect” but added that any confusion usually can be cleared up by having the parties involved sit down, review the problems and negotiate a simpler and more practical enforcement procedure. IDOT currently is in the process of adopting new rules that will streamline enforcement.

“The real work in enforcing the Act will be done by our members when they file detailed complaint forms with the Chicago office or over our Web page,” Szabo said. “If you see something that doesn’t look right with a van or driver, get the details and report them.”