July 19, 2002

CHICAGO (July 19)–Following ongoing discussion between the UTU Illinois Legislative Board and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), an out-of-state van contractor providing shuttle service to Illinois railroad crews has agreed to inspect its vehicles regularly to make sure they conform to the Illinois Contract Carrier Law.

Kansas-based Renzenberger Transportation has told IDOT it will subject its vehicles to the same six-month mechanical inspections which the Contract Carrier Law authorizes IDOT to perform on vehicles operated by carriers domiciled within Illinois.

Renzenberger’s pledge of voluntary compliance was detailed in a letter sent July 2 to UTU Illinois Legislative Director by IDOT Commercial Vehicle Safety Manager Jim Burke.

“They wish to ensure their vehicles are indeed safe and that your membership feels safe traveling in them,” Burke told Szabo. “By virtue of their being an Interstate operation,they can and do annual inspections of their vehicles as allowed by Federal law…We sent their company an Illinois Testing Manual detailing all inspection criteria under which all Illinois Official Testing Stations operate…They have pledged that they will self-inspect their vehicles in accordance with these inspection criteria and have purchased inspection stickers that indicate that the vehicle has been inspected in accordance with Illinois law.”

Szabo expressed gratitude for Renzenberger’s voluntary compliance but reminded members that they should continue to monitor this company’s vehicles for possible non-compliance.

“While the union welcomes Renzenberger’s voluntary compliance, it is important to remember that the inspections will be performed by Renzenberger personnel rather than by IDOT personnel,” Szabo said. “The company-issued sticker displayed in the window of a
Renzenberger vehicle does not carry the same authority as a sticker issued by the State of Illinois. Because it is headquartered out of state, this carrier gets to mark its own report card.

“Remember, too,” Szabo said, “that lots of things can happen to a commercial vehicle in the six-month interval between inspections. So we ask that our members continue to monitor these vehicles, as well as the performance of their drivers, and report any unsafe practices to the Local for processing and forwarding to the Illinois Legislative Board.

“Missing or inoperative safety appliances, such as mirrors, turn signals or tail-lights; mechanical problems, such as the engine dying at idle or a noisy muffler; bald or underinflated tires–all should be reported,” Szabo said. “So should any unsafe practices on the part of the driver, including failing to come to a stop at stop signs, ignoring railroad grade-crossing signals, or being inattentive or fatigued.”

Szabo said union members observing such violations on the part of Renzenberger or any other contract carrier should always write down the name of the contractor, the license number and company number of the vehicle, and the time, date and place where the unsafe practice was observed.

“The UTU and IDOT have made tremendous progress toward solving the problem of unsafe crew shuttle vans,” Szabo said, “but some gray areas, such as vans owned by companies headquartered outside the state, remain. Renzenberger’s willingness to comply voluntarily is a substantial step forward, but the willingness of our members to monitor van performance and report violations is still the most important part of the crew-van safety effort.

“If you ride in crew vans, do your part,” Szabo said: “Observe the operation, equipment and personnel, and report anything that doesn’t look or sound right to you. The Illinois Legislative Board and IDOT will do the rest.”