April 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD (April 18)—Last week, the Illinois Senate once again passed SMART-TD’s initiative to provide basic privacy protections for railroad workers who are transported in contract carrier vehicles equipped with video event recorders, or VER’s.

Last year, Senate Bill 1834 passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly unanimously, yet was amendatory vetoed by Governor Rauner. The Governor’s AV narrowed the definition of a VER.

“The Governor’s amendatory veto simply narrowed the definition of a video event recorder,” said SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “That basically meant we had to start over this year with a new bill.”

“Since the privacy protections we were seeking remained unchanged in the Governor’s AV, we decided to reintroduce the language that withstood his veto,” Guy said.

Senate Bill 629, like SB 1834 last year, contains some strong privacy protections for our members by requiring contract carrier vehicles that are equipped with a video event recorder to have a notice in a visible location in the vehicle that states a passenger’s conversation could be recorded.

“This would serve as a reminder to the passengers of the vehicle that a recording device could be in use,” Guy said. “Although these VER’s are meant to provide feedback for the driver and their employer, we know that such recordings could be tempting for an aggressive railroad manager trying to harass or intimidate a railroad employee.”

Senate Bill 629 also stipulates that any data recorded by a video event recorder shall be the sole property of the registered owner or lessee of the vehicle.

“This portion of the Bill is very important,” Guy said. “This would prohibit any kind of ‘cozy’ relationship between a railroad manager and driver of a contract carrier vehicle.”

“The Bill makes the contents of those recordings the property of its owners, which are not the rail carriers,” Guy said.

“The natural purpose of the VER’s is to capture and correct risky driving habits,” Guy said. “They’re not meant to intrude on casual conversations that take place within the vehicle amongst the passengers.”

“We support the responsible usage of audio and video equipment in these vehicles as a way to improve safety as well as providing reasonable parameters for the use of such recordings,” Guy said, “and that’s what Senate Bill 629 would do.”

“With an appropriate visual notice in the vehicle and the assurance that rail carriers don’t have unfettered access to such recordings, our members basic privacy will be protected while being transported in these vehicles in the course of their employment,” Guy said.

The Bill now moves to the Illinois House.