April 10, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (April 10)—A joint resolution of the Illinois House and Senate calling for a federal two-member train-crew law passed the House Thursday on a voice vote after unanimous approval by the chamber’s Transportation Committee earlier in the day.

Senate Joint Resolution 50, which passed the Senate by a 39-12 vote, has now been adopted by both chambers. The measure urges Congress to pass federal legislation mandating no fewer than two crew members on all freight trains.

Since both chambers have now adopted the resolution, suitable copies will be delivered to the Illinois Congressional delegation.

SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy thanked all those members who phoned their legislators urging passage of the Resolution.

“I was in Springfield last week and several legislators told me they’d been getting calls about SJR 50 from our members and their families,” Guy said. “We also heard similar reports when we asked for action when SJR 50 was still in the Senate.

“You could hear the respect in their voices,” he said. “These legislators understand SMART-TD is a ‘bottoms-up’ organization in which the members take on a large measure of the responsibility for getting things done.”

Although SJR 50 is non-binding, it sends a strong message to the Illinois Congressional delegation that fresh legislation is needed at the federal level to assure that all of the nation’s freight trains are operated by at least two certified crew members.

“The steeply rising volume of new crude-oil traffic on the railroads has fueled a nationwide concern about freight-train safety, including the issue of how many crew members are required to operate and secure a train safely,” Guy said.

“And while the crude-oil transportation debate is nationwide, Congress is particularly alert to expressions of concern from Illinois because everyone in Congress knows our state is the center of the nation’s railroad system,” he said.

“And, as The Illinois Legislative Board’s recent survey demonstrated, 83 per cent of Illinois voters believe all freight trains should be manned by at least two employees,” Guy said [complete survey results can be viewed on a special link at the top of the SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Board’s Web page at www.illini.utu.org].

Guy noted that even when voters are not particularly familiar with railroad operations or technology, they strongly feel that a train consisting of two crew members can be operated more safely than a train with only one crew member.

“Unfortunately, accidents and incidents continue to make news in the rail industry, and the public seems to be particularly aware of those involving the growing number of trains carrying crude oil,” he said.

“But the need for multiple person crews isn’t isolated solely to prevent these highly publicized incidents,” Guy said. “Multiple crew members allow for quick and efficient responses to mechanical failures, equipment malfunctions, grade-crossing incidents and other scenarios that play out in our industry every day.

“We know that our industry is stronger and safer than ever before,” Guy said. “And a large reason for that is the dedicated professionals who operate our trains throughout the nation, working as a multi-person team.

“Why allow a small handful of carriers to jeopardize these strides through the use of one-person crews?” Guy said. “That would be irresponsible, and I’m glad our Illinois Legislature recognizes one-person crews as not only a threat to public and employee safety, but a threat to the overall efficiency and viability of our world-class freight-rail system.”