January 5, 2017

SPRINGFIELD (January 5)—Two pieces of legislation that focused on member’s concerns with contract carrier vehicles are now law thanks to SMART-TD’s efforts in 2016. Both Senate Bill 629 and Senate Bill 2882 took effect on January 1st.

SB 2882 raised the minimum amount of Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) motor vehicle coverage that a contract carrier vehicle must carry. The previous minimum standard, established a decade ago through legislation pushed by SMART-TD (UTU), was $250,000 per passenger. SB 2882 now establishes that minimum at $500,000 per passenger.

“The old minimum amount of coverage was simply outdated,” said SMART-TD Illinois State Director Robert W. Guy. “While this coverage isn’t meant to replace a lifetime’s worth of potential earnings if someone is injured while being transported in a contract carrier vehicle, the minimum amount of coverage still has to provide a proper safety net if a member cannot return to work, and we feel we’ve done that with SB 2882.”

Doubling of the minimum required level of UM/UIM contract carrier vehicle coverage isn’t the only important aspect of SB 2882.

“The law now specifically states that railroad workers are part of the group of employees protected by the proof of financial responsibility portion of the statute,” Guy said. “This should help our argument against insurance company claims that the law wasn’t originally intended to protect railroad workers, because now that is spelled out quite clearly.”

SB 629, the other piece of legislation to take effect on January 1st, dealt with contract carrier vehicles and the proliferation of video event recorders (VER’s) that are commonplace inside the vehicles today.

When VER’s started popping up in contract carrier vehicles, SMART-TD members voiced concerns with possible usage of content captured by the equipment.

“Our office was getting multiple reports from around the state about these new devices,” Guy said. “The biggest concerns with them seemed to be if the rail carrier was going to have access to the content of the recordings and at what extent that could be used.”

SB 629 sought to limit a rail carrier’s access to the privately owned data being recorded by the VER’s.

“While the content of the recordings could actually help if a member was injured in an accident involving a contract carrier vehicle,” Guy said. “We still had to limit access by the rail carriers so casual conversation couldn’t be used in a retaliatory manner against our members.”

SB 629 now provides some basic privacy protections while also notifying passengers when a recording device is in use. The law now requires contract carrier vehicles equipped with a VER to have a notice posted in a visible location that alerts passengers to the possible use of a recording device and that conversations could be recorded.

“This notice serves as an important reminder to our members that a VER could be recording,” Guy said. “And common sense will then dictate our members to caution what they say within the vehicle and to also abide by all the proper rules of the road.”

“But more importantly,” Guy said. “SB 629 establishes that any data recorded by a VER shall be the sole property of the owner or lessee of the contract carrier vehicle.”

“These vehicles are privately non-railroad owned vehicles,” Guy said. “It’s our hope that this requirement would curtail any cozy relationship a rail manager may have with a contract carrier driver in regards to access to the recordings of a VER.”

Members who encounter VER devices in contract carrier vehicles without the proper visible notice are encouraged to notify the driver of the vehicle and local rail management to the new requirement.