February 14, 2002

SPRINGFIELD (Feb. 14)–Railroad crew members who suspect mechanical or managerial problems with the vans that shuttle them from layover points to their trains now have a standard procedure for obtaining a remedy: Go straight to the UTU’s Illinois Legislative Board.

“We now have a commitment from the State that it will enforce the Contract Carriers Regulation Act that Gov. Ryan signed into law last July 20,” said the Legislative Board’s director, Joseph C. Szabo.

“The new law took effect January 1, but we’ve had some concerns it wasn’t being enforced adequately,” Szabo said. “So we asked State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, to set up a meeting with the State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Secretary of State’s office. The response was wonderful. We all met and agreed on an enforcement procedure that will enable railroad employees to report what they feel may be violations of the new crew-van safety law.”

Szabo said the law mandates that all crew-shuttle vans operated by private companies under contract to a rail carrier must be inspected at a state-licensed motor-vehicle facility every six months. Vehicles that pass inspection are awarded a sticker that must be posted on the front windshield just ahead of the steering column.

“IDOT is sending out notices at this time to all rail carriers operating in the state, and to all of the contractors supplying them with crew-shuttle services, explaining all of the steps they must take to comply with the Contract Carriers Regulation Act,” Szabo said.

The participants in the meeting also agreed on a simple procedure that allows crew members to use the UTU Legislative Board as a channel for reporting suspected violations to state law-enforcement authorities.

“If you see a van which lacks a current sticker or appears to have mechanical defects which make it non-compliant with the Act, report your suspicions directly to the UTU’s Illinois Legislative Board in Chicago by U.S. Mail or e-mail,” Szabo said. “Be sure to report the name of the van operator, the vehicle number, the license plate number, the date on which you witnessed the alleged violation and the nature of the defect or violation.”

Szabo said users of crew vans also should be alert to signs of driver fatigue possibly due to working in excess of permissible hours of service. If such a violation is suspected, the witness should inform the union of the driver’s name, the van company’s name, the vehicle number and license plate number and the date of the alleged violation.

“Do not attempt to remonstrate with the driver or with any management official from the contract carrier or the rail carrier,” Szabo said. “Just contact the Legislative Board in Chicago and we will get the Illinois State Police on the case. They have pledged their support and have asked for our assistance. They have the authority to order another inspection of the vehicle, as well as to examine the driver’s log book and the contract carrier’s maintenance records.”

Szabo said the union expects to have a special link on the Web site next week that will make it simple for crew members to file a report on any vehicle defects or personnel malfeasance they observe. The union will follow up and forward all such complaints to the State Police.

“What is great about this is that IDOT has really committed to enforcing the Contract Carriers Regulation Act,” Szabo said. “Now it’s up to railroad employees in the field to report any violations they see to the union. Our members have become part of the enforcement mechanism.”