July 1, 2010

CHICAGO (July 1)—For the third time since last November the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has ruled against the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) following a UTU complaint.

The most recent ruling came June 28, when FRA Regional Administrator D.J. Tisor advised UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy that TRRA management violated Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 219, when it held a TRRA employee for drug and alcohol testing on April 27 following a low-speed, one-axle switching derailment that resulted in virtually no damage and no injuries.

“The FRA found that the derailment in question resulted in damages that fell short of the reportable threshold of $9,200,” Tisor wrote. “Therefore, no testing was required by Regulation.”

Tisor said his office would recommend to the FRA chief counsel that the railroad be fined for the violation.

“This most recent ruling was almost identical to the one the FRA issued in February,” Guy said.

In the February incident two cars derailed at slow speed in the TRRA’s Madison Yard. There was little damage, and the crew was ordered to continue their work and deliver the rest of their train to a connecting railroad, only to be detained at the end of their shift, in violation of the Hours of Service Law, for unnecessary drug and alcohol testing.

“In this most recent incident, the accident was even more minor than the February one,” Guy said. “Only one set of wheels on one truck came off the rails, yet the TRRA managers at Venice Yard held the engineer for a drug and alcohol test.”

In an earlier incident in November of 2009, the FRA found the TRRA guilty of ordering a switchman to operate a Remote Control Locomotive even though supervisors knew the employee had not passed the required vision and hearing test.

“The Illinois Legislative Board is becoming increasingly concerned about the distorted perspective TRRA management has been taking toward workplace safety,” Guy said. “There has been a distinct change in managerial conduct and attitude on this property recently: The carrier has tended to overreact to minor incidents while downplaying other conduct that represents a real threat to the safety and health of its employees—such as assigning a switchman to Remote Control Operations without verifying his visual and aural qualifications for the work.

“It is certainly rare for a carrier to be cited for three violations within a year’s time, and especially perplexing when two of those violations were for almost exactly the same act,” Guy said. “Thus the increased concern we have with the actions of TRRA.”

Guy urged all members to employ a three-point strategy in maintaining a safe workplace.

“Point one is to be alert to workplace hazards,” he said. “Point two—report any hazards you encounter to management.

“And point three, report to your Local leadership any attempt by management to ignore your reports or to discipline or harass you for bringing workplace hazards to their attention. You have a clear right to a safe workplace and an absolute right to speak out on its behalf.”