Safer crew transportation WASHINGTON STATE LAW SIGNED DESPITE YEARS OF OPPOSITION After a five-year battle with railroad carriers over legislation to ensure the safety of their own employees, ESHB 1105, the top priority of the SMART TD Washington State Legislative Board, was finally enacted into statute law May 16. The impetus for passing this law was a horrific crew van accident in 2011 that resulted in the death of 22-year BNSF engineer Tom Kenny, 58; conductor-in-training Chris Loehr, 22; and Coach America van driver Steven Sebastian, 60; and critical injuries sustained by conductor Dwight Hauck, 52. A large group of railroad workers traveled to Olympia, Wash. and witnessed the signing of this bill into law by Governor Jay Inslee (D). They included Laura Kenny and her family, the spouse and children of Tom Kenny, as well as Hauck and his wife Susan. Other family members also had testified for the bill. “We are especially grateful to the Kennys and the Haucks for their testimony and strong support of this legislation; they were instrumental in our ability to win out over the railroads’ opposition,” Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn said. Nation’s strongest crew safety law The new Washington State statute is the most stringent railroad contract crew transportation safety law in our nation. Most of the provisions take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. According to Krohn, this law gives strict regulatory authority to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) for all rail contract transportation services including vehicles (regardless of seating capacity), driver qualifications, equipment and operational safety, drivers’ hours of service, passenger safety, drug testing provisions, and mandatory recordkeeping. The WUTC now enforces all aspects of the new law including investigating passenger complaints and imposiing penalties. The law increases state insurance requirements from $1.5 million to $5 million of liability coverage and no less than $1 million in Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage; currently there are no such coverage requirements whatsoever. While passage of this law is a major advance, Krohn says the WUTC rule making process for enforcing the law’s provisions is even more critical. “This is where the rubber really meets the road. Whatever regulations the commission finally adopts will determine precisely how this new law will actually be applied and enforced and how it will impose the specific expectations on these contract operators.” Krohn is already actively engaged in participating in the regulatory development process of the WUTC. OUT IN FORCE—AND FAST In case you missed it on the back cover of the Spring Members’ Journal, our Brothers and Sisters in the Pacific Northwest showed impressive force—and member commitment—in pushing back a hastily proposed right-to-work (for less) bill. When sponsors unexpectedly set a hearing, the Local had less than 24 hours to take action—yet managed to bring out 415 members for a protest at the State Capitol just before the hearing. Some 320 people signed up to testify, with all but one signed in as opposed to the bill; it never made it out of committee. That is Union spirit at its very best.
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