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Bipartisan group of 27 U.S. legislators urge DOT’s Chao to block KCS safety waiver that allows Mexican train crews to operate in U.S.

(BLET Editor’s Note: The following press release was issued by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.)
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18 — On September 17, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Ranking Member Michael Capuano (D-MA) sent a bipartisan letter, signed by 27 Members of Congress, to Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Elaine Chao expressing opposition to a petition filed by Kansas City Southern Railway (KCSR) requesting a waiver of critical Federal safety and inspection requirements.

This petition is the latest in a series of actions taken by KCSR to allow Mexican workers, who are not subject to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations regarding pre-employment screening and random drug and alcohol testing, to operate trains in the United States and to move U.S. rail jobs involve inspection and testing of locomotives, freight cars and air brakes to Mexico.

“Freight railroads have long sought the ability to allow Mexican crews to operate trains in the United States. We oppose any groundwork that the FRA might be laying toward that effort. We strongly urge you to deny the May 31 petition and to rescind the process of allowing Mexican rail crews to operate within the United States,” the Members wrote.

KCSR’s effort to get waivers from critical Federal safety and inspection requirements to allow Mexican workers to operate trains in the U.S. first started in 2008 when the FRA granted KCSR a waiver from safety regulations to move class I brake test inspections from the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Laredo, Texas, to KCSR’s Laredo Yard, about nine miles north of the point where U.S. and Mexican crews interchanged. That waiver was extended on December 11, 2017. Both waivers listed conditions for relief, including the requirement that KCSR employees perform a class III air brake test at the U.S.-Mexico border before a train proceeds to the Laredo Yard for the class I brake test.

In June 2018, FRA – with no public notice or comment – granted KCSR further relief at the border crossing by eliminating a previous requirement for a crew change at the International Bridge on the U.S.-Mexico border. Previously, U.S. crews took control of northbound trains from Mexican crews at the International Bridge and brought those trains nine miles to the Laredo Yard and handed off the southbound trains back to Mexican crews at the International Bridge. That no longer occurs – a 50-year history has changed. The Mexican crews are employed by Servicio, a subcontractor to Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM), a subsidiary of KCSR. FRA regulations exempt these Mexican crews from pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing within 10 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The letter was signed by DeFazio, Capuano, as well as Representatives John Katko (R-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), William Keating (D-MA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Seth Moulton (D-MA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Richard M. Nolan (D-MN), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Charlie Crist (D-FL), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Andre Carson (D-IN), Peter Welch (D-VT), Michael Doyle (D-PA), David P. Joyce (R-OH), Don Young (R-AK), and Gene Green (D-TX).

The full letter can be found here.