BLET NEWS FLASH
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, March 22 – Colorado Governor Jared S. Polis signed a two-person crew bill into law on March 21, signifying a significant boost to railroad safety in the state.
The bill reads in part: “The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that it is in the public interest to require that a common carrier engaged in the transportation of freight by railroad have multiple crew members aboard a railroad train or light engine in order to help ensure the public safety of citizens of this state and the safety of the state”s waterways and natural environment.”
Primary sponsors of the bill are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the SMART Transportation Division.
“This represents a significant legislative victory for all railroaders, especially our hard working engine and train crews,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “In the event of an emergency situation, a lone crew member cannot properly assess the situation, secure the train, notify all necessary emergency responders and take other steps to mitigate the emergency in a timely manner.”
The bill requires a common carrier engaged in the transportation of property by railroad to have at least two crew members aboard a railroad train or light engine operated in connection with carrying freight while the freight train or light engine is moving. A violation of the requirement is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $250 to $1,000 for a first offense, $1,000 to $5,000 for a second offense committed within 3 years, or $5,000 to $10,000 for a third or subsequent offense committed within 3 years.
President Pierce thanked Brother Paul Pearson, Chairman of the Colorado State Legislative Board, and everyone else involved, for their tireless work in securing passage of this major legislation.
According to Chairman Pearson, House Bill 19-1034 was introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives on January 4, 2019, shortly after the opening of the first regular session of the 72nd Colorado General Assembly. Prime sponsors of the bill were Representatives Tom Sullivan and Daneya Esgar, both strong friends of labor and both endorsed by the BLET Colorado State Legislative Board. Brother Pearson testified in favor of the bill at a House Committee hearing on January 30, 2019. After second and third readings on the House floor, the bill was passed from the Colorado House to the Senate, where it was assigned by Senate President Leroy Garcia to the Transportation and Energy Committee. Senator Garcia was the sponsor of similar rail safety legislation in 2016, and he has been endorsed by the BLET Colorado SLB many times over the years.
“Senator Jessie Danielson, endorsed by the Colorado State Legislative Board in 2016 for her House reelection campaign and again in 2018 in her state Senate election, and a proven and tenacious labor advocate while she was in the Colorado House, was the prime sponsor of the Bill in the Senate,” Brother Pearson said. He testified in support of the Bill before the Senate’s Transportation and Energy Committee also. Brother Pearson said that after a couple of tense votes on the Senate floor, and after a final vote back in the House, the bill was approved and sent to the desk of Governor Polis for a signature on March 11, 2019.
Brother Pearson thanked President Pierce and the BLET National Division for its support, along with Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman for valuable guidance from the BLET’s National Legislative Office in Washington, D.C.
President Pierce said that thanks to the hard work of the BLET’s State Legislative Board Chairmen, more than a dozen states have introduced minimum crew size legislation this year, including Texas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Illinois, Michigan, and Kentucky.