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Rail Roundup: Lawmakers want worker fatigue addressed

Congressional leaders want rail regulators to address worker fatigue, attendance policies

Democratic leaders with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure are urging the Federal Railroad Administration to address worker fatigue as well as the attendance policies of the Class I railroads.

In a Wednesday letter to FRA Administrator Amit Bose, committee Chairman Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Rep. Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey, chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 called for FRA to implement fatigue management and reduction plans.

The request by congressmen comes as union leaders have recently expressed dissatisfaction over work schedules, saying that the implementation of precision scheduled railroading (PSR), an operational model that seeks to streamline operations, and COVID-19-related absences have created a work environment that doesn’t allow employees enough time to rest adequately. 

The unions have also aired their grievances over the attendance policies of Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B), with the unions taking BNSF to court over the attendance policy. 

BNSF has contended the new attendance policy, effective Feb. 1, provides more transparency with work schedules.

“The congressional mandate to mitigate fatigue among crew members and other safety-related workers is now a decade late,” DeFazio and Payne said. “Crew members and other craft workers have raised their concerns about being excessively exhausted at work, which is worsened by PSR. These workers cannot wait any longer, and neither can the communities through which trains travel. 

“To mitigate attendance policies that contribute to fatigue and help ensure all safety-related workers are rested and prepared to do the job safely, we respectfully urge your agency to issue the fatigue risk management program final rule without delay, require its swift implementation, and meaningfully enforce it to ensure that the 2008 bipartisan congressional mandate is met.”

They continued, “We believe that attendance policies that not only contribute to fatigue but also penalize workers for taking off when fatigued or ill simply cannot coexist with any serious fatigue risk management program. Rather, these policies could incentivize employees to show up to work fatigued in order to avoid reprimand or termination. They also ignore the unfortunate reality that crew members already have unpredictable and unreliable schedules, which makes this line of work difficult for many, even before policies that further restrict their lives and abilities to obtain proper rest.”

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Norfolk Southern and Commtrex set up transloading facilities visibility program

Customers of Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) will be able to access Commtrex’s database for rail-served transload facilities and sort them by location, commodities handled and other parameters, according to an agreement announced by both parties last week. Commtrex is a database platform provider.

“This partnership is impactful and enables transload customers to easily identify facilities served by Norfolk Southern, increasing access to shipping by rail, the most sustainable way to move freight over land,” said Leggett Kitchin, NS vice president for industrial products. “The technology also enhances the quality of data available to customers so they can accurately identify connecting points between our shipping network and transload partners.”

According to last Wednesday’s release, NS has 32 transload facilities in the database. The railroad itself has access to every major container port in the U.S. 

“Transloading is becoming an increasingly critical component in the need for supply chain flexibility,” Commtrex CEO Martin Lew said. “Close to one-third of the 2,500 Commtrex members are rail-served shippers, and Commtrex empowers them to effectively identify and connect with transloaders across North America. There is no other platform that can connect shippers with Class I’s, short line railroads, transloaders, terminals, and ports, and Norfolk Southern’s partnership with Commtrex will provide shippers with a best-in-class customer experience.”

In October 2021, Commtrex and Kansas City Southern announced a similar arrangement in which KCS customers would be able to access Commtrex’s platform.

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New container terminal at Port of Montreal will have access to rail

The new container terminal in Contrecœur that is part of the expansion plans for the Port of Montreal will integrate rail transport, according to the Montreal Port Authority and Canadian railway CN (NYSE: CNI).

Having rail transport at the container terminal “will help maximize the terminal’s efficiency and ensure a competitive commercial offering,” both parties said last week. That competitive commercial offering includes provider port users and companies greater access to the industrial heartland of Ontario and the U.S. Midwest.

Freight railways, including CN, already serve other facilities at the Port of Montreal. CN’s line is already in place in the area in Contrecœur where the expansion will occur.

A private partner will develop and operate the terminal, while CN and MPA parties will define the technical aspects of the project’s intermodal service, the parties stated last Wednesday. 

“We are pleased to partner on this agreement. Teaming up with the Montreal Port Authority and future partners allows us to design an efficient rail served terminal to provide customers with a high-quality, consistent and safe intermodal service on our network. This will help support our long-term, sustainable growth,” said CN President and CEO Tracy Robinson.

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Machinists union creates new rail division

The Transportation Communications Union (TCU) and District 19 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) have created a rail division. The rail-related members of these unions will be charter members of the IAM Rail Division. The IAM Rail Division was created as part of a 2012 merger agreement between TCU and IAM.

Josh Hartford, who has served as general chairman of IAM District 19, will serve as special assistant to the international president of the IAM Rail Division. His appointment as well as the creation of the IAM Rail Division will be effective May 1. 

Harford is currently a member of FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee and the District 19 arbitration review board. As District 19 general chairman, he has also overseen railroad agreements and worked in several bargaining coalitions with various railroad unions. 

“I look forward to working with TCU/IAM and District 19 members and leaders from coast to coast to fight every day for our dedicated railroad members and their families,” Hartford said. “Bringing back a rail division will provide all of our railroad members with a louder voice at the bargaining table and legislatively, as well as giving us a greater ability to organize new members.”

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Norfolk Southern appoints new vice president of transportation

Norfolk Southern has appointed Floyd Hudson as vice president of transportation, the company said last week.

Hudson previously served as general manager of NS’ southern region. He succeeds Hunt Cary, who is leaving NS.

“Floyd has been a leader in our work to implement precision scheduled railroading (PSR) and achieve continuous improvement in our operating ratio. He has played a central role in the flawless execution of our PSR-based TOP21 operating plan, including the conversion of hump yards, consolidating and reorganizing operating divisions, and modernizing field processes,” said NS Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn. “Just as important as his operational experience, Floyd achieves results the right way. He is a collaborative and inclusive leader, with a record of building strong teams and mentoring colleagues.”

Hudson will work with Paul Duncan, NS’ new vice president of network planning and operations, and both will serve as leadership for NS’ operations team, which will also include NS veterans Ed Boyle, vice president of engineering, and Tom Schnautz, vice president of advanced train control. 

Hudson began his career at NS as a management trainee in 2004 and moved through operations field leadership roles in several locations on NS’ network. He has led both southern and northern regions of NS and spent a year on rotational assignment as chief of staff to NS Chairman and CEO Jim Squires. 

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