Union Expresses Support for Rail Security Bill

A union official implored members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to mandate that rail corporations offer safety training to transportation workers as well as put an end to mandatory re-routing of hazardous materials.

John Tolman, representing the Teamster Rail Conference – a division of the Brotherhood of Teamsters – testified in support of H.R. 1269, the Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced the measure.

Tolman stated that locomotive engineers, trainmen and other train track employees “are the true first responders to rail emergencies.”

“ ... The rail corporations do not have quality safety and security training for employees in place,” Tolman said. “That failure places these first responders in harm's way, and, by extension, puts the communities served by the railroads in harm's way as well."

According to the the Teamsters, the need for proper training is more important now than ever before because of the high turnover rate of employees in the industry.

“Rail security measures have not been given the attention they deserve,” Tolman said. “The railroad industry is in the midst of a rapid turnover – fueled by the first wave of retirements of baby boomer
generation railroad workers – that strains the industry's training programs for all crafts.”

Tolman spoke out against re-routing of hazardous materials, which often is seen as a solution to metropolitan-area exposure to a HAZMAT accident.

“Mandatory re-routing of hazardous materials would further jeopardize untrained and unprotected employees, along with the general public,” Tolman said. “There is not enough room in the system to re-route hazardous materials on a large scale without experiencing significant delays and disruption.”

Transportation Modes Have Become Terrorist Targets

Oberstar introduced H.R. 1269 to provide the resources to protect modes of transportation that have become terrorist targets around the world.

The Teamsters Rail Conference states that more than 80 percent of rail workers surveyed as part of its “High Alert” report said they had not received any or additional security- or terrorism-related training from their employers since 9/11.

“Tragically, transit and rail systems have long been popular targets of terrorist attacks worldwide,” Oberstar said. “From 1991 to 2001, 42 percent of all terrorist incidents were carried out on rail systems or buses. Recent tragic events show that these threats continue.”

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