FRA Waives Regulations, Violating Preexisting Workers’ Rights

View article in its entirety at Railway Age.

— Author: William C. Vantuono

In response to a Petition from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a 60-day emergency waiver for certain requirements of FRA’s rail safety regulations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their communication to FRA, the Petitioners asserted that their member railroads “expect their staffing levels to be significantly reduced as fewer railroad employees and contractors will be available to perform necessary duties due to illness and the need to quarantine,” FRA said in the waiver letter. “[They asserted] that a reduction in employee availability due to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect railroads’ ability to keep freight trains carrying critical goods and materials necessary for the country’s welfare operating during this emergency, and that compliance with all Federal railroad safety regulations, with the expected workforce shortage, would significantly hinder railroads’ ability to operate. Additionally, Petitioners [noted] that limited resources or directives imposed on a geographic location by other government agencies could lead to operational limitations that could result in undue delay to the transportation of critical commodities. As such, Petitioners [requested] relief from certain FRA safety requirements in the event the COVID-19 pandemic causes workforce shortages or other constraints that prevent individual railroads from timely completing all Federally mandated railroad safety tests and inspections, and complying with other requirements related to employee training and qualification.”

FRA determined that, subject to certain conditions, granting the request for relief “is in the public interest, necessary to address the current nationwide emergency situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic, and is not inconsistent with railroad safety … The relief is generally conditioned on the existence of workforce shortages and other constraints … Railroads that find it necessary to utilize the waiver relief … must document the basis on which they concluded that availing themselves of the relief was necessary. Any railroad utilizing any aspect of this waiver is required to report weekly … [to FRA] through their respective industry association.”

VIEW:  RWU Resolution on Coronavirus and the Railroad

ACTION ALERT:  Report Unsafe and Unhealthy Railroad Conditions

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