The executive committee of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department set an agenda Monday that also eyed rail safety and combating commercial driver fatigue.
Members of the executive committee of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) met Monday with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and discussed the wide-ranging agenda, which included infrastructure investment and improved workplace safety, the transportation labor leaders set at the committee meeting.
“We have a real opportunity to rebuild this country, strengthen our economy and create good, family-sustaining jobs,” said DeFazio, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I will fight to get a bill across the finish line that remedies decades of neglect of our infrastructure and paves the way for the future.”
In a policy statement adopted Monday, TTD advocated to increase the tax on gasoline and diesel and index them, at minimum, to inflation. The taxes have remained unchanged since 1993 at 18.4 cents per gallon for gas and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel without an index for inflation.
The failure to invest in surface transportation infrastructure costs families about $1,400 to $1,600 a year in disposable income due to repairs and time spent in traffic. Motorists spend as many as 155 hours per year in traffic, the policy statement reads.
TTD also called for Congress to take steps to ensure electric and fuel-efficient vehicles contribute equally to the Highway Trust Fund, such as “a modest annual registration fee.”
“There are real steps that Congress can take today to meet our transportation and workforce needs,” reads the policy statement. “Though the FAST Act does not expire until September 2020, we call on Congress to bring legislation to the floor this year that would immediately fund our transportation infrastructure needs.”
The long-term plan, however, should be in transitioning to a mileage-based user fee, according to TTD. It said Congress must begin holding hearings on the topic, evaluate and address challenges in current and previous pilot projects, and expand pilot projects to solve the technical challenges associated with administering and collecting a mileage-based user fee.
“They must do this now, well before the transition to low- or no-fuel vehicles renders our current user fee even less effective,” TTD said in the policy statement.
TTD also said Congress would make a mistake if the infrastructure package did not also invest in aviation, rail and ports.
Executive committee members also met with Jennifer Homendy, a National Transportation Safety Board member.
In addition to infrastructure, TTD also called for improved safety for rail and commercial drivers.
The committee said the Hours of Service (HOS) Act, which mandates all covered rail employees may not work more than 12 consecutive hours and must receive 10 hours of undisturbed rest immediately following their last shifts, should be extended to include yardmasters. Congress also should require railroad operating employees be given 10 hours’ notice before their shifts.
TTD also renewed its call to Congress and federal regulators to mandate freight trains are fully crewed with a federally certified conductor and engineer.
“Crew size is a core safety issue and should not be left to the collective bargaining process,” the policy statement reads. “Maintaining safe operations and ensuring workplace safety benefit all Americans and should not be used as chips in broader labor-management negotiations.”
Protecting rail workers from assault and ensuring cross-border safety and security were two other areas the TTD’s agenda covered for the rail industry.
TTD said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Congress must reject efforts to roll back or weaken the underlying laws and regulations intended to fight commercial driver fatigue, such as pursuing flexibility within its HOS regulations for property-carrying drivers. The department also urged FMSCA to reject HOS waivers that have been filed with the agency.
“Meaningful reductions in fatigue translate immediately to reductions in avoidable accidents, injuries and fatalities — a goal that every American shares. At the same time, current protections must not be weakened or eliminated to satisfy business interests at a direct cost to safety,” reads the policy statement.
The executive committee called for the FAA and TSA to be protected from government shutdowns, vowed to implement safety and worker-focused mandates found in the most recent FAA bill and unveiled a plan designed to protect transit workers from threats of automation. The entire agenda may be found here.
“The breadth of issues we addressed in this meeting reflects the urgency frontline transportation workers feel to invest in our system, improve safety and strengthen the rights of all working people,” said TTD Secretary-Treasurer Greg Regan.