Exclusive Representation Of Trainmen And Equal Representation Of Locomotive Engineers.


Official Recommendation From The NTSB On Video And Audio Crew Monitoring. - 2/26/2010

 WASHINGTON -- The National Transportation Safety Board on Feb. 23 officially recommended to the Federal Railroad Administration that it "require installation, in all controlling locomotive cabs and cab-car operating compartments, of crash- and fire-protected inward- and outward-facing audio and image recorders."

The audio and image recorders, recommended the NTSB, should be "capable of providing recordings to verify that train crew actions are in accordance with rules and procedures that are essential to safety as well as train operating conditions.

"The devices," said the NTSB, should have a minimum 12-hour continuous recording capability with recordings that are easily accessible for review, with appropriate limitations on public release, for the investigation of accidents or for use by management in carrying out efficiency testing and systemwide performance monitoring programs."

Moreover, the NTSB recommended that the FRA "require that railroads regularly review and use in-cab audio and image recordings (with appropriate limitations on public release), in conjunction with other performance data, to verify that train crew actions are in accordance with rules and procedures that are essential to safety."

The NTSB has no regulatory authority and may only make recommendations. The FRA, however, has authority to impose and enforce such regulations.

The Los Angeles Times reported in late January that the NTSB would be formally making such a recommendation to the FRA.

The NTSB recommendation follows an NTSB determination that a Sept. 12, 2008, crash in Chatsworth, Calif., between a Metrolink commuter train and Union Pacific freight train -- which killed 25 and injured more than 100 -- was caused by the failure of the Metrolink engineer "to observe and appropriately respond" to a red signal "because he was engaged in prohibited use of a wireless device, specifically text messaging."

The agency said the Metrolink engineer sent 21 text messages, received 20, and made four calls from his cell phone while he was at the controls of the commuter train that day -- all in violation of the General Code of Operating Rules and his employer's operating rules.

The NTSB also concluded that the conductor of the freight train had sent or received 41 text messages while on duty -- 35 of them while the train was moving -- and was also in violation of operating rules.

"The nature of rail operations makes enforcement of certain operating rules extremely difficult, if not impossible," said the NTSB. "No reasonable method exists for management, by personal observation, to determine whether the engineer (or other crew member) boards the train with a personal wireless device in his or her possession, and once the train leaves the station, no mechanism is currently in place to determine whether the device is in use."

While the NTSB acknowledged that the FRA, in the wake of the Chatsworth accident, had issued Emergency Order 26, requiring immediate termination of employment as discipline for unauthorized use of wireless devices on moving trains, the agency said, "making the violation more serious or the penalty more severe does not address the difficulty in identifying violators."

Thus, said the NTSB, "because of the privacy afforded by a locomotive cab or train operating compartment, routine efficiency testing and performance monitoring practices are inadequate to determine whether or to what extent engineers or other crewmembers may not be complying with safety rules such as those regarding use of wireless devices or allowing access by unauthorized persons."

Additionally, the NTSB said that "an employee who is aware that his or her activities in the train control compartment are subject to review by management will be much less likely to engage in conduct -- such as using a wireless device or allowing unauthorized persons in the locomotive cab -- that could lead to an accident.

"Regular review of in-cab audio and image recordings would give managers insight into other potential safety issues or unsafe operating practices that may not be revealed by any other means and of which the crews themselves may be unaware," the NTSB said in its recommendation to the FRA.

"The NTSB therefore concludes that a train crew performance monitoring program that includes the use of in-cab audio and image recordings would serve as a significant deterrent to the types of noncompliance with safety rules engaged in [by crew members involved in the Chatsworth crash] and would provide railroads with a more comprehensive means to evaluate the adequacy of their safety programs."

Before taking any regulatory action, the FRA would seek public comment.

To read the NTSB's complete recommendation, click on the following link:


CN's Chicago Bypass Plans Are On Track. - 1/18/2010
CHICAGO - Nearly one year after the Canadian National Railway purchased a suburban rail line as a freight bypass around Chicago, fears of a massive influx of two-mile-long trains rolling through dozens of neighborhoods haven't yet materialized, the Tribune reports.

But residents and local officials have complained that train noise and vibrations from the CN's more powerful, multiple locomotives are wreaking havoc on home life.

"The engines make ungodly noises and vibrations. ... They would wake the dead," said Michele Oehlerking, who lives across the street from the tracks in Hawthorn Woods. "The house shakes and the lampshades jiggle. In summer, you can't hear the TV when the trains go by."

Still, worried suburbanites haven't seen many of the problems that were predicted for the former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway, a lightly used short line railroad running from Waukegan to Joliet to Gary.

Equipment breakdowns have occasionally closed some crossings for excessively long stretches and delayed motorists, records show, but no horror stories involving blocked ambulances or firetrucks have been reported.

Overall, train volumes have decreased on most segments of the EJ&E since CN started operating on the line in March, according to monthly reports the railroad has filed with federal regulators.

In December, the stretch from Mundelein to Bartlett averaged more than seven trains a day, only two more than ran on the EJ&E prior to CN's takeover. Most of the rest of the segments showed only one more train per day, or fewer trains, according to CN's report.

Eventually, CN plans to run three or four times more trains than historically have rolled along the EJ&E. First it needs to complete a three-year, $100 million upgrade of the century-old line's tracks and infrastructure.

Although freight traffic on all major rail lines dropped sharply in 2009 because of the struggling economy, analysts predict strong growth.

"While the traffic may be less (than expected), all the symptoms we predicted are there," said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, co-chairman of a coalition of suburbs that organized to oppose the CN's plans. "It's just a matter of time before we'll see the trains in greater volume."

As part of the EJ&E upgrade, CN told regulators it plans to enlarge three sidings near South Barrington, West Chicago and Aurora to accommodate 10,000-foot-long trains.

The anti-CN coalition known as TRAC, or The Regional Answer to Canadian National, continues to battle with the railroad, pressing its challenge to the transportation board's ruling in a Washington court. But 21 communities along the former EJ&E arc have made peace with the Montreal-based railroad.

The suburbs have negotiated voluntary agreements with CN to help establish quiet zones, install cameras to monitor rail crossings and take other safety measures. Some towns have negotiated multimillion-dollar deals; others have settled for less.

Plainfield, which had once been a CN foe and had donated $10,000 to TRAC, made a deal with CN and quit the coalition in December.

In addition to new safety fencing and a warning system to alert emergency workers about crossing gate status, CN gave Plainfield a small parcel of land.

"We tried to get the best bang for our buck, and this seemed to be about as good as it's going to get," Village President Mike Collins said. "That's why we agreed to it."

CN is working hard to resolve concerns by reaching agreements with individual communities, spokesman Patrick Waldron said.

The accords are in keeping with the Dec. 24, 2008, decision of the federal Surface Transportation Board allowing CN to buy the EJ&E.

The sale became official Jan. 31, 2009.

In addition, the railroad says it has appointed a liaison to work with suburbs, updated warning signs at grade crossings and given several safety presentations at schools near the EJ&E tracks.

"CN takes very seriously the agreements we made when we took over the EJ&E line," CN Vice President Karen Borlaug Phillips recently told the transportation board.

The TRAC coalition, which includes Barrington, Aurora and Naperville, continues to press its fight before a federal appeals court in Washington and seeks to overturn the transportation board's decision.

The coalition claimed an important victory recently when, in response to TRAC's request, the transportation board agreed to have an independent consultant verify CN's reports of grade crossing delays and accidents.

The number of grade-crossing delays along the rail line has dropped sharply. CN reported 49 delays of 10 minutes or more occurring in February and March. Since then, the number has ranged from 4 to 14 each month.

The longest reported delay was in October when a Main Street crossing in Matteson was blocked for 4 1/2 hours when a train backed into rail cars in a freight yard.

Meanwhile, CN is pushing its own challenge to the transportation board decision. The railroad objects to the board's order that it must pay most of the cost for building rail-highway bridges in Aurora and Lynwood.

The two overpasses could cost the railroad at least $151 million, more than half the $300 million the CN paid for the EJ&E.

Barrington President Karen Darch, a TRAC co-chair, said the group also stressed its concerns over several recent derailments involving CN trains.

The most troubling incident, she said, was the June 19 accident in Rockford when a CN train left the tracks and several tankers filled with ethanol exploded into flames. A 41-year-old woman and an unborn baby were killed, and several others were injured. Officials evacuated about 600 homes in the area.

Other accidents involving CN trains include a Dec. 22 derailment involving three cars on a CN train in Burlington, and a Jan. 16, 2009, derailment involving 17 train cars in Buffalo Grove.

Not all residents have been discouraged by CN's new operations on the EJ&E, however. Edward Benson, who has lived in New Lenox for 10 years, isn't troubled by delays from CN's freights.

"I see traffic back up, but I haven't seen the 'you killed my uncle because we couldn't get him to the hospital' kind of thing," Benson said. "I think the prediction of doom has been overblown."

(This item appeared Jan. 18, 2010, in the Chicago Tribune.)



January 18, 2010
We'll Fight With Fire In Belly For What's Right! By UTU International President Mike Futhey - 9/24/2009

We accept that managing employees isn't a popularity contest. But it need not be an unpopularity contest.

I share with each of you the concern over ratcheted-up harassment, intimidation and excessive discipline. There is no more economic sense to make out of this than there is common sense.

I was recently told of an incident where an experienced conductor’s work was interrupted no fewer than 18 times over a six-hour period to quiz him on operating rules. Such unjustifiable scrutiny contributes to an unsafe workplace, as the results are used to punish rather than to educate.

When employees in safety-sensitive positions are put in a position where their primary focus at work is defending themselves, their ability to do their jobs efficiently and safely is jeopardized. That is not in the offending carrier’s best interest, certainly not in the customers' best interest, and absolutely not in the best interests of operating efficiently and safely.

We are putting a coalition together with other labor organizations to stop this unwarranted activity. First, we want to hear from you. On the UTU’s home page, at www.utu.org, there is a link to contact information for each of the International's senior officers.

Please, tell us the problems, with examples and details. Help us to teach the carriers we are going to represent our members and are not going to be silent while our members continue to be harassed, intimidated and excessively disciplined to the point of putting their limbs and lives in jeopardy. These members cannot focus on doing their jobs efficiently and safely.

No member should constantly have to look over their shoulder.

As the carriers' attempt at tortured interpretations and applications of our agreements, we will fight them in the courts in Fort Worth, we will fight them on the properties from Jacksonville to Norfolk to Omaha, and we will not go quietly into the night. We will stand and fight.

Our message to the carriers is simple: We want our members properly trained, and then we expect the carries to leave us alone and let us do our work efficiently and safely.

On behalf of our members, we will -- in the words of former President Al Chesser -- "stand and fight with fire in the belly for what is right."

September 23, 2009
FRA's Joe Szabo Interview With Railway Age Magazine. - 8/5/2009
(The following on-the-record interview with FRA Administrator Joe Szabo appears in the July issue of Railway Age magazine. Szabo previously was UTU Illinois state legislative director.)

WASHINGTON -- Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo, a fifth-generation railroader, has been in the industry since age 18.

The former United Transportation Union Illinois State Legislative Director hired out on the Illinois Central in 1976 at his father’s suggestion to make money for college. He worked mostly as a conductor in Chicago commuter service, but spent some time in yard and over-the-road freight service.

His father, Joseph F. Szabo, was a switchman with the IC, and a UTU officer for 15 years as secretary-treasurer of Local 1299. In 1987, when the IC sold its commuter operation to Metra, the younger Szabo chose Metra. "I enjoyed the breaks working freight, but I preferred being with people and having reasonable control over my working hours."

RAILWAY AGE: Tell me about your union involvement.

JOE SZABO: When I was 14 and 15, I helped my father keep the books for UTU Local 1299. I was paying a lot of attention to what was going on in the union at that time. I signed on with the Illinois Central in 1976 and joined UTU Local 1290; I attended college part time. In 1984, the secretary-treasurer of Local 1290 retired, and some of the old heads said I should run for the job. I did and won. I had been involved in local politics in my home town of Riverdale, Ill., on the zoning board of appeals, and my parents were always involved in civic affairs -- a core value for me. In 1989, I ran for local legislative representative and was elected. The rest, as they say, is history.

RA: You bring practical railroad experience to the job. What does that mean for your perspective, how you run things?

JS: I would like to think that my life experiences would add a degree of credence to the position, and hopefully bring important insight to the FRA, not only having the hands-on experience, but the daily interaction with railroad employees, even as a union officer. I really do understand what happens out there.

RA: All the activity occurring in the rail industry -- high speed, PTC, ECP brakes, etc. -- what does it mean for the FRA, and for you?

JS: It’s incredibly exciting. There couldn't be a more exciting or challenging time taking over this agency, because it is a transformational period for the agency, as well as for the industry, and for the country. Inside the FRA, we've been mandated with more than a dozen rulemakings as part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act. That in itself would be a huge undertaking, if that was the only item on our agenda. But it's not. We’ve been handed a high-priority, high-profile project by the White House.

The president has said he wants to change the way Americans travel, and that passenger rail is going to be an integral part of that transformation, of balancing our transportation network. Hallelujah! It’s been so long overdue, and something that I believe has been simmering with the population, but hasn’t resonated with our political leadership. Now it has.

So, as an agency, we’ve been charged with executing the president’s vision, and with ensuring that he is successful with it. That's a culture change for America. Inside the FRA, it's a major change, because historically, this has been predominantly a safety agency. Statutorily, safety is the primary mission of the FRA.

Out of our 850 employees, about two-thirds are dedicated to the safety program, a good program that runs like a fine-tuned machine. But we’ve got this small, dedicated passenger rail section that suddenly has been thrown into the spotlight, given this presidential mandate --short timeline, failure is not an option.

So it's created tremendous stress for us. We’ve got to go through this transformation in our passenger rail section, beef up our resources, do additional hiring, and continue to grow the expertise to make sure we have the appropriate people on board to expeditiously review and approve the grant applications that are going to be coming in. We cannot fail, and one of the things that will lead to failure would be a lethargically slow process that frustrates the states.

RA: That’s one criticism that's been leveled in recent years -- that it takes the FRA too long to get anything done, whether it’s a RRIF loan approved or a rulemaking on a particular technology.

JS: There’s no question that criticism has been out there. One of the unfortunate parts of government is that, by nature, bureaucratic processes are slow. So, as we’ve been putting together our guidance for the passenger rail program, we’ve been looking at how we can break down many of those barriers. While balancing the need to ensure that risk is reduced and that projects are approved on a merit basis, we need to be as expeditious as possible. So we’re aware of the criticism and clearly trying to address it.

RA: The industry is still trying to get its arms around high speed. What are we talking about -- 200 mph dedicated lines, or 110-125 mph trains on existing freight rights-of-way?

JS: All of the above. Frankly, in my opinion, too much of the debate has been about speed, which is only a means to an end. That end, the important criteria, is reducing trip times. That's the only thing that matters -- making sure that trip times are competitive with or superior to other modes of travel, that they offer the level of convenience that the traveling public is looking for.

Equally important is reliability. To me, this whole debate has to be about trip times and reliability. Speed happens to be one tool that helps us achieve those goals. Yes, we are looking for 200 mph dedicated systems, but that doesn't mean that there also isn’t a very important role for 110-125 mph service.

I’ll give you an analogy. We've got a road system consisting of local streets, county and state and U.S. highways, and interstates. All interconnect with each other and are part of a comprehensive system. The same approach has to be taken with passenger rail, whether we're talking about commuter services, conventional 79 mph, emerging corridors with 110-125 mph services, or 200-mph high speed.

RA: Another criticism that’s been leveled at government is that there's no comprehensive transportation policy.

JS: I hope that becomes a part of the SAFETEA-LU reauthorization process. At FRA, we're willing to be helpful in that process -- that government does start viewing transportation from a broader perspective, rather than the traditional silos, regardless of whether we're talking about transporting goods or people.

RA: Positive Train Control: Freight railroads are understandably concerned about the cost and the 2015 implementation deadline, who will pay for installation and how much. Your thoughts?

JS: We’re working on the Subpart I rulemaking and are making sure that we get out information in a timely manner. In a broader sense, the industry has an opportunity here to change the dynamics, the relationships, particularly between Amtrak and the freight railroads. There's now money on the table to improve passenger operations. I think PTC presents some good opportunities for a win-win for freight and passenger.

RA: What can you tell me about FRA's R&D initiatives? Will more funding be available?

JS: This agency supports and will attempt to advance through our R&D department those technologies that improve the safety and efficiency of the industry. We clearly have an Administration that understands the role that rail freight and passenger can play in balancing our transportation network, and its advantages. So it’s my hope that, when it comes to our R&D side, there’s going to be support to allow us to continue to enhance rail's viability.

(The preceding interview with FRA Administrator Joe Szabo appears in the July issue of Railway Age magazine.)

July 31, 2009
8 Ways To Go Home Safe! - 7/21/2009
Career-ending personal injuries and fatalities have continued to increase in the rail industry.


To educate members on the circumstances of these incidents, and in attempts to avoid them in the future, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, appointed by International President Mike Futhey, urges that each of you continue to look out for each other and forward your ideas and concerns about workplace safety to them so they may address them. 

Interactive communication and "looking out for each other" is imperative to bringing us all home from work in one piece.

To ensure we all go home to our families in one piece, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force asks for a 100 percent commitment to rules compliance and to the following eight activities:

1) Job briefings: Ensure all crew members are present for job briefings, and focus on risk assessment.

2) Situational awareness: Constantly be aware of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness to avoid risks associated with the required tasks and work within the limits of your capabilities.

3) On/off standing equipment: Keep hands free of other objects and maintain three point contact, always being vigilant for equipment movement.

4) Avoid slips, trips and falls: Keep your eyes on the footpath and report any unsafe walking conditions to your local legislative representative for handling.

5) Radio communications: Always use proper identification, provide car counts when shoving, do not engage in excessive chatter or use "over and out."

6) Put safety first: Performing a task safety is more important than the time it takes to complete it. The only "good move" is one done 100 percent by the rules.

7) Ask questions: If any uncertainty arises, take the time to ask questions. Do not take risks or assume anything.

8) Be in charge of your own safety: Do not let others set YOUR level of safety. Report harassment and intimidation.

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, and to communicate with the task force, visit the task force's interactive Web page by clicking:


In solidarity,

UTU Rail Safety Task Force

Greg Hynes, UTU assistant Arizona state legislative director
Steve Evans, UTU Arkansas state legislative director
Jerry Gibson, UTU Michigan state legislative director
Scott Olson, UTU Arizona state legislative director

July 21, 2009

     Welcome to the UTU Local 432 website.  UTU Local 432 is based out of the Canadian National Railway's Champaign, Illinois terminal.  Our local consists of 44 conductors, engineers, and brakemen at this time.  The brothers of UTU 432 perform the majority of their duties on the CN network from Champaign, IL to Markham, IL, Champaign, IL to Gary, IN, and Champaign, IL to Fulton, KY.

     Our brothers also get called to work the CN network between Mattoon, Decatur, and Peoria, IL, and on occasion as far west as Springfield, IL and Farmersville, IL.  We also run trains via trackage rights over the Union Pacific from Kinmundy, IL to Salem, IL.

     UTU Local 432 meetings are currently being held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7 PM upstairs at Jupiter’s at the Crossing, 2511 Village Green Place, (Southwest corner of Windsor and Duncan) Champaign, IL.


Our 2011 officers are...

  • Jim Estay                  Local Chairman 433B
  • Joseph Poole            Vice-Local Chairman 433B
  • Rodney Flessner       President
  • Eric Simnick              Vice-President
  • Rich Goben              Secretary
  • Monte Ireland           Treasurer
  • Grady Crippin           Legislative Rep/Delegate
  • Jeremy Strawser       Alt. Legislative Rep/Alt. Delegate
  • Charlie Davidson      Trustee
  • Ron McGuffin           Trustee
  • Floyd Hughes          Trustee