current events

or what's hot and what's not!!!

first amendment

first amendment to the bill of rights of the constitution

(ratified december 15, 1791)

weris (wireless event recorder information system) hits accumulating (09-26-2009) - the ns is investing heavily into its "new and improved" method of monitoring locomotive engineers through the weris technology, a form of wireless download. the weris technology allows officials to monitor a locomotive usage in historical or real time. downloading event recorders no longer must be done in person onboard a locomotive. even more, the weris technology will inform the weris center in atlanta, ga, automatically if certain conditions the carrier has deemed "extreme", occur during a trip. the alert is sent to the weris center via an automatic wireless link. the center then alerts the appropriate division road foreman of engines who passes it down to the corresponding road foreman of engines. they, in turn, will verify the "hit", and if deemed unacceptable, will contact the engineer.

some, but not all, of the most common weris hits are:

  1. more than 200 amps for more than 120 seconds at 0 mph (holding train on a grade)
  2. locomotive reverser, 0 mph, above #1 notch, time - 3 minutes or greater
  3. low idle, 0 mph, reverser forward or reverse, time more than 30 seconds
  4. stretch braking, more than 20 mph, bp more than 0 and less than 85 lbs., throttle above #2, time 45 seconds
  5. heavy reduction, more than 15 mph, bp less than 70 lbs,time 30 seconds (their theory is that may have been an "oh shit" moment)
  6. independent brake, more than 15 mph, brake cylinder pressure more than 15 psi, time - more than 20 seconds
  7. speeding, more than 61 mph, time - more than 50 seconds
  8. emergency brake application, more than 10 mph, bp = 0 lbs., time - more than 2 seconds
  9. cab signal (some territories) - cs approach, more than 30 mph, time - more than 60 seconds, cs restricting, more than 15 mph, time - more than 30 seconds
  10. independent brake misuse, more than 10 mph, brake cylinder pressure more than 25 lbs., time - more than 10 seconds

big brother is out there! to learn more about weris, click here!

favorable ruling by nmb in fmla remedy (06-10-2009) - the national mediation board has ruled in favor of the organizations in the long pending family medical leave act (fmla). it was past practice for the carriers to take a days vacation or personal time from an employee who laid off and was awarded fmla. this action violated the department of labor fmla guide lines. the organizations and carriers progressed the minor dispute through the court system, each time the carrier losing with an unfavorable ruling. finally the dispute was appealed to the highest court in the country, the supreme court, who refused to hear the issue. this basically supported the rulings of each lower court.

the award of remedy, signed june 1, 2009 in west orange, new jersey, and awarded a basic day for each day the carrier penalized an employee. page 55 of the 58 page award of remedy reads in part:

"as an appropriate remedy for employees who were required to use paid leave for fmla leave in violation of the national vacation and / or national personal leave agreements, the carriers shall pay the following sums to bargaining unit employees who filed timely and otherwise procedurally valid claims arising from specific applications of the carriers requiring use of paid vacation or personal leave as of the carriers required to be used as fmla leave, one day's straight-time pay at the then-obtaining rate of pay for each such employee."

to read the complete award of remedy, click here!

2009 railroad retirement tax rates to remain the same, but.... (12-06-2008) - the 2009 railroad retirement tax rates will remain the same, tier i at 6.2% as well as tier ii at 3.9%. medicare has always been 1.45%. however, the maximum contributory amounts will change as follows:

to read more on railroad retirement tax issues, click here!

patriot corridor announced by ns (05-19-2008) - the people in norfolk southern strategic planning department have been working overtime with their crystal ball to develop a joint venture with pan am railways (par) known as the "patriot corridor"! the patriot corridor will connect to the ns via trackage and haulage rights over cpr between binghamton, ny and mohawk, ny and onto ayer, ma. though some of this route exists today, millions of dollars will be invested into buffalo terminal, mechanicville, ny and various line improvement projects. par will also change its name to pan am southern (?). ns will transfer cash and property valued at $140 million, $87.5 million which will be used to improve speed, reliability and add capacity. par will transfer its 155 mile main line that runs between mechanicsville, ny and ayer, ma. ns will also acquire other various trackage rights.

as the ns continues to invest millions of dollars into several of its "corridor" projects (heartland corridor, meridian speedway corridor and so on), improvements will bring new infrastructure and trains to buffalo terminal at bison yard. announced by ns on 05-15-2008, par and ns will file immediately with the surface transportation bill for approval which is expected to take less than 30 months to complete.

what does this mean for the buffalo terminal?

to read a complete presentation on the patriot corridor, as released by the ns, click here!

corporate policy on alcohol use (01-01-2008) in accordance with "policy on alcohol and drugs of norfolk southern corporation and its railroad subsidiaries" be advised of the following:

"norfolk southern corporation and its subsidiary railroads continue to prohibit all possession and use of or impairment by alcohol when employees are on duty, reporting for duty, on company property or occupying facilities provided by the company..."

company provided facilities are considered hotels and dormitories. please be advised that consuming alcohol at a bar, tavern or restaurant that is attached, part of or on the premises of a hotel or dormitory provided by the carrier, is considered to be in violation of corporate policy on alcohol use. this does not mean that consumption of alcohol can't be undertaken off the premises provided by the carrier, such as a bar, tavern or restaurant across the street or down the road. but after consumption off the premises and return to the facility, be aware that the employee now is entering a company provided lodging facility.

employees are on call and are always susceptible to testing when reporting for duty where the carrier takes the position of "0" tolerance for drugs and alcohol. for more information regarding norfolk southern's drug and alcohol rehabilitation service (dars), click here.

ceo wick mooreman orders improvements (09-10-2006) - as the dust begins to settle after ns ceo wick mooreman's office car special (ocs) inspection trip, new dust in the form of new capital improvements begins to arise. a windfall of cash has been awarded to buffalo, ny and the southern tier line as the ceo orders and approves many of the capital improvement requests, some of which have already began!

here are some of the capital improvements to look forward to on the southern tier line and buffalo terminal:

  1. cp-panama and cp-broadway increase speed from 40 mph to 50 mph.
  2. the east side approach to portage bridge (mp 359.1 - 362.1) increase from 40 mph to 50 mph.
  3. cp-swains increase from 40 mph to 50 mph and replace stick rail with cwr (continuous welded rail).
  4. hornell, ny to increase from 35 mph to 50 mph.
  5. big flats to cp-elmira increase speed from 40 mph to 50 mph.
  6. and everybody who has ever run the southern tier, their favorite speed restrictions: cp-waverly to cp-johnson replace the stick rail with cwr and get the speed up from 25 mph to 50 mph. but this one comes with a catch - single track this section with sidings at waverly, owego and binghamton!
  7. and probably the most annoying speed restriction out there - alden siding between cp-marilla and cp-alden from 10 mph to 25 mph.

now let's see if the ns ceo keeps his word!

trainmen offered long term disability insurance (01-05-2006) - several members have inquired about the long term disability insurance offered only to ns trainmen and those engineers on "the bubble" by the blet. click here to review the policy hi-lights!

federal railway administration issues emergency order 24 (eo-24)! (11-14-2005) - for the purpose and intention of reducing the risk of serous injury or death both to railroad employees and the general public, the fra has issued emergency order 24 (eo-24). the order will take effect november 22, 2005. click here to review a very brief outline of the order which holds crews accountable for ensuring switches are restored back to their normal position by an accountability check list.

to review the incidents that lead up to eo-24, click here!

fmla policy change (06-18-2004) - the family medical leave act (fmla) was established under the department of labor to assist family members during time of crisis, emergencies and needs. it basically guarantees the right of an individual to be granted 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as needed, to attend to a variety of family business.

unfortunately the carrier has decided to attempt to change the department of labor's, the federal government's, application of fmla. the organization has taken exception to their position and is currently pursuing this matter.

the carrier, in a letter dated may 3, 2004 from ns labor relations, has decided that before any fmla, unpaid leave is granted, the applicant must first use any accumulated paid sick leave, paid personal leave and paid vacation as substitution to the amount of time outlined under the act. members are not to debate this issue with management or crew dispatchers when marking off for authorized fmla.

meal period in local traveling switcher service (05-10-2004) - the carrier continues to be a non-conformist when it comes to providing a meal period to the crews in bison yard. day by day the program changes. do we go to lunch today or not? though agreed upon compensation is available when crews are not provided a lunch, local supervision does not want to play by the arbitrators rules!

to read more of this basic right as well as the actual board awards, click here.

deadheading after held away from home terminal payment begins (01-31-2004) how many times has a crew been deadheaded after held away from home terminal payment begins (detention time) only to find out that the cab or train won't leave for several hours? special board of adjustment no. 910, award no. 214 addresses this issue and rules favorably with the organization! no longer should you lose out in monies. explain in remarks of your deadhead with as much information as possible. in a similar statement, word your claim as indicated below:

"please allow additional 1:15 of detention time due to cab (train) not departing until 1:16 pm in reference to sba 910, award 214. crew was ordered for deadhead service at 12:01 pm under deadhead symbol 471h731, 01-31-2004 from binghamton, ny (hb/st mp sr214) to buffalo, ny (hb/st mp sr 00003). crew was on detention time commencing at 09:00 am and removed at 12:01 pm for deadhead service. cab did not arrive until 1:15 pm and departed at 1:16 pm.

please forward to trainmaster db corey hb/st inbox for approval."

though denials are more than likely, the key is to follow up the claim denial to the local chairman for processing.