Welcome to Transportation Law Today

Managed by Paul J. Loftus, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Transportation Law Today provides professionals in the rail, transit, inland maritime, and trucking industries with current news and analysis of laws, rulings, and regulatory policies.

Monday, July 25, 2011

RR Employment at highest level since 2009

Employment in U.S. Class I railroads has reached nearly 160,000 employees, with 1,818 employees added in May and June 2011. The Journal of Commerce reports here that this level of employment is the highest since the height of the recession in 2009. According to Surface Transportation Board Statistics, each of the seven Class I, or largest, U.S. railroads showed increased employment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tug Boat Pilot to Plead Guilty in Duck Boat Accident

A tugboat pilot, who was talking to his wife on a cellphone when his barge collided with a disabled tourist "duck boat" on the Delaware River in downtown Philadelphia in 2010, has agreed to plead guilty to one charge of misconduct of ship operator causing death. An article by Peter Loftus (no relation)of the WSJ is attached here about the expected plea.

Two tourists, aged 20 and 16, from Hungary died in the accident, and the remaining passengers were rescued.

The NTSB has yet to issue its final report, but this press release indicates its probable cause findings about the accident, particularly the pilot's failure to keep a proper lookout and his distraction from a cell phone and laptop.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NTSB to hold Investigative and Disaster Response Courses

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced two investigative courses and one transportation disaster response course over the next two months at its training center in Northern Virginia. The investigative courses include a five-day rotorcraft accident investigation, and a two-week course in aircraft accident investigation. The disaster response course is titled, "Transportation Disaster Response - Mass Fatality Incidents for Medicolegal Professionals," will be held over three days in late August 2011. A link the Board's training center and curriculum is listed here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

NTSB finds USCG Boat was speeding in fatal crash

On JULY 12, 20011 the National Transportation Safety Board announced its probable cause findings in a collision between a Coast Guard patrol boat and a recreational boat in San Diego in December 2009. The Collision killed an 8-year old passenger in the boat that was struck from behind by the patrol craft. Here is the NTSB press release announcing the findings. The incident occurred during an annual holiday boating event while the USCG crew was responding to a report of a grounded boat. The Board found the collision was due to the "excessive speed of the Coast Guard boat in nighttime conditions in an areas of high vessel density, and the Coast Guard's ineffective oversight of its small boat operations nationally and at Coast Guard Station San Diego.

Also noted in the press release was the refusal of 3 of the 5 crew members of the USCG boat to be interviewed by the NTSB, including the operator. Prior news reports from San Diego papers noted the boat operator was convicted by a Court Martial of a single count of dereliction of duty, resulting in a 3 month sentence in March 2011. The operator originally faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and aggravated assault.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CSXT & NSRC to Participate in W.Va. Job Fair for Veterans

CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT) and Norfolk Southern (NSRC), the two Class I railroads operating in West Virginia,will participate in a job fair for military veterans on July 20, 2011 near Beckley, WV. Here is a link to an Charleston Gazette article on the event.

As noted by the Association of American Railroads (AAR), up to 15,000 workers could be hired by railroads this year, and up to 30% of all railroad employees will be eligible for retirement within 5 years, making as many as 67,000 jobs available.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Motor Carrier Safety Administration Seeks Public Comment On Strategic Safety Plan

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is seeking public comment on its draft Strategic Plan for 2011-2016 - "Raising the Safety Bar." According to the announcement, which is attached here, the draft strategic plan is based on three core principles: 1) raising the bar to enter the motor carrier industry; 2) maintaining high safety standards to remain active in the industry; and, 3) removing high-risk carriers, drivers, and service providers from operation. Public comments are due by July 29, 2011. The docket number for the rulemaking is FMSCA-2011-0098, and public comments can be viewed and made under that docket number at http://www.regulations.gov/. The draft plan can also be accessed through the FMSCA docket 2011-0098.

Friday, July 8, 2011

FRA Announces Public Hearings for Risk Reduction Programs

The Federal Railroad Administration announced in today's Federal Register upcoming public hearings on Railroad Risk Reduction Programs. The announcement is attached here. The hearings are set for July 19, 2011 in Chicago, and July 21, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Under the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA), railroads are required to created safety risk reduction programs which are supported both by risk analysis and a Risk Reduction Program Plan.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Surface Transportation Board Drastically Reduces Rate Filing Fees

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced the reduction of the fees for shippers to file a railroad rate or unreasonable practice complaints with the Board from $20,600 to $350. (I don't pretend to do decimals, but I calculate that as as 5885% reduction!). The Board's decision is attached here and the Board's press release is here. If only the IRS would follow suit.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Crew Member Sentenced and Ship Owner Fined in "Magic Pipe" case

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland recently announced a six month sentence for a crew member who obstructed the investigation into a "magic pipe" case, and a $2.4 milliion dollar fine against the ship owner. The "magic pipe" was a bypass hose which permitted waste oil to be dumped directly overboard, the presence of which was concealed by doctored oil logs, which are requried by both U.S. law and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Welcome to Transportation Law Today

Welcome to the inaugural post of Transportation Law Today! My name is Paul Loftus and I am a transportation attorney with 13 years experience in litigating transportation matters. In my practice, and in my daily information reading, I often come across items of interest to transportation entities. In particular, I follow regulatory developments in surface transportation (rail, highway, marine), as well as legal developments affecting the industry. I hope to share interesting information with the transportation community through this blog and I look forward to hearing from the "blogoshere" out there.

Please remember this blog does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

1. Surface Transportation Board ends Common Carrier Toxic by Inhalation Hazard Committee Process

In an April 15, 2011 decision by the entire board, the Surface Transportation Board, the independent economic regulatory agency that regulates rail rates and disputes (among other things), terminated its process to create a "Toxic by Inhalation Hazard Common Carrier Transportation Advisory Committee." See decision here.

The TIH committee process was initiated to provide advice to the Board on issues related to the common carrier obligation of railroads to carry hazardous materials, and the issue of potential indemnity for carrying haz-mats. As explained in the Board decision, concerns about anti-trust liability by committee participants, and a "sharp difference of opinion" between railroad and shipper interests as to the Board's authority to regulate liability for common carrier shipments led to the demise of the effort.

2. National Transportation Safety Board Issues (NTSB) 10 Most-Wanted Safety Improvement List

On June 23, 2011, the NTSB issued its latest 10 Most-Wanted Safety Improvements list. Among the areas covered are promoting pilot and air traffic controller professionalism, addressing human fatigue, and requiring on board image and data recorders on trains.

Have a happy Fourth of July Weekend. - PJL.