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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Senators Request GAO Review of RR Safety

On August 28, 2012 three U.S. Senators requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a "comprehensive evaluation of the state of the country's railroad safety programs and policies."

The request was made by three Democratic Senators, Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Durbin (D-IL), and Lautenberg (D-NJ). Prompting this requested review was the recent derailment in Ellicott City, MD, the derailment and fire following an ethanol train derailment in Ohio, and a coal train derailment and bridge collapse near Chicago in July.

The Senators specfically requested that the review address how railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) evaluate risk factors for rail safety in the allocation of inspection and safety resources.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keystone Pipeline Granted Common Carrier Status - Eminent Domain For Right of Way Allowed

A state court judge in Lamar Co. TX has ruled in favor of Canadian corporation TransCanada, finding that it has eminent domain rights across farmland as a common carrier. Here is the Washington Post's story on the ruling, and here is the AP's report via the Dallas Morning New's website.

The decision was prompted by litigation by local landowners who argued TransCanada's proposed pipeline was a private venture,and not a common carrier, which can access rights of way by eminent domain.

According to the news reports, the Court's decision was conveyed to counsel via email; it is unclear if any opinion has been issued.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More OSHA Whistleblower News - RRs Fined - Trucking Rules Published

OSHA has announced three FRSA "whistleblower" awards to railroad employees. As explained in the OSHA press release, over $650,000 was awarded to three separate employees, with each case including a punitive damages award by the DOL.

Also in Whistleblower news, OHSA has published its Final Rule governing the handling of retaliation complaints made under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA). The STAA, as amended, covers commercial motor vehicle safety and security. The Final Rule is attached here. Among other things, the rule provides that a violation of the whistleblower protections in the Act may be found if the protected activity was a "contributing factor" to the adverse action alleged. For the defending party, relief is to be denied if it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same adverse action in absence of the protected activity. In other words, the adverse action (i.e. discipline or termination for example) was not a result of the whistleblowing, as it were. The remainder of the final rule generally brings STAA actions in line with other whistleblower statutes and procedures enforced by OSHA.