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Washington House passes rail worker transportation safety bill

The Washington House of Representatives has passed a bill that proposes to strengthen safety regulations governing the transportation of railroad employees to and from work, State Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell) announced yesterday. Introduced by Stanford, the bill passed by a 92-5 vote, marking the second time the House has sent a railroad worker safety bill drafted by the representative to the Senate. The bill would give the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) regulatory authority over private railroad crew transportation services. Prior to 1977, railroads operated van services to transport their employees between various work locations throughout the state. The commission oversaw van service safety and established regulations regarding drivers and vehicle conditions. But railroads now contract van services to private shuttle companies and vehicles are driven all over the state — in all terrains and poor conditions — and drivers often lack qualifications or have a history of violations, Stanford said in a press release. The UTC has no regulatory authority over the private van services, which has resulted in numerous fatal accidents over the past several years, he said. "There's an old saying among railroad workers that railroad work is dangerous work, but the most dangerous part of the job is the ride there. We can do better with our safety requirements," said Stanford. "We can update our laws to reflect the new way these companies operate."

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