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Rail unions file petition against FRA over crew dispute

Two rail unions have filed a joint petition against the Federal Railroad Administration(FRA) alleging that the agency is allowing Mexican crews from Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM) to operate trains in the United States in violation of federal law and safety practices. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART TD) filed the petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Court, according to a BLET press release. Since July 9, the FRA has allowed Mexican crews from KCSM, a Mexico-based subsidiary of Kansas City Southern, to operate trains on the Texas Mexican Railway Co. (Tex Mex) line in Laredo, Texas, according to union officials. The unions maintain that the practice violates long-established federal laws and regulations of safety, training, crew qualifications and conduct of locomotive engineers and conductors operating freight trains in the United States. The U.S. Department of Transportation also is named as a respondent in the petition. "There has been no order, waiver, public notice or documentation published by the FRA regarding the actions being challenged," union officials said in the release. "The unions seek to set aside the agencies' actions and to require that they divulge all internal records detailing the authorization of the practice, including the vetting of the non-U.S. crew members by FRA, and the decision to allow KCSM, a foreign company not incorporated in the United States, to operate across the border into this country." The FRA's conduct raises safety concerns, according to the unions. "U.S. crews are held to the highest safety standards while crews coming in from Mexico are held to much lower standards in terms of certification, testing and operating experience," said BLET National President Dennis Pierce. Moreover, the FRA has not answered questions regarding certification and qualification of the foreign crews, said SMART TD President John Previsich. "Nor have they explained in any way how they plan to enforce American safety rules to hold the foreign crews to the same high safety standards that govern all American railroad workers," Previsich said. The FRA did not respond to a request for comment prior to press time. The petition is union officials' latest call for federal officials to get involved in the dispute. In July, the BLET sent a letter to President Trump, asking him to intervene.

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