• NJT engineer looking to move south

  • General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.
General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

Moderator: thebigc

  by slchub
With all due respect blabley, how many shortlines have you called and discussed the RRB contributions? Have you called the toll-free RRB customer service number and verified that all short lines and Class 2 & 3 RR's contribute to RRB? What RR do you work for by chance?
  by blabey
This is getting silly, isn't it...

If my citation from the Railroad Retirement Act itself isn't persuasive, then all I can do is to once again urge you contact the Board directly. I'm not equivocating here. Simply put, if a railroad has common carrier obligations, it MUST cover its employees under Railroad Retirement. It is not a matter of choice.

And yes, I do work in the industry, and have done so for over 40 years.
  by H.F.Malone
Just to add my couple of pennies to this discussion, first, let me say that Mr. Blabey has the "bona-fides" in the shortline biz, as he states. He's been at it (quite succesfully, may I say), since some of the other posters were running Lionels around in circles.

Second, the RRB has a long reach-- a certain railroad in Connecticut that I have some familiarity with, has common-carrier obligations, and is a common-carrier that hauls a very occasional car of freight (average is less than one per year). About 99% of the operations are tourist-excursion-museum. Yet, any paid staff (such as part-time paid flaggers for protecting construction projects over the railroad, etc) are under RRB juristiction, and the railroad pays the small amount into those part-timer's RRB accounts.

If any Class 2 or 3 railroad that is a common-carrier does not pay into RRB, they are in violation of the law, plain and simple.
  by jz441
H.F.Malone wrote: If any Class 2 or 3 railroad that is a common-carrier does not pay into RRB, they are in violation of the law, plain and simple.
This does not apply to Tri-Rail... T&E crews at Tri-Rail work for a contractor who provides the manpower for the agency. That is how they get around it!
  by slchub
Again, I implore anyone considering employment with a RR other than the major Class 1's to contact the RRB and verify that said RR contributes to the RRB.

  by blabey
Is Tri-Met a railroad ? I suspect that it is an intrastate transit operation, and thus not a railroad in the meaning of the law. Remember, Railroad Retirement applies only to employees of common carrier railroads.

Farming out the T&E crews to an operating contractor is not the determining factor in the application of the Railroad Retirement Act. The determining factor is are those people employed by a railroad. If a common carrier railroad were use T&E labor supplied by an outside contractor, the contractor would be responsible for RRA taxes. That issue formed the basis of a well-known case in the 1980's. It pitted the Railroad Retirement Board against the Livingston Rebuild locomotive shop.. Livingston Rebuild asserted it was an outside contractor and thus exempt from paying the more expensive Railroad Retirement levies on its labor force. The RRB won its case after it was shown that 95 percent of the work done at its Livingston, Montana shop was for one railroad company. Thus, the "outside contractor" status was a sham and the shop force were, in fact, railroad employees.

In case the question comes up, railroads don't have to cross state lines to be considered an interstate common carriers. In fact, most shortlines operate entirely within the borders of one state. Just the same, they're considered interstate operations since they move traffic, or have the potential to move traffic, throughout the national rail network.

Another bit of clarification. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is entirely separate from the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The FRA has asserted certain authority in the field of safety over operations that the STB does not consider railroads. I'm certain that since Tri-Met operates on the FEC, its crews are under FRA jurisdiction - even though they're technically not railroad employees as defined by the Interstate Commerce Termination Act (i.e. the STB).
  by blabey
Thank you for today's post - and the link to the Railroad Retirement Board website. The RRB website makes my point exactly...

NOT ONE of the companies cited by the Board was found to be a railroad within the meaning of the law - that is an enterprise handling freight or passengers in interstate commerce. Click on any one of the decisions listed on the website. In every case the board cites the statute I cited (45 USC 231) in an earlier post. It then rules on whether or not the company in question meets the requirements set forth in the statute. NONE OF THE COMPANIES DID -- NONE ARE COMMON CARRIER RAILROADS.

Excluding railroad maintenance contractors and car companies, the firms referenced on the RRB website fall into one of five categories. They are:

1. Intrastate tourist or museum operations carrying passengers, but no freight, such as the Napa Valley Wine Train, Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley RR or the Grand Canyon RR. Lines like the Strasburg and New Hope & Ivyland which handle an occasional car of freight in interstate commerce qualify as railroads and pay RR Retirement taxes.

2. Private railroads and in-plant switching operations not serving the general public such as Bound Brook & Raritan RR, Great Miami & Western RR, Yankeetown Dock or GWI Switching. (There are many other operations in this category that aren't even mentioned by the Board in their website.)

3. Real estate entities that do not operate the trackage they own, instead leasing their property to another railroad. In those cases, the Railroad Retirement taxes are the responsibility of the operating carrier. The RRB website mentions lines like the Albany Bridge RR, Allegany & Eastern, and the Live Oak Perry & Gulf. (Some of the companies referenced may have been operating common carriers at one point in their history. When they leased out their property turned over their operating responsibility to others, their status changed. They were not longer liable for RRA taxes.)

4. Rail Holding Companies. Due to court decisions subsequent to the passage of the RR Retirement Act, some railroad holding companies have been exempted from paying RR Retirement taxes on administrative staff at the holding company level. This is a tricky area, and the RRB has sometimes challenged assertions that such employees are exempt. Read the decisions on holding company staff for outfits like Omni-Trax, Delaware-Otsego Corp, WATCO and others to get an idea of how fine the line is. In any event, no T&E employees are involved.

5. Intrastate passenger and mass transit operations that don't provide service across state lines. It is the interstate aspect that governs. NJ Transit operates across state lines, Tri-Met does not. One is subject to Railroad Retirement taxes, the other is not.
  by blabey
As an addendum to my comments about the South Florida Regional Transit Authority (Tri-Rail) and their contract operator, Herzog, there's an interesting opinion by the Railroad Retirement Board rendered in January following an allegation by the UTU that Tri-Rail is, indeed a railroad under the terms of 45 USC 231. The union made the point that since Herzog operates Trinity Rail Express in Texas and has commuter operations in California, it qualifies as an interstate carrier despite the fact that its Florida trains do not cross a state line. The Board split 2-1 in a finding that Herzog's Tri-Rail operation did not qualify as interstate, just because the company had out of state operations. The Union Representative on the RRB dissented.

Another point brought out in the Herzog hearing is the fact that five stations in the Tri-Rail system allow passengers to make a direct interchange with AMTRAK. It was alleged, probably correctly, that a passenger originating a trip on Tri-Rail could change and continue the journey to an out-of-state destination.

As you can see, the question of what makes a particular operation "a railroad" is not a simple one.

Another case that the RRB wrestled with involves the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific RR in California. The company did not challenge its common carrier status (it handles 65-100 carloads of freight a year and is clearly a Class 3 railroad). However tourist excursions make up the majority of its revenues. As such, the railroad asked the RRB to exempt employees who work solely in its tourist operation from Railroad Retirement, covering only those crews who operate in freight service. The Board agreed to this segmentation.

Now, I've ridden that line, and the train I was on was a mixed. I wonder how that played out...
  by PatrickJ
This is an interesting discussion. I am a police officer and also a commercial motor vehicle inspector. I conduct roadside inspections of commercial motor vehicles, engaged in both inter and intrastate commerce. I have to determine if the movement is inter or intrastate in order to know whether to apply the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations or the State regulations. Interstate traffic looks at the fixed and persistent intent of the shipper. Suppose an intermodal container packed with lead-contaminated Chinese toys made by Kung Pow Toys of China is packed at their factory after they receive an order from Toys R Us in Dallas, TX. Kung Pow Toys arranges for it to be shipped to Texas via a Maersk Ship. The ship leaves China and manages to avoid being intercepted by Somali pirates and arrives in the port of Houston a week later. The container is offloaded and put on a UP train to the inland port in southern Dallas County. At the Dallas port, it is picked up by Dallas independent truck driver, Jose Rivas, who owns one truck tractor. He picks up the intermodal container and drives it 15 miles to a Toys R Us warehouse in Dallas. I stop Jose for a roadside inspection and ask to see his medical card, insurance, DL etc and tell him I am doing a level 1 inspection. Jose says he is not required under Texas commercial vehicle rules to have a medical card since he was exempted because of his age. I say you are interstate and you need a medical certificate under FMCSR. He says I am just driving 15 miles and I haven't even left the City of Dallas. Well, he is interstate because every move and everyone that moves the intermodal from the port of Houston to it's shipping destination at the warehouse in Dallas is engaged in interstate commerce.

You could apply the same logic to a rail shipment that is handled by a 5 mile short line RR that is moving it from an interchange to a customer a mile away. That is what creates the interstate issue for the short line. In the Tri Rail case, you can see that they do not operate out of state, although if they stop at the Miami airport I could see that an argumennt could be made that they take international passengers to their final destination. The little busses that run around airports had a similar issue with the feds saying they were interstate, but they won some exceptions, although since I don't mess with them, I have forgetten what they were.

Anyway, this was a neat thread, although totally off the original topic, it is instructive to those who may have one idea of which RR's are under RR Retirement and why or why not.
  by Noel Weaver
The argument here although it doesn't completely make sense is that the Tri-Rail crews do not work for a railroad but for a
contractor who just happens to run trains. I don't know just how they are able to get away with not being a part of the
Railroad Retirement Act but somehow and through some loop hole, they are.
I think there are some other places as well where there are commuter trains being operated by a contractor and I wonder
what the situation is in these cases?
Noel Weaver
  by blabey
I see there is still confusion on the role of contractors in the operation of commuter services.

The fact that South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail) hired Herzog Transportation Services to run its trains had nothing to do with whether or not the operating employees on those trains were covered under Railroad Retirement. The Board held (with the Union Member dissenting) that Tri-Rail wasn't covered simply because its services are intrastate in nature.

Take a look at Herzog operations elsewhere.

In Texas, Herzog operates the Trinity Railway Express service between Dallas and Fort Worth (as contractor to the Dallas and the Fort Worth Transportation Authorities) It's essentially the same kind of deal Herzog has with South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. However, in the case of Dallas-Fort Worth, Herzog employees also dispatch the line -- and the tracks are used by freight railroads. Since the freight carriers using TRE tracks are interstate carriers, the Railroad Retirement Board held that Herzog dispatchers ARE under Railroad Retirement while Herzog passenger train service employees ARE NOT covered since the passenger trains operate within one state.

Summary: The guiding factor used by the Board is not the existence (or non-existence) of a contractor, it is, "Does the service operate in interstate commerce?
  by COEN77
njtengr74 wrote:thank you for the post reply....how about amtrak????any other rail companies you might know of worth a look at?? Thank you for your time.
Amtrak was hiring a few weeks ago. Places like Washington DC, Jacksonville Fla, Raliegh NC places down south. It was posted on the BLET website. You have to submit a resume'. Pay depends on the number of years worked as an engineer. A requirement is you must have worked at least one year as an engineer and have a valid FRA certification.