CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The railroad industry and labor are behind a bill that would allow more competition for the transportation of railroad workers.

Current state law permits only taxi companies, which are regulated by the state Public Service Commission, to pick-up railroad workers when their shifts end in an area not close to where their shift began.

The bill (SB 263), which was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday, would allow contract carriers to compete for the business.

CSX Resident Vice President Randy Cheetham told the committee the company constantly hears safety concerns from its workers about the condition of the taxis. He shared one example with the committee.

“You could see the steel belts on the tire. We reported it to the cab company. Two days later they hadn’t changed it. They were out on a country road and the tire blew up and went down to the rim. We had an injury claim,” Cheetham said.

CSX is in 23 states and West Virginia is the only state that doesn’t allow contract carriers, Cheetham said.

“Once again West Virginia is an outlier,” Cheetham said. “We have these contract carriers. They have newer vehicles. They have safer vehicles. They have standards they have to meet. If we open this up the cab companies can compete. Where there’s competition everybody raises the level of their service.”

Charleston-based C&H Taxi owner and CEO Jeb Corey, who also represents the West Virginia Transportation Association, told the committee picking up railroad workers is just one part of his business but for some smaller taxi companies it’s almost all of their business. He said they stand to lose money.

“We’ve got about four or five drivers who dedicate themselves to railroad work, that’s about all they do. To us that adds up to about $125,000 in lease revenue for me, for our company,” Corey said.

Cheetham said C&H is one of the good companies in West Virginia. He said there are many others that are not.

A Norfolk Southern spokesman said the industry was asked to back the bill by organized labor that represents railroad workers.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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