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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Injured Rail Worker Hopeful For New Safety Rules After 5 Years

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Austin Jenkins
/
Northwest News Network
Dwight Hauck and his wife and Susie pose outside their home in Auburn, Washington. Dwight was the lone survivor in a crew shuttle that was hit by a fast-moving freight train at a rail yard in 2011.

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It’s taken five years, but injured railroad worker Dwight Hauck sees victory at hand. Washington lawmakers are on the verge of requiring new safety standards for private transport companies that shuttle rail crews between trains. ?

On March 23, 2011, union railroader Hauck nearly lost his life. He was the lone survivor of a crash in a rail yard in Kelso, Washington. ?

“I don’t remember anything at all,” Hauck said. ?? ?

Two other passengers and the driver were killed instantly. The driver worked for a private company the railroad hired to transport its crews. It was just another in a string of crashes nationwide involving rail crew transport shuttles. ?

Now these crew haulers as they’re known may soon face new regulations in Washington state. ?? ?

“This is truly, I think, a compromise,” Republican state Sen Curtis King said on the floor of the Washington Senate this week. He was touting a bipartisan deal five years in the making to regulate crew haulers. ?? ?

“Both sides got something and both sides gave things up,” King said. ?

The van companies agreed to be regulated including vehicle inspections, tracking of accidents, driver standards and drug testing. ?

The railroad workers union agreed to accept one-tenth of the uninsured and under-insured driver coverage it wanted the shuttle companies to carry. ?

Hauck is permanently disabled with a brain injury from the 2011 crash. He said the new safety regulations are a long time coming. ?? ?

“I think it’s great that our brothers and sisters are going to have a little better, maybe, drivers or a little bit more protection,” he said. ??The bill now returns to the Washington House for final approval before it goes to the governor for his signature.