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NewsRail

Four more state legislatures introduce train crew bills

Virginia, Missouri, New York and Wyoming state legislators are considering whether to require freight trains to have a minimum train crew size, which they say would make operations safer.

In Virginia, the debate over crew size has been steadily progressing through the General Assembly. On Jan. 22, the House of Delegates passed a bill on a 61-31 vote, with one abstention, requiring a minimum train crew size. The bill, HB 440, is now in the Senate, where it has been referred to committee. Virginia Delegate and Democrat Steve Heretick, who represents an area that includes portions of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake, introduced the bill.

In other states, the bills addressing train crew size have just been introduced. New York State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy earlier this month introduced Senate Bill S7151, which would require Class I and Class II railroads operating in the state to have a crew size of no less than two people. New York State Assemblyman William Magnarelli introduced similar legislation, A9090, in the State Assembly.

Both Kennedy and Magnarelli are Democrats and chairs for the Committee on Transportation for their respective legislative chambers.

“This bill is intended to protect not only the public, but railroad workers as well. In recent years, new technology has made railroads safer; however nothing can replace an extra set of eyes and ears when it comes to public safety,” reads a justification of Senate Bill S7151. “It is nearly impossible for a single operator in an emergency situation to properly assess the situation, secure the train, and notify police, fire and other necessary officials all at once.”

The bill’s justification continues, “Currently, the federal government and other states are working on ways to increase railroad safety, and at this point, nearly 20 states have introduced or enacted minimum crew legislation. Requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring the safety of our railways here in New York State.”

Both bills are in committee.

In Wyoming, Democratic Rep. Stan Blake, who is also a train conductor, introduced HB0079, which would require trains and light engines operating within the state to have at least two crew members.

A similar bill in 2019 failed.

In Missouri, Republican Rep. Jim Neely introduced HB 2229, which also would require a train crew of at least two people.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, Democrats’ efforts to override a May 2019 veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan were thwarted over reported concerns that an override would discourage CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) from helping to fund an expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, according to Capital News Service.

State efforts to require minimum train crew sizes come amid ongoing debate at the federal level on the issue. Under former President Barack Obama, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had begun a notice of proposed rulemaking on train crew size.

But last May, the agency withdrew the proposed rule and issued an order declaring that states cannot mandate a minimum crew size. FRA said the railroads have maintained a strong safety record in the absence of regulation and that regulating train crew staffing is not necessary or appropriate for rail operations to be conducted safely at this time. The agency also said a crew staffing rule would have posed an unnecessary obstacle to future innovation in the rail industry, whose crew staffing matters have been well-served by the Railway Labor Act since 1926.

But several states had enacted laws requiring a minimum train crew size, and those states have sued FRA in the federal court system. State lawmakers are also continuing to introduce legislation on the issue.

Meanwhile, the issue of crew size is also being carried into contract negotiations between the rail unions and the freight railroads. Those negotiations began last November. The Association of American Railroads has said the issue of crew size is best suited for discussion during labor negotiations.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.

4 Comments

  1. Quote :

    “This bill is intended to protect not only the public, but railroad workers as well. In recent years, new technology has made railroads safer; however nothing can replace an extra set of eyes and ears when it comes to public safety,” reads a justification of Senate Bill S7151. “It is nearly impossible for a single operator in an emergency situation to properly assess the situation, secure the train, and notify police, fire and other necessary officials all at once.”

    We could potentially use the same argument for trucks . I don’t think increasing the labourer amount is necessarily “the” solution as a whole . It could be part of it , however, if we read about what occurred in most collisions it was due to a lot more than due to a lack of crew members . Look at their equipment ! The dinosaur trains themselves , the rails , the bridges , the weight they pull , the amount of rail cars etc etc etc .

    They’re pulling too many rail cars . It takes ages to come to a stop with that much weight ! Brakes losing air in very cold temperatures leading to under performance etc . Management pushing crew members to perform while crew is exhausted etc.

    Anyways , we have enough to break our heads with the trucking industry on public roads ! Trains are a heck of a lot simpler to render secure . Increase fines when derailments occur . Anytime a train derails the CEO should be obligated to resign . If they pollute the environment due to a derailment , send the CEO to jail aside from fining them in abundance . Render CEO’s and the board personally responsible ! Nuclear verdicts may wake them up , LOL !

    In my humble opinion ………..

  2. AS A LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEER FOR 30 YEARS THE IDEA OF JUST ONE PERSON ON A TRAIN IS CRAZY STUPID AND MOST OF ALL IT IS NOT SAFE. THE ONLY REASON THE RAIL ROADS WANT PNLY.PERSON IS CORPORATE GREED. THE COMPANY SUGAR COATS THE THINGS THAT GO ON AS A EMPLOYEE. MOST TRAINS WHERE I WORKED IN BLUEFIELD WEST VIRGINIA FOR NORFOLK SOUTHERN. DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT HAVE A TIME TO COME TO WORK YOU ARE AT THE MERCY OF THE RAILROAD. NOW THEY WANT ONLY PERSON ON A TRAIN. THIS IS CRAZY

    1. We need to have 2 people on trains on mainlines. Also on any train with more than 10 cars on private rail lines. To court on this safety equipment is very bad planning.

  3. You have all got this wrong when it come to 2 man crew verses one man
    crew. The airlines have had autopilot for years but still have two and 3 people in the cockpit. If Boeing has taught us anything technology fails. It’s all the workers do is worry about losing jobs.  Its common sense thousands of railroad workers will lose their jobs if all the railroads are allowed to go to 1 man crews. That’s an issue you need to take up with Politicians !  They claims they are creating jobs then let him do something
    about people keeping the ones they have!
    This is about safety. This is about saving lives. Not just crew lives but the American people as well. Don’t forget about the rule-making process that was invoked by then-FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo after an unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran downhill and crashed in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 49 people in 2013 that had just one man on the train! Hunter Harrison said on the record those extra set of eyes in the cab are valuable. PTC will not detect track issues or mechanical issues like bad order cars or prevent crossing accidents. Our rules change daily so if an engineer or conductor takes a day off or vacation who will job brief with each other on any newly updated rules that change. How about filling out an EC-1 as the train moves along the tracks or stop and flag a railroad crossing when they have an activation failure with the public crossing gates. We are suppose to job brief to make smart decisions taking the safer course. So if engineers are busy pushing buttons on a screen and reading train orders his eyes are in the cab. If they remove the conductor, it would be counterintuitive. So in my opinion one safety system cancels out the other. Now with ptc and full crew in the cab increases the safety of of train movement. Just plain old common sense.
    Railroads preach safety every single day.
    Its in their rule books and in their advertising. Its 24 hour a day
    safety…safety….safety. Well let them put their money where their mouths are. Pay for safety. Keep 2 men in the cab.
    Just like GM shutting down 5 plants putting 15,000 people out of work and pay there CEO 22 million. CSX on the other hand lost 41% of the business once Hunter Harrison took over cutting out almost half the work force from 27,893 people down to 15,362 people system wide and they paid him 385 million only to pass away 8 months later!
    With everything going automated from self check out lanes to manufacturing does anyone profit except share holders and CEOs!!!! The public has no idea what we deal with. Tell your neighbors about how many cars we hit and people are killed every year when they are hit by
    trains. Explain to them how the engineer is in the cab calling the dispatcher and getting 911 called. He is taking care of anything that may be wrong with the locomotive. He stays with the train. Tell them how the conductor gets down and rushes to the vehicle to see if he can
    possibly save a life. Maybe a baby is in the car and needs to be helped
    or maybe the parents can be removed and need CPR. Maybe he can comfort
    someone who is dying or in shock or screaming because they are severely
    injured . Tell them about how we hit live stock and large deer. Tell them how people love to put junk on the tracks. Shopping carts, bicycles, steel barrows, wheelchairs and even abandoned cars. A two person crew saved a child’s life wondering around on the tracks in Minnesota near midnight Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. PTC didn’t help them. Tell them about how many trees we hit a year and do extensive damage to the
    locomotive. The engineer stays with the locomotives and assess the damage and does what is necessary to radio dispatchers for help while the conductors gets down and removes debris and check the rest of the train for any damage or signs of derailment. Tell them about the
    territory that is in the middle of TIM BUCK TWO!  The places where no one can get to you fast unless you have a helicopter. How will they go bathroom now without two people to keep the train going down the tracks unless they have to stop not blocking crossings or take lunch. Tell them how radios don’t always work in remote locations. Telemetry drops out and communication is lost. How many times does a conductor have to go back
    and trouble shoot another locomotive after alarms are going off. The engineer
    keeps the train rolling the best he can while the conductor checks the
    computers and checks to see if it is loading, traction motor faults or any other issue that may arise. Tell them about the blind curves that only one crew member can see around when your approaching
    public crossings or trees that block signals so that only one crew member can see them until you get the train right on top of them. Tell them about wash outs from floods, and heat warped rail and fog so thick you cant see a foot in front of you. SO WHAT IF YOU GOT PTC!!  PTC does not tell you if a car in stopped on the tracks or a tree is across it or a person is walking in the tracks or there is 5 inches of water over the rail! Tell them how crew members have been attacked and some have even been killed by gang thugs and trespassers. A single man has no
    chance in  these situations. It is better to have someone else with you to keep watch when working in bad areas and ghetto rail yards. The list goes on and on. Tell them how the company took away the right of the crew members to take a power nap. One crew member is supposed to call stopped every 15 minutes while they are waiting on line of road. As long as someone is awake and doing this and paying attention there is no reason on god green earth while a tired crew member cant take a 20
    minute power nap. Tell them how crews are run into the ground and some
    are called out every 10 hours around the clock. They work all hours of the day and night and most have no weekends off. The company wont even let them have a power nap. What is going to happen when there is only 1 man on the train by himself and he is just plain worn out or is sick and afraid to take a day off because of the companies new attendance policy
    which is just absolutely insane. People come to work sick all the time. Vomiting, diarrhea, fevers and the flu doesn’t stop them because they are in fear of losing their jobs. How is a sick man who is all by
    himself going to be able to make a full run safely and without risking his life or the publics when he doesn’t have his other crew member to help keep him alert. The engineer has many roles and duties as well as the conductor. There are times when something happens that it is a must
    for an engineer to be on board and ready to take instructions while the conductor handles the rest of the responsibilities.  There are so many things that go into railroading and running trains that the public doesn’t know a thing about. 
    THIS ONE MAN CREW IDEA IS THE MOST UNSAFE AND IRRESPONSIBLE IDEA that
    has ever been brought forward in the history of the railroad industry. 
    And for what? To save a dollar. To line someone’s pockets. To make someone rich. Who care who gets killed. If you think crossings are blocked now imagine if there was only one man and had to wait on someone to cut a crossing!Who care about the destruction to family lives. I don’t know about you but I sure do and so should every person in America!
    Also if you haven’t seen it check out these two YouTube videos.
    https://youtu.be/atfY4tiyMz8

    https://youtu.be/PoJ1MYWsJ5Q

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