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Freight train crew size bills introduced in New York legislature

Proposed federal rulemaking could come this summer

A train worker and a CSX train. (Photo: Shutterstock/Jen Wolf)

Two bills in the New York State Legislature seek to require that Class I railroads and larger short line railroads operating in the state have a train crew of at least two members.

Senate bill 3953 and House bill 1287 call for Class I railroads and Class II railroads to have at least two people operating a freight train, except when a train is undergoing switching operations, such as changing the position of railcars to load or unload or assembling railcars to form a train.

According to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), those two crew members would be a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor. 

The bills come as other states, such as Michigan, have considered or have passed bills relating to train crew size in recent years. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a train crew size bill into law on March 27, 2020. Other states where similar legislation was signed into law in 2019 include Illinois, Nevada and Colorado, according to BLET.

Whether to mandate a train crew size is also a question before federal agencies. Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose hinted last fall that the agency is considering the issue.

Indeed, FRA is undergoing internal review in which it could propose a notice of proposed rulemaking on train crew staffing. Any issuance could come in the next month, pending final clearance from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House, according to FRA.

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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.