Nevada joins Colorado in requiring freight trains to have at least two crew members on board.
Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed A.B. 337 into law on May 15. The legislation mandates that a Class I or Class II rail operator have at least two crew members for a freight train running in the state. The law goes into effect on October 1.
Nevada’s action follows Colorado’s steps to mandate train crew sizes. In March, Colorado governor Jared Polis (D) signed into law a bill requiring a minimum crew size for freight trains. Other states that have laws governing train crew sizes include Arizona, California, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, or SMART. Additional states, such as Washington state and Ohio, have introduced legislation calling for at least two-person train crews, while U.S. Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced a bill in Congress in March addressing train crew size.
“This law didn’t pass by accident. It was the hard work of Jason Doering, our Nevada state legislative director, and others that made it happen,” said SMART national legislative director John Risch. “We all owe Jason and others who worked on this our thanks for keeping train operations safe in Nevada, for not just those who operate trains but for the public as well.”
The issue of train crew size is likely to be up for debate even more in the future as the Class I railroads seek to implement precision scheduled railroading, an operational model that attempts to cut costs – including employee headcount – and maximize assets. And as the rail industry explores the viability of autonomous trains, this debate over train crew size could span several years.
U.S. rail headcount falls to new low
In the near-term though, the railroads have been making efforts to control employee headcount levels, resulting in a fresh low for U.S. rail headcount, according to the latest filings from the Surface Transportation Board.
An analysis of preliminary data shows the headcount level of the U.S. operations of the Class I railroads was 142,470 employees in April, the lowest so far in 2019 and since January 2017, which was when the headcount level for all employees began to be consistently below 150,000.
April’s drop is a 2.4 percent decrease from April 2018 and a 1.7 percent drop from March 2019.
But the headcount for train and engine employees who service the railroads’ operations, was up. Train and engine headcount in April totaled 62,892 employees, the highest level since November 2018.
April’s train and engineer employment level is 3.3 percent higher than April 2018 and nearly 2 percent higher than March 2019.