• DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.743
    -0.027
    -1.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.978
    -0.165
    -7.7%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.916
    -0.086
    -8.6%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.446
    -0.049
    -3.3%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.006
    0.021
    2.1%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.069
    0.000
    0%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.100
    0.056
    2.7%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.597
    -0.064
    -3.9%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.444
    -0.031
    -2.1%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.181
    -0.068
    -5.4%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.553
    0.038
    2.5%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,341.010
    -36.040
    -0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    6.770
    -0.020
    -0.3%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,341.030
    -34.640
    -0.4%
  • TLT.USA
    2.740
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.743
    -0.027
    -1.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.978
    -0.165
    -7.7%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.916
    -0.086
    -8.6%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.446
    -0.049
    -3.3%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    1.006
    0.021
    2.1%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.069
    0.000
    0%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.100
    0.056
    2.7%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.597
    -0.064
    -3.9%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.444
    -0.031
    -2.1%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.181
    -0.068
    -5.4%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.553
    0.038
    2.5%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,341.010
    -36.040
    -0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    6.770
    -0.020
    -0.3%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,341.030
    -34.640
    -0.4%
  • TLT.USA
    2.740
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

Railroads, labor groups remain split over proposed two-person crew rule

Industry groups have railed against the Federal Railroad Administration’s recent attempts to mandate two-person crews on all freight trains, but unions continue to argue that operating trains with a single crew person is fundamentally unsafe.

   The railroad industry remains split over the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) proposed rule mandating two-person train crews on all freight railways.
   Industry groups gathered at an FRA hearing last week urged the administration again to drop its pursuit of the proposed regulations due to a lack of empirical evidence to support arguments that the rule will increase safety.
   “For the freight rail industry, there is no greater priority than safety, but there are no data supporting this proposed rule and it will provide no safety benefit to railroads, their employees, or the public,” Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), said in his testimony. “With no data showing that one-person operations compromise safety, there is no basis – other than anecdotal storytelling – for enacting a general prohibition on crew size reductions.”
   Hamberger called the proposed rule a “textbook example of unnecessary regulation,” arguing that although well-intentioned, the regulations could actually serve to undermine overall rail safety.
   “While the Department of Transportation is throwing its full support behind development of autonomous vehicles as a way to improve safety on our roadways, it is backing a rulemaking for the rail industry that goes in the opposite direction and would freeze rail productivity and chill innovation,” he added.
   American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Linda Bauer Darr echoed these comments in her testimony before the FRA, adding that the economic impact on short lines will be much greater than on the much larger Class I railways.
   “We are aligned with the FRA in the commitment to the safe operation of America’s freight rail network,” said Darr. “However, there is no evidence that the proposed Rule will address safety challenges in a way that is meaningful and operationally sustainable for our small businesses.”
   She noted that of the 450 railroads that makeup the ASLRRA membership ranks, over 100 operate with fewer than four operations employees on as little as two miles of track. Margins on short line railroads are often razor thin, making innovation and efficiency that much more important.
   “We are truly a small business industry and we do a lot of good work on a shoe string budget, said Darr. “This efficiency is the reason that many small railroads survive today. We operate efficiently and we operate safely. That’s how we make our livelihood and that’s how we keep our people going home safely to their families each night.”
   Darr also pointed out the seeming contradiction between the trend toward driverless cars and autonomous ocean vessels, as well as her own industry’s mandated adoption of Positive Train Control (PTC), and a rule that would require additional personnel in locomotives. PTC is a wireless communications system that can override a conductor to slow or stop a train to prevent an accident.
   “Given this confused regulatory environment combined with the effects of the DOT’s current and pending regulations, we are creating an enormous disincentive to make investments in small railroads as viable businesses. That’s bad for transportation, that’s bad for railroading, and that’s bad for the safety of the traveling public,” she said.
   Also at the hearing were Cindy Sanborn, executive vice president and chief operating officer at CSX; Robert Babcock, senior vice president of operations and development for the Indiana Rail Road Co.; David Brown, COO of Genesee & Wyoming Inc.; and John Graham, dean of the Indiana School of Public and Environmental Affairs and former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
   Sandborn, Babcock, Brown and Graham reiterated the industry’s position that despite negotiating numerous reductions in crew size, safety records of railroads have continuously improved over time.
   “FRA offers no direct empirical evidence that operating with two crew members will produce better safety outcomes than operating with one crew member,” said Graham. “In fact, FRA acknowledges that its own accident database does not even contain information on the size of the crew associated with particular accidents. If it is not worthwhile for FRA to collect information on size of crew, it is hard to fathom why the agency would consider this issue to be important enough to craft a narrow, prescriptive regulation.”
   “We have said time and time again that the FRA should conduct a fact-based – not emotionally driven – data-gathering process,” said Hamberger. “If a safety risk is identified, then rulemaking might be appropriate. But we are confident that an independent, objective analysis will conclude that no regulation is needed.”
   Transportation unions and labor groups appearing at the FRA hearing, however, continued to argue in favor of the new rule.
   Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of AFL-CIO, joined John Risch, national legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD), and SMART-TD member and BNSF conductor Mike Rankin to make the case for the two-person crew mandate, as well as a final rule to close existing loopholes permitting freight railroads to deploy single crew operations.
   “It’s time to put to rest the absurd notion that operating a 19,000-ton freight train with a single crewmember is safe,” Wytkind said in his testimony. “The American public understands that having massive freight trains travel through their communities operated by one-person crews is a safety menace that should be barred by our government. We need a strong rule from the FRA mandating a certified conductor and certified engineer on all freight trains, and we need it this year.”
   “Operating a freight train isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a complex task that requires at least two skilled, qualified individuals,” added Risch, who worked as a freight engineer for 30 years. “Conductors and engineers rely on each other to make sure operating procedures are completed correctly, and safely. Their teamwork is vital not only to their safety, but the public’s safety.”
   Rankin noted that the effect a two-person crew rule would have on public safety is about more than just safe operation of the train itself.
   “Conductors and engineers don’t just operate trains,” he said. “In emergency situations, we’re first on the scene. Our presence and teamwork can mean the difference between life and death.”
   Wytkind and Risch urged the FRA strengthen the proposed rule in its final form, as it still “provides too much leeway for the railroads to evade the two-person mandate” since it does not specify that the crew members must be a certified engineer and conductor.

Show More
Close