The Safe Freight Act would require all freight trains in the U.S. have at least one certified conductor and one certified engineer on board.
Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation Wednesday that would mandate at least two-person crews on all freight trains in the U.S.
Specifically, the Safe Freight Act would require that all freight trains have at least one certified conductor and one certified engineer on board. The bill is in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) withdrawal of its notice of proposed rulemaking regarding train crew staffing in May, press releases from both senators said.
“The decision by the FRA to abandon its planned two-person crew rule makes no sense, especially in light of recent rail accidents,” Wyden said in the announcement. “This is a matter of safety and security for all rail crew and public, and experts agree. It’s now up to Congress to step in and require freight trains have the staffing required to keep folks safe.”
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen supports the bill, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Angus King, I-Maine; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
In the notice of proposed rulemaking withdrawal, FRA said it “finds that no regulation of train crew staffing is necessary or appropriate at this time.” The agency said current safety programs and actions taken following the 2013 rail accidents in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, and Casselton, N.D., are “the appropriate avenues for addressing those incidents.”
The withdrawal notice continued, “Moreover, despite studying this issue in-depth and performing extensive outreach to industry stakeholders and the general public, FRA’s statement in the NPRM that it ‘cannot provide reliable or conclusive statistical data to suggest whether one-person crew operations are generally safer or less safe than multiple-person crew operations’ still holds true today.”
The Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies released a statement in May in support of FRA’s withdrawal of the proposed rule, saying that “there is no safety rationale” for a rule requiring a two-person crew and “railroads are committed to deploying new and emerging technologies to help further advance safety gains.”