(Source: Progressive Railroading 07/27/2022)
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from the Association of American Railroads.
The Federal Railroad Administration is proposing a rule that would require a minimum of two crew members on trains.
What is sure to be a controversial rule, the proposed regulation would require at least two crew members for all railroad operations, with exceptions proposed for those operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad workers, the public or environment, according to the FRA’s unpublished notice of the proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in today’s Federal Register.
The FRA is scheduled to publish the NPRM tomorrow.
Federal rail regulators are proposing the rule to enhance rail safety nationwide, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a press release.
“For the past few years, our rail workers have worked hard to keep people and goods moving on our nation’s railroads, despite a global pandemic and supply chain challenges,” Buttigieg said. “This proposed rule will improve safety for America’s rail passengers — and rail workers — across the country.”
The proposed rule would also improve safety nationwide by replacing an existing patchwork of state laws regulating train crew size, FRA officials said. Moreover, the rule includes requirements for the location of crew members on a moving train, and would prohibit the operation of some trains with fewer than two crew members from transporting large amounts of certain hazardous materials.
The risk assessment and annual oversight requirements in the NPRM are intended to ensure that railroads fully consider and address all relevant safety factors associated with using less-than-two-person crews, according to the FRA.
“We are committed to data-driven decision making,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “In cases where railroads wish to operate with fewer than two crew members, we are proposing that they perform a rigorous, thorough and transparent risk assessment and hazard analysis, and FRA will provide an opportunity for public comment on these submissions.”
However, the FRA’s proposed rule is “misguided” and will set the rail industry back, Association of American Railroads officials said in a press release.
“Today’s proposal prioritizes politics over sound, data-driven safety policy,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “In 2019, the FRA thoroughly reconsidered a rule that was very similar to the one being put forth today and retracted it after finding a complete absence of a safety justification for that rule. We knew then, and we especially know now with the full deployment of positive train control technology, that there is no plausible safety justification for regulating the number of individuals physically located inside the cab of a locomotive.”