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  June 24th, 2016 | Written by

Labor Supports, Industry Opposes U.S. Rulemaking on Freight Train Crew Size

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  • Proposed regulations establish a minimum requirement of two crewmembers for all railroad operations, with exceptions.
  • Historically, freight train crew size has been a labor issue addressed through collective bargaining.
  • AAR: “This proposed rule is a textbook example of unnecessary regulation.”

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, (TTD) has responded positively to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking establishing a minimum size for train crews.

But the Association of American Railroads (AAR) today urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to withdraw its proposed rule mandating two-person crews on railroads.

Earlier this year, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposed regulations establishing minimum requirements for the size of train crew staffs depending on the type of operation. A minimum requirement of two crewmembers was proposed for all railroad operations, with exceptions proposed for those operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad employees, the general public, and the environment.

The proposed rule would also establish minimum requirements for the roles and responsibilities of the second train crewmember on a moving train, and promote safe and effective teamwork. The FRA also proposed two different options for situations where a railroad wants to continue an existing operation with a one-person train crew or start up an operation with less than two crewmembers.

Under both proposed options, a railroad that wants to continue an existing operation or start a new operation with less than a two-person train crew would be required to describe the operation and provide safety-related information to the FRA.

“Operating a freight train carrying hazardous substances with a single crew member is unsafe and exposes communities to lethal safety hazards,” said Edward Wytkind, president TTD. “Freight train crews are already stretched too thin as they face chronic fatigue and unsafe scheduling policies. Our message to the FRA today is simple: finalize a rule this year that mandates a certified conductor and certified engineer on every freight train, and scrap the measures in the proposed regulation that allow too much flexibility for possible deployment of one-person crew operations.”

“There is no greater priority for the freight rail industry than safety, but this proposed rule offers no safety benefit to railroads, their employees or the public,” said Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of the AAR. “There is absolutely no data to support the view that a second crewmember enhances safety. This regulation is trying to solve a problem that does not exist.”

Historically, the FRA has treated crew size as a labor issue to be addressed through the collective bargaining process rather than as a safety issue, Hamberger noted.

The AAR also argues that the proposed rule could stifle future technological innovations that would make the freight rail network safer and more efficient.

“This proposed rule,” said Hamberger, “is a textbook example of unnecessary regulation, and, if implemented, would have a chilling effect on the development of new technologies that could make the world’s safest transportation network even safer.”