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3/18/2016 3:10:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

FRA Proposes Keeping Two-Member Train Crew Size


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The Federal Railroad Administration proposed broad new requirements that railroads run trains with two-member crews, saying that the already controversial proposal is justified in light of recent accidents in Canada and the United States.

“A minimum requirement of two crewmembers is proposed for all railroad operations, with exceptions proposed for those operations that FRA believes do not pose significant safety risks to railroad employees, the general public and the environment by using fewer than two-person crews,” the agency’s notice said.

The notice of proposed rulemaking, linked to the Canadian accident that killed 47 people and a derailment in North Dakota, drew immediate criticism from the Association of American Railroads, whose president Edward Hamberger called the plan “inexplicable”. On the other hand, Edward Wytkind, a spokesman for transport trade unions, commended the agency on “this long-overdue safety proposal."

The largest freight railroads today have two-member crews. U.S. freight railroads maintained that when positive train control technology is in place on 60,000 miles of key routes, that the safety technology will be effective enough that a second crew member is not needed. That technology, mandated in a 2008 law sparked by a fatal California commuter train wreck, won’t be required until 2020 since the freight railroads last year convinced Congress to extend a compliance deadline for five years. Smaller railroads that operate at lower speeds on shorter routes can run with one person in the locomotive.

“FRA proposes regulations establishing minimum requirements for the size of train crew staffs depending on the type of operation,” the agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking said. The agency offered two potential approaches for compliance if a carrier seeks to continue to use or begin operating trains with one crew member.

In both cases, a railroad that wants to continue an operation or starts a new one would have to describe its plans and provide safety information. Option one includes an agency review and approval period of up to 90 days, the notice said. Option two allows new or existing operations to continue while the review takes place, as long as a railroad operating executive certifies that adequate safety standards are in place.

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