The FRA Announces a Proposed Rule to Help Train Safety, and Train Crew Size Requirements

On July 27th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published a rule that railroads will be required to continue using two-person crews as they haul all kinds of cargo, including hazardous materials throughout the country.

However, railroads that already operate one person crews will be able to continue doing so until the FRA reviews the safety of the operation, says Supply Chain Dive. Another exception will be for some small railroad operations in addition to certain unit freight train loading and unloading operations, they said.

Not everyone is for this proposed rule

There definitely is some backlash regarding this proposed rule. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) put out an article detailing their opposition to the rule.

Some of the main points they offer regarding their resistance are lack of safety justification; ignores the decades of safe and successful use of single-person crews at some U.S. freight railroads and in passenger and freight rail systems throughout the world; upend meaningful collective bargaining and undermine the rail industry’s ability to compete again less climate-friendly forms of transportation.

Regarding the point of safety…

The AAR points out that railroad safety has drastically improved in past decades because of freight rail’s massive investments to infrastructure and technology. Furthermore saying how crew sizes for freight railroads have been reduced from five people, to three and then to two people, within the collective bargaining agreements. Which are between the labor unions and procedures in the Railway Labor Act.

The AAR also mentions how ground-based conductors will continue to be staffed and deployed, in order to meet all planned ground service duties. Some examples of this include servicing a train at a scheduled stop, and promptly responding to unplanned events.

Lastly, the AAR shares their concerns the crew size mandates could hinder the rail industry’s ability to compete in a rapidly changing freight transportation industry.

They firmly feel that the FRA should NOT impose minimum crew size mandates on railroad operations.

Railroad workers and others involved, happy with the proposed rule

Labor unions for the workers have stated that a second crew member is necessary to “help the conductor spot potential dangers and respond in cases of emergency,” Supply Chain Dive says.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized how this proposed rule will help improve safety for rail passengers and rail workers throughout America. “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.”

Additionally, requirements in this proposed rule include the location of crewmembers on a moving train. Which would prohibit the operation of some trains with fewer than two crewmembers, from transporting large amounts of certain hazardous materials, the Federal Railroad Administration says. The FRA also attributes data when making decisions.

Looking ahead

We will continue to keep an eye on this to see when, or if, this proposed rule goes into effect. As always, should you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today!

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