Rail News: April 9th, 2024

FRA Rules Freight Railroads Need to Keep Two-Person Crews

In their final ruling, the Federal Railroad Administration stated railroad operations will be required to maintain a minimum of two person crews.

There is an exception for certain identified one person train crew operations that do not post significant safety risks to railroad employees, the public, or the environment. However, those that are the exception will be required to submit to the FRA a yearly report that summarizes the safety of the operation.

This rule was finalized on April 2nd and goes in effect 60 days after publication date.

This ruling is a win for rail unions who have a long history of opposing one person crews, due to the safety and job concerns. It has been a key issue in contract talks in the industry for many years. Railroads on the other hand have wanted the size of train crews to be determined by contract talks, not regulators or lawmakers, because they say there isn’t enough data to show that two person crews are safer.   

BNSF Plans to Test Out A Pilot Program Focused on Improving Fluidity

At their terminals in Chicago, Memphis and Kansas City, BNSF Railway is testing out a variety of measures to improve fluidity, with the possibility for implementation late in the year for an appointment system for container retrieval at those three major inland hubs.

As part of their plan, they will have a designated waiting area for drivers. This will allow the railroad to meter how many trucks are able to wait underneath cranes to pick up boxes. They also intend to coordinate with trucking companies to increase the usage of BNSF’s RailPass app so drivers can enter and exit terminals faster.

Total Weekly Rail Traffic for the Week Ending March 30th, 2024:

  • For the week ending March 30th was 472,651 carloads and intermodal units – seeing a 3.2% increase from the same time last year, per AAR data.
  • Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 253,918 containers and trailers – up 9.3%.
  • Grain, motor vehicles and parts, carloads, and chemicals all saw increases. While coal and metallic ores and metals all saw decreases.
  • For the first 13 weeks of this year, North American rail volume was at 8,462,498 carloads and intermodal units – up 1.8%.
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