Labor, Management Have Opposing Views in FRA Hearings on Proposed 2-Person Crew Rule

Not surprisingly, the freight railroad industry wants a proposed two-person crew mandate scrapped while labor unions think the requirement is a good idea.

Both sides cited safety rationales in their testimony during a Federal Railroad Administration hearing held last week.

FRAThe FRA is holding hearings on a proposed rule to require two-person crews on most freight trains.

Leading the opposition was the Association of American Railroads, which asserted that there is no evidence showing that two-person crews improve the safety of railroad operations for railroad employees or the public.

AAR President Edward Hamberger called the rule unnecessary regulation.

On the other side, Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said it is absurd to think that operating a 19,000-ton freight train with a single crew member is safe, adding that the public understands that.

Wytkind wants the FRA to strengthen its proposed rule to eliminate what he characterized as loopholes that provide exceptions.

“We need a strong rule from the FRA mandating a certified conductor and certified engineer on all freight trains, and we need it this year,” he said.

American Short Line and Regional Railroads Association President Linda Bauer Darr said the FRA is overlooking the economic effect of the rule on smaller railroads.

Darr said that of the 450 ASLRRA railroads, more than 100 operate with fewer than four operations employees on as little as two miles of track. Such railroads already have thin profit margins, she said.

“We are truly a small business industry and we do a lot of good work on a shoe string budget,” Darr said. “This efficiency is the reason that many small railroads survive today. We operate efficiently and we operate safely.”

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