Squires Lays Out Conditions for 1-Person Crews

Norfolk Southern CEO James Squares can foresee trains operating with just one crew member, but said three things need to happen before that can routinely occur.

James Squires

Speaking to a gathering of short line and regional railroad executives at an NS marketing meeting in Norfolk, Virginia, Squires said the technology needs to be in place, there needs to be changes in regulations to allow one-person crews and the railroads needs to negotiate one-person crews clauses in their collective bargaining agreements with unions.

Squires said position train control could be the technology that makes one-person crews possible.

As for regulations, Squires said at a minimum those must not prohibit one-person crew operations but preferably will also be conducive to such operations.

He noted that the FRA has signaled that it plans to preempt state minimum crew laws that require two or more crew members on a train.

Squires said the number of crew members aboard a train is an outgrowth of work rules in union contracts.

Although Squires said NS will someday ask its unions to agree to one-person crews, he did say that the technology and regulations need to be in place before seeking one-person crew agreements with unions.

“That’s going to be a very contentious and prejudice and time-consuming round of negotiations for reasons that I think are obvious to everyone,” he said.

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