Court Overturns FRA Crew Size Action

A Federal Railroad Administration decision on crew staffing rules has been overturned by a federal appeals court.

The FRA had withdrawn a proposed rule requiring two-person crews but the court said that decision had the effect of authorizing nationwide one-person train crews and prohibited any contrary state regulations.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the FRA decision ruling “arbitrary and capricious” and returned the matter to the FRA for further consideration.

The FRA had introduced the two-person crew rule in 2016, but withdrew it in 2019, saying there was no evidence that train operation was safer with two crew members compared to operation with one crew member.

The states of California, Washington, and Nevada then sued the FRA and were joined by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

The lawsuit argued that former FRA Administrator Ron Batory failed to follow required procedures on comment and notification, and that he could not preempt state laws.

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