Posts Tagged ‘crew size rules’

Court Overturns FRA Crew Size Action

February 24, 2021

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The FRA had withdrawn a proposed rule requiring two-person crews but the court said that decision had the effect of authorizing nationwide one-person train crews and prohibited any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

Bill Would Mandate 2-Person Crews in Ohio

June 28, 2019

An Ohio lawmaker has introduced legislation to require two people in locomotive crews.

The bill is currently before the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

HB 186 establishes penalties ranging from up to $1,000 for a first violation to as much as $10,000 for a third violation within three years of the first.

The bill would also require railroads to illuminate rail yards as outlined by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and to construct walkways next to tracks wherever employees perform switching activities.

Trains would not be able to block grade crossings for emergency vehicles and violations would incur a fine of up to $5,000.

“Railroads are a very important part of commerce, but if you start thinking about what’s carried in a railcar, what kind of havoc that could wreak on your districts and your communities, I think it is a common sense solution to require a two-man train crew,” Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer (R-District 98) told the committee.

Also testifying in support of the legislation was Michael Sheehy (D-District 46), who retired from CSX in 2012 after working for 40 years in the railroad industry, much of it as a conductor.

“Historically members of a freight railroad crew consisted of an engineer, a fireman, a conductor and two switchmen—a five-man crew,” Sheehy said. “With advances in technology, that crew size has been reduced to just a conductor and an engineer—a two-person crew.”

He noted that at least 10 states either have or are considering legislation requiring minimum two-person train crews.

Railway Age noted in a report about the legislation that the issue of crew size is largely a moot point because every Class 1 railroad has labor contracts requiring a two-person crew.

The Federal Railroad Administration recently ended a rule-making proceeding that would have mandated a two-person crew on every freight train.

FRA Won’t Impose Minimum Crew Size Rule

May 26, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week it will not implement a rule requiring a specific number of people in the cab of a freight train.

The crew size rule making proceeding began in March 2016 and FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said there is not enough data to support the need for more than one person in the cab of a train.

Batory’s statement drew sharp criticism from railroad labor unions, but was lauded by the Association of American Railroads.

The minimum crew size standard proceeding began after the derailment of an oil train in 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, when the parked oil train began moving and derailed after the locomotive engineer, who was working alone, failed to apply an adequate number of hand brakes to keep the train stationary. The resulting explosion and fire left 47 dead.

Canadian investigators concluded the use of a one-person crew did not directly contribute to the derailment, which Batory cited in his statement.

The FRA held hearings on a minimum crew size rule in 2013 and 2014 before initiating a rule making proceeding in 2016.

In his statement, Batory said the FRA’s action will pre-empt efforts in some states, including Colorado and Nevada, that have approved or are considering implementing a minimum crew size law.

Unions Back FRA 2-Person Crew Rule

March 17, 2016

Two railroad labor unions are supporting a proposed rule by the Federal Railroad Administration that would require a two-person crew aboard trains in most circumstances.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have long argued that having a second crew member in the locomotive cab enhances railroad safety.

BLET“Our view is that one-person operations are unsafe under any circumstances and we believe issuing this proposed rule is a critical first step in helping to ensure that our nation’s trains are operated fully staffed with two qualified crew members,” says SMART President John Previsich. “Airplanes are not allowed to fly with just one pilot, and for sound safety reasons trains, many hauling hazardous materials — should be no different. The check, double check, and extra set of eyes and ears watching both sides of the train and the division of tasks are safety measures that cannot be replaced by rules or technology.”

At the same time, the unions are concerned about certain provisions of the FRA rule.

Specifically, the unions are critical of the phrase “loss of situational awareness,” which an FRA report said is what occurs when a crew member is distracted by multiple tasks.

“The words ‘loss of situational awareness’ are merely management code words for blaming the employee who has been bogged down with too many tasks, duties, and distractions,” the unions said in a news release. “Task overload does lead to increased fatigue and attention capture that pose genuine and quantifiable safety risks in the railroad industry.”

Another concern raised by the union is that the FRA rule would allow single-person crews on some trains on long-haul runs.

The unions said the proposed rule would allow railroads to use one-person crews provided that they take extra steps to protect employees, the public and the environment.

The FRA has said that it is likely that railroads that already have single-person crews would be able to get approval to continue them.

The FRA is currently accepting public comment about its proposed rule. The comment period will end in 60 days.

The single-person rule has been in the works for more than two years.

Earlier this week, the Association of American Railroads said it opposes mandating two-person crews. The AAR said there is no safety case to be made for such a rule and that positive train control systems will lead to safer railroad operations, even with one-person crews.

Unions continue to promote the Safe Freight Act, which would require all trains to have at least two people in the cab.

“Technology will never be able to safely replace the eyes and ears of our highly-trained, experienced and professional two-person train crews,” said BLET President Dennis R. Pierce.