Posts Tagged ‘minimum railroad crew size’

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The FRA had withdrawn a proposed rule requiring two-person crews but the court said that decision had the effect of authorizing nationwide one-person train crews and prohibited any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

Industry Observers Speculate on How a Biden Administration Will Affect Freight Railroads

November 11, 2020

Railroad industry observers are already speculating as to how the Biden administration is expected to affect freight railroads and they see a few changes coming.

Joseph Biden, a former vice president and U.S. Senator from Delaware, is seen by many as likely to abandon the broad use of tariffs that had been favored by the Trump administration.

Those tariffs had drawn sharp criticism from many businesses and business trade organizations who said they caused economic disruptions because China responded with tariffs of its own that hindered exports of some U.S. goods and commodities.

In particular, U.S. agriculture exports were hurt by the tariffs. The railroad industry had opposed those tariffs because trade is related to 40 percent of rail shipments.

Statements issued by the Association of American Railroads have called for opening more markets to international trade and ending obstacles to sustained growth.

Biden during his campaign expressed support for two-person freight crews.

That will likely put him at odds with Class 1 railroads that are pushing to eliminate two-person crews on some trains in favor of a roving conductor who would handle multiple trains as needed.

Class 1 railroads also want to explore autonomous train operations.

During the Trump years, the Federal Railroad Administration said there was no data showing that two-person crews are inherently safer than one-person crews and therefore there was no need for a federal minimum crew size regulation.

It remains to be seen how a Biden appointed FRA administrator will respond to the crew size issue.

Another potential point of tension will be the two-person crew laws approved in some states at the behest of railroad labor union.

Courts have ruled that federal law in regards to crew size preempts state laws on the matter.

Ultimately, though, the crew size issue will be resolved in collective bargaining between the Class 1 railroads and labor unions, a process that may continue to drag on for a few more years.

Railroads will be keeping an eye on the Biden administration’s environmental policies.

Biden has said one of his first actions as president will be to have the United States rejoin the Paris climate accord.

He has called for ambitious targets to reduce the nation’s emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

In doing this, the Biden administration may favor policies that would have the effect of reducing the market for such energy-related commodities as utility coal and fracking sand used in oil and gas production.

However, if the Biden administration imposes policies that hinder pipeline construction that could boost the shipment of crude oil by rail.

A Biden administration might also seek repeal of regulations allowing the shipment of liquefied natural gas by rail.

The rail industry might be able to take advantage of a focus on the environment by claiming that it is a more environmentally friendly way to ship freight than trucks.

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.