The Federal Railroad Administration has published its long anticipated rule governing train crew size. The rule, in essence, will require two crew members on nearly every train as they operate today. Exceptions will be allowed for helper service, lite power movements, tourist trains, work trains, remote control and most passenger service.

The rule does provide for a process under which railroads can petition FRA to allow one person operations and it also allows small railroads to operate one person and current one person operations to continue under listed conditions.

The Association of American Railroads have predictably responded that there is “simply no safety case” for requiring a two-person crew. They also note that single person crews are widely used in Europe but failed to add that in Europe trains are shorter, run on schedules and engineers work fewer hours than in North America.

If a second crew member has ever responded to an emergency by calling out to the engineer or placing the train into emergency stop … there is a “safety case”. If a second crew member has ever separated a train for emergency first responders … there is a “safety case”. If a second crew member has EVER saved the life of his or her companion in the cab of a locomotive (for either medical or injury reasons) … then there is a “safety case”. To deny that any of these reasons are worthy of a second crew member is to condone the death of others in pursuit of higher profits.

The FRA will accept public comments on this rule for 60 days. Without fail, every concerned operating craft employee should submit a comment in support of the rule and also add comments where the rule may be lacking. For example: perhaps one person operations should be restricted to 10 hours service, given 10 hour calls, have restricted train lengths, PTC equipped, not allowed on passenger corridors, etc., etc. I call on our members to add to this list and submit your comments HERE.

You can read the entire 215-page text of FRA’s release HERE. The rule itself begins on page 197.

This will be our highest moment of unity within our industry, exceeding the effort of BNSF employees who defeated their one-person tendered agreement. If you are saving yourself for one cause to rally around, let this be it.

Jim Garrett
Iowa Legislative Director