Proposed two-person crew rule on trains draws industry scrutiny

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) unveiled a proposed rule this week that would require two-person crews on most trains, and the move has been met with industry resistance.

The only exceptions to the proposed rule would be low-risk operations, which could use one-person crews. Such trains would not be traveling at high speeds, or transporting large quantities of hazardous materials.

Several freight-rail industry leaders said the industry’s current challenges cannot be resolved with a mandate for two-person crews.

"Safety is this industry's number one concern, but there is simply no safety case to be made for a regulation that requires two-person crews, especially where Positive Train Control is fully operational," Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Edward Hamberger  said. "Worldwide, trains safely operate with one person in the cab, including here in the United States, with passenger and commuter trains and some short-line freight railroads. Major European railway systems running many mixed freight and passenger trains per day have safely implemented single-person train crews.”

Industry leaders and analysts have said there is little to no evidence or safety data that can be used to support a mandate for two-person crews.

"Coming from an administration that champions smart, data-driven regulations, it is inexplicable how this proposal was approved by the President's Office of Management and Budget," Hamberger said. "Even the FRA concedes they have no 'reliable or conclusive statistical data' to suggest that two-person crews are safer. I encourage the FRA to re-examine the facts and exercise sound regulatory judgment before finalizing a rule that lacks empirical support."

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