Rail workers push 2-person crew legislation for safety

The Safe Freight Act, which would require a minimum of two crew members on all U.S. freight trains, was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).

The legislation is a joint effort between  The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers International Association (SMART) to encourage safety in the railroad industry.

“The BLET continues to oppose and condemn single-person freight operations as adverse to worker and public safety,” Dennis R. Pierce, BLET National President, said. “All parties involved must understand that as things stand today, there are only two ways to end one-person train operations: federal laws or regulations that outlaw this dangerous practice, or collectively bargained contract language that requires two crew members on every train. We will continue to work to protect contractual language to defend two-person crews, and it also is our goal to protect the safety of railroad workers and the general public by advocating for passage of H.R. 1763.”

The bill comes after increased concern about freight train staffing following the derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013. The train only had one crew member. The center of town was destroyed and 47 people died. 

If passed, the new legislation would require one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor on each freight train. 

“The SMART Transportation Division has always espoused that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation,” John Previsich, SMART Transportation Division president, said. “With several major train derailments having occurred in the last few months, most notably the oil train derailment and explosion near Charleston, West Virginia, in February, our lawmakers and the general public must understand that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities....No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though it can fly itself. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different.”

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