Lawmakers want a new rule to increase freight train safety

Washington Examiner | 2/13/2018 | Diana Stancy Correll
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Lawmakers are mounting an effort requiring freight trains to be operated by more than one person, even though railroads have historically bucked past efforts to mandate crew size.

Although most freight trains are operated by two people, one-person crews are not prohibited.

Month - Sen - Heidi - Heitkamp - D-ND

Late last month, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., introduced legislation called the Safe Freight Act, which requires that at least two people are at the controls for freight trains. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also introduced the Safe Freight Act to the House in 2017.

Railroads have maintained that regulations on crew size should be “a collective bargaining issue” and that railroads may want to use one-person crews once new technology is implemented. Rail labor organizations such as the Transportation Division for the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union have backed the legislation and have said it is solid public policy to enhance rail safety.

People - Train - Railroad - Engineer - Years

“You need two people on a train, and I was a railroad engineer for 30 years, because you have to constantly interact with each other to make sure our complex rules and procedures are followed,” said John Risch, national legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division.

“You have to have somebody double-checking one another to make sure things are done right,” he added.

Heitkamp - Issue - Home - Train - Oil

For Heitkamp, the issue hits close to home. In 2013, a train carrying crude oil near Casselton derailed. Heitkamp revealed that having two crew members aboard the train prevented more damage from occurring. She said that in that accident, one of the crew members pulled remaining oil cars away from an existing fire to prevent the flames from spreading.

“When a disaster like the Casselton derailment sends shockwaves through our communities, we must do everything we can to prevent accidents and improve our ability to respond in the future,” Heitkamp said in a statement last month after introducing...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Washington Examiner
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