Reported by Progressive Railroading.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s proposed two-person train crew rule is drawing opposition from the industry’s two major trade associations and support from transportation labor unions.
Officials from both the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association announced their disappointment with the rule, which the FRA announced yesterday.
The rule would require at least two crew members for all railroad operations, with exceptions proposed for those operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad workers, the public or environment. It also would establish minimum requirements for the location of crew members on a moving train.
AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies decried the proposal as misguided and without a safety justification.
“Though the rule purports to offer a path toward single-person operations, the FRA’s proposal effectively reserves to itself unfettered discretion to disapprove such proposed operations, which removes any regulatory certainty or predictability and may make it nearly impossible for carriers to move beyond the current staffing paradigm,” Jefferies said in a press release.
In 2019, under the Trump administration, the FRA thoroughly reconsidered a rule that was very similar to the one being put forth today and retracted it after finding a complete absence of a safety justification for that rule, he said.
“We knew then, and we especially know now with the full deployment of positive train control technology, that there is no plausible safety justification for regulating the number of individuals physically located inside the cab of a locomotive,” Jefferies added.
Railroad staffing and duty assignments are matters that should be addressed at the bargaining table, he said.
ASLRRA officials concurred, noting “there is no safety justification” for the proposed FRA rule.
“The FRA has proposed an ill-conceived, ill-timed and unnecessary crew size mandate that would hinder the efficient operations of some small business railroads, snarl the supply chain and stifle innovation well into the future,” ASLRRA officials said in a press release.
The rule would be particularly burdensome for short lines, which “operate safely today with a variety of crew sizes, including single-person crews in some instances, that suit the work being performed,” they said.
“This proposed rulemaking comes at an inopportune time, with a supply chain stretched thin throughout the country and labor in limited supply,” ASLRRA officials added. “Short lines and our many partners in the freight industry are working around the clock to rebound from pandemic-induced economic disruption and global gridlock. Being forced by regulatory fiat to operate less efficiently in any circumstances than would otherwise be possible will only make existing problems worse.”
Meanwhile, Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, said transportation labor welcomes the FRA’s proposal.
“This proposed rule acknowledges that crew size is fundamentally a safety issue at its core. By creating a federal standard across the industry, the FRA can address the significant safety concerns presented by railroads operating with single-person crews,” Regan said in a prepared statement.
Read more here.