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US to require two-person crews for most train operations

By Admin

Reported by David Shepardson for Reuters.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said Tuesday it will require major railroads to have at least two crew members for most trips.

The final rule creates a special approval process for railroads seeking to initiate new one-person train crew operations and requires trains carrying some hazardous waste to have two-person crew.

The Association of American Railroads, an industry trade group, criticized the rule, saying the agency “is doubling down on an unfounded and unnecessary regulation that has no proven connection to rail safety.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg rejected the criticism.

“I would also appeal to common sense – the simple idea that a moving object that is more than two miles long ought to have at least two human beings on it,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t know what problems the railroads could possibly hope to solve by reducing it to one other than to take their profits from ridiculous to stupendously ridiculous.”

In 2019, the administration of then President Donald Trump withdrew a proposed regulation on crew staffing, saying “no regulation of train crew staffing is necessary or appropriate for railroad operations to be conducted safely at this time.”
Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO union federation, praised the Biden administration rule, saying it “acknowledges that crew size is fundamentally a safety issue at its core …. Two-person crews are inherently necessary to ensure the safe operation of our rail systems.”
The issue of rail safety has garnered new attention since the February 2023 derailment of a Norfolk Southern (NSC.N), opens new tab operated train in East Palestine, Ohio. The train caught fire and released over a million gallons of hazardous materials and pollutants. Legislation in Congress to strengthen rail safety rules has stalled in the face of industry opposition.
FRA Administrator Amit Bose said in June the agency was conducting safety assessments of all major U.S. railroads and issued a critical review of Norfolk Southern.
On Tuesday, Bose said the agency has completed a review of BNSF, owned by Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), opens new tab, and would complete remaining ones this year including of Union Pacific (UNP.N), opens new tab and CSX (CSX.O), opens new tab.

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