U.S. Transportation Department announces rule requiring two-person train crews

U.S. Transportation Department announces rule requiring two-person train crews
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This rule addresses critical safety concerns by ensuring trains, particularly those extending over three miles, are adequately staffed.

In a development aimed at bolstering rail safety across the United States, the Biden-Harris Administration, through the Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), has announced the finalization of a rule that mandates a minimum of two crew members on most Class I freight and passenger trains. Announced on April 2, 2024, by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, this rule addresses longstanding safety concerns and ensures that trains, especially those extending over three miles in length, are adequately staffed.

This regulatory measure underscores the critical safety roles performed by crew members, which could be compromised by reducing the crew size to a single individual. The rule aims to prevent railroads from adopting single-crew operations without undergoing a thorough risk assessment, mitigating identified risks, or informing the FRA. By establishing minimum standards and a federal oversight process, the rule also enables community and worker input into FRA's decision-making regarding exceptions for one-person train crew operations.

While the rule primarily impacts Class I railroads, it also outlines conditions under which Class II and III freight railroads can continue or initiate certain one-person crew operations, provided they notify the FRA and adhere to new federal safety standards. This move aligns with efforts by states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado, which have recently considered legislation to mandate two-person rail crews.

The introduction of this rule is part of the Biden-Harris Administration's broader initiative to enhance rail safety through the deployment of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds, enforcing accountability among railroads, raising safety standards, and supporting first responders and rail workers. Rail unions, which have long advocated against one-person crews due to safety and employment concerns, have welcomed the regulation. BLET National President Eddie Hall emphasized the importance of maintaining two-person crews. “As trains — many carrying hazardous material — have grown longer, crews should not be getting smaller,” he said.

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