Legislation Rail Transportation

Lawmaker seeks to mandate two-person crews on freight trains

freight train
Photo: Leadinglights/iStockphoto

Washington — Legislation reintroduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on March 13 would require at least two certified crew members on all freight trains operated in the United States.

“Requiring a second crew member aboard a train to help share the operational workload is a commonsense step to strengthen public safety,” Zack Brown, Young’s press secretary, wrote in an email to Safety+Health. “Alaska is one of the only states with rail structure shared by both passenger and rail services. Because of this, freight rail safety directly impacts passenger rail safety. Congressman Young introduced the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748) with the intent of reducing instances of train engineers and conductors being stretched too thin with operational duties.”

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen National President Dennis R. Pierce believes freight trains with a one-person crew, as well as those that are autonomous, pose a threat on the scale of the 2013 derailment and massive fire that killed 47 people and destroyed the town center in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

“We need two sets of eyes and ears in the locomotive cab,” Pierce said in a March 25 press release. “This is necessary safety legislation to protect railroad workers and the American public.”

The Safe Freight Act is co-sponsored by 22 House members. It also is backed by BLET as well as the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

Young introduced similar legislation in April 2015.


In Colorado, a bill requiring multiple crew members on freight trains was signed into state law by Gov. Jared S. Polis on March 21. Additionally, more than a dozen states – including Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Texas – have introduced minimum crew size legislation this year, according to BLET.

The Safe Freight Act was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee on March 14.

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