Federal agencies Rail Transportation

FRA seeks comment on proposal to codify train crew size requirements

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Washington — The Federal Railroad Administration is requesting public comment on a proposed rule that would require at least two crew members for most trains.

According to a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the July 28 Federal Register, the proposal calls for regulations establishing safe minimum requirements for the size of train crews depending on the type of operation. This minimum requirement is proposed for all railroad operations except for those that don’t pose significant safety risks to railroad employees, the public or the environment. Other exceptions would include trains working as a helper service, as well as those consisting of only a locomotive or a locomotive attached to only a caboose.

In addition, the rule would establish requirements for the location of crew members on a moving train – ensuring they can always communicate with each other – and would prohibit trains without two crew members from transporting certain quantities and types of hazardous materials.

Citing research, FRA notes that an increase in physical tasks and cognitive demands can lead to task overload or a loss of situational awareness for single crew members.

The proposal allows for a special approval process for FRA to consider continued legacy operations with one-person crews and the initiation of a new train operation with fewer than two crew members. However, the rule would include a risk assessment and annual oversight requirement to ensure railroads “consider and address all relevant safety factors” of using fewer than two crew members.


“We are committed to data-driven decision making,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said in a press release. “In cases where railroads wish to operate with fewer than two crew members, we are proposing that they perform a rigorous, thorough, and transparent risk assessment and hazard analysis, and FRA will provide an opportunity for public comment on these submissions.”

FRA contends the proposal will enhance safety nationwide by replacing the existing patchwork of state laws regarding crew size with a uniform national standard.

“For the past few years, our rail workers have worked hard to keep people and goods moving on our nation’s railroads, despite a global pandemic and supply chain challenges,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the release. “This proposed rule will improve safety for America’s rail passengers – and rail workers – across the country.”

The deadline to comment is Sept. 26.

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