Nevada survey respondents overwhelmingly support two-person crew legislation

Published: February 4, 2019

Survey results released by SMART Transportation Division’s Nevada State Legislative Board today show that voters in the state overwhelmingly side with the passage of regulations that require freight trains to be operated by crews consisting of a minimum of two people.

After being asked questions and given information on railroad safety, a staggering 89 percent of respondents to a phone survey, conducted Jan. 28 to 31, 2019, said they would vote for a two-person rail crew law in the interest of keeping their communities safe.

Just 13 percent of survey respondents had known that just two people serve on freight train crews, while 57 percent thought that three or more people operate a train.

A second crewmember on the train allows for better monitoring of traffic at rail grade crossings, investigates incidents such as grade crossing collisions or derailments when they occur and can communicate or supervise as needed with the engineer to avoid mistakes during the train’s operation, including when the train is secured (tied down).

The catastrophic Lac-Mégantic disaster in 2013 devastated a town in Quebec, Canada, and occurred when a lone crewmember left his train unattended. The oil-carrying train then rolled into the town with no one aboard, and the resulting blast and inferno leveled a portion of the town center and killed dozens of people.

“A second crewmember could have made all the difference in that tragedy,” said Jason Doering, director of the SMART TD Nevada State Legislative Board.

When asked in the survey, Nevada residents agreed:

“Nearly nine of 10 respondents to this poll came out with the understanding of the safety benefits of having more than one person operating a freight train. Safety is a top priority for them, and they want it made law. Requiring all trains in the state to be operated by a crew of at least two people, no exceptions, makes perfect sense, despite what industry interest groups say,” Doering said. “When the duties of each crewmember were spelled out, poll respondents recognized that running a freight train with a single crewmember was a safety risk they would not want to see taken, even with future enhancements in rail technology.”

Nearly 75 percent said that they did not trust advanced technology to serve as a replacement for a crewmember. More than eight of 10 (81 percent) of those surveyed expressed at least some concern of a single-person crew train derailing in their community, and more than half (51 percent) said they were “very” worried that a freight train with one crewmember would derail. Just 19 percent of respondents thought the replacement of a crewmember with advanced technologies would be sensible.

“Those surveyed did not want the safety of where they live left to chance,” Doering said. “They want more than one person on the trains that roll through our communities, carrying goods and hazardous materials through our state at all hours. There is absolutely no question in their minds that two-person crews are safer for all — workers and community members.”

Respondents expressed favorable views of passenger rail, with 55 percent in support of the creation of a high-speed rail line linking Las Vegas and southern California and 61 percent saying that Amtrak should increase available passenger rail service in the state.

The poll, taken by DFM Research of St. Paul, Minnesota, was of 500 random Nevada residents using both cell phones and landlines. The total margin of error of this poll is ±4.4 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence.

Read the full results of the survey (PDF).