SMART Supports Senate Two-person Crew Provision

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced railroad safety legislation Sept. 10 that continues dialogue on the nation’s rail safety laws.

S. 2784, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2014, contains language that requires freight trains be crewed with at least one federally certified conductor and one federally certified engineer. The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers fully supports that requirement.

The issue of single-person train operations has gained national prominence recently when BNSF Railway proposed a contract to some of their operating employees that would remove conductors from trains, a proposal that was voted down this week by the affected employees. BNSF had a substantial train accident in Casselton, N.D., involving a crude oil train Dec. 30 where two-person crews played a vital role in working with first responders to protect the public.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich has cautioned that one-person train operations are unsafe. “No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though they can fly themselves. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different,” he said.

Legislation requiring a minimum of two persons on trains, H.R. 3040, is pending in the House of Representatives. This bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) last year and has 80 co-sponsors.

“We thank Sen. Blumenthal for including this provision which maintains current practices. While America’s railroads generally operate with a minimum of one conductor and one engineer, there are a handful of rouge operators who are operating unsafe, single-person trains. This legislation will put an end to that unsafe practice,” Previsich said.

The legislation also requires Class I and passenger railroads to install audio and image recording devices in locomotive cabs. “We plan to work with the Senate to try to get this unwarranted proposal removed from the bill,” Previsich said.

An overview of S. 2784 can be found here.

To read the complete text of the bill, click here.