The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Sept. 22 that the public comment period for the two-person crew size Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) has been extended.

Stakeholders now have an additional 60 days to show their support for the minimum crew size of two in the cab of trains nationwide. The previous deadline was Sept. 26.

“This extension was requested by congressional Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was granted by the FRA,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said.

He also pointed out that extensions are normal under rules of this magnitude: “It allows concerned members of the public and railroad workers alike to continue to support the truth — that safe train operations in this country are best maintained by following the Rule of Two.”

A public hearing on the matter also will be scheduled in the near future, FRA said in its Federal Register notice.

The deadline for the public to comment is now Dec. 2, according to the notice published.

As of midday Sept. 22, the NPRM had nearly 10,500 comments.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) of Illinois again has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with rail workers in the battle for national two-person crew legislation.

SMART-TD Illinois State Legislative Director Bob Guy, left, meets with Gov. J.B. Pritzker at the Illinois State Fair on Aug. 16. Pritzker issued a comment in support of the Rule of 2 on Sept. 27.

SMART Transportation Division members and the people of Illinois have even more evidence that Gov. Pritzker has their safety as his priority. The governor’s office submitted comments to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Sept. 27 in support of legislation requiring a two-person crew be in the cab of a number of passenger and freight trains. 

“We want to extend our appreciation to Gov. Pritzker for his support for two-person train crews,” said Bob Guy, SMART-TD Illinois state legislative director. “When the governor was a candidate, he visited my office, and we discussed this important employee and public safety need. Then he followed up that commitment by signing legislation (S.B. 24) in 2019 that requires at least two individuals to operate trains in Illinois.

“Now the governor has furthered that commitment by issuing a letter of support for FRA’s current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for crew size safety requirements. Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly have made it clear that they support public safety by requiring a two-person crew on trains, and we thank them for that.”

In his submission to the FRA, Gov. Pritzker stated that “adequate railroad operating personnel is critical to ensuring railroad operational safety and security and in supporting first responder activities in the event of a hazardous material incident, grade crossing incident, or mechanical failure.”

The support from Gov. Pritzker is appreciated by the labor community, yet does not come as a surprise. His track record of respect for this issue is clear —  in 2019, he signed S.B. 24 into law, mandating two-person crews for freight trains operating within the borders of Illinois, even when then-FRA Administrator Ron Batory was attempting to quash states’ efforts to regulate train crew size.

In anticipation of today’s House hearing on the U.S. supply chain, an “exclusive” pro-carrier piece in the Washington Examiner on freight crew size says that keeping two people on freight crews is making the problem worse, neglecting to mention the massive cuts in rail labor and workforce retention issues the carriers have created through Precision Scheduled Railroading that have contributed to the supply chain problem.

Read the article.