Legislators in Michigan introduced bills Dec. 2 in both the state House and Senate intended to keep freight rail operations on the state’s more than 3,600 miles of track running safely and efficiently.
H.B. 5596 and S.B. 767 require a crew of at least two qualified people in the operating locomotive of trains transporting cargo and hazardous materials in the state for public safety.
“It is vitally important to maintain the presence of two crew members in the locomotive,” said Don Roach, SMART Transportation Division Michigan state legislative director. “Despite any advances in technology, there is a safety factor called ‘the Rule of 2’ on the railroad. You have the engineer and the conductor in the cab, just like how airplanes have pilots and co-pilots. Right now, that’s being threatened by rail carriers who are looking to reduce costs and keep their profits high.”
“Each crew member has responsibilities and simultaneously performs duties in providing safe and efficient operation necessary with the longer trains railroads have been running. The crew members aboard are the first responders to a grade crossing collision, derailment or other emergency situation, and their reactions can mean the difference between life and death or a minor incident and a catastrophe.”
One real-life incident last year in the state drives the point home very well.
While a two-person crew of the conductor and engineer is the standard operating procedure on most freight traffic in the nation, a three-person crew, including two SMART-TD members out of Local 1709 in Pontiac, found themselves in the position where they saved a man’s life in November 2020 by applying a tourniquet after a moped rider’s legs amputated in a grade crossing accident.
This situation and many others that railroaders in Michigan encounter during the course of doing their jobs will be part of a campaign to raise awareness among the public and legislators about the necessity of keeping the standard of two people aboard, Roach said.
“The public safety of our communities is non-negotiable, and this legislation will help prevent potential accidents or derailments. The citizens of Michigan deserve to feel safer with two crew members in the cab in the trains that roll through their communities, day and night.
“The Rule of 2 matters and saves lives. A crew of two is safer for you,” Roach said.
Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Dist. 50) introduced H.B. 5596, which was co-sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Dist. 101) and:
- Rep. John Cherry (D-Dist. 49)
- Rep. Jim Ellison (D-Dist. 26)
- Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Dist. 23)
- Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Dist. 21)
- Rep. Tullio Liberati (D-Dist. 13)
- Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Dist. 92)
- Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Dist. 53)
- Rep. Lori Stone (D-Dist. 28)
- Rep. Cara Clemente (D-Dist. 14)
- Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Dist. 29)
The Senate bill was introduced concurrently by primary sponsor Sen. Erika Geiss (D.-Dist. 6).