Tag Archives: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

Rail industry opposes 2-member train crews

Repost from CTV News | Associated Press

Industry opposes proposal for 2-member train crews in light of Lac-Megantic disaster

Joan Lowy, The Associated Press , March 14, 2016 3:51PM EDT
Lac-Megantic oil train disaster
Wrecked oil tankers and debris from a runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Que. are pictured July 8, 2013. (Sûreté du Québec handout via CP)

WASHINGTON — Trains would have to have a minimum of two crew members under rules proposed Monday by U.S. regulators. The move is partly in response to a deadly 2013 crash in which an unattended oil train caught fire and destroyed much of a town in Canada, killing 47 people.

The Federal Railroad Administration is also considering allowing railroads that operate with only one engineer to apply for an exception to the proposed two-person crew rule, according to a notice published in the Federal Regulator.

The proposal is opposed by the Association of American Railroads, which represents major freight railroads. Many railroads currently use two-person crews, but some industry officials have indicated they may switch to one engineer per train once technology designed to prevent many types of accidents caused by human error becomes operational.

Most railroads expect to start using the technology, called positive train control or PTC, between 2018 and 2020. It relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions and automatically slow or stop trains that are in danger of colliding or derailing.

A 2008 law requires PTC technology on all tracks used by passenger trains or trains that haul liquids that turn into toxic gas when exposed to air by Dec. 31, 2015. After it became clear most railroads wouldn’t make that deadline, Congress passed a bill last fall giving railroads another three to five years to complete the task.

There is “simply no safety case” for requiring two-person crews, Edward Hamberger, president of the railroad association, said in a statement. Single-person crews are widely and safely used in Europe and other parts of the world, he said.

There will be even less need for two-person crews after PTC is operational, he said. PTC “is exactly the kind of safety redundancy through technology for which the (railroad administration) has long advocated,” he said.

But Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said two-person crews are needed on trains in the same way it’s necessary to have two-pilot crews on planes.

“The cost of adding a second, skilled crewmember pales in comparison to the costs of avoidable crashes and collisions,” Blumenthal said. It’s important that the railroad administration impose what safety regulations they can now since railroads “have dragged their feet” on implementing PTC, he said.

On July 6, 2013, a 74-car freight train hauling crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota that had been left unattended came loose and rolled downhill into Lac-Megantic, a Quebec town not far from the U.S. border. The resulting explosions and fire killed 47 people and razed much the downtown area. The train had one engineer, who had gone to a hotel for the night.

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    Positive Train Control Safety Act (S. 1006) – to grant shorter extensions

    Repost from Progressive Railroading

    Sens. Schumer, Blumenthal, Feinstein, Boxer and Gillibrand propose shorter extension of PTC deadline

    4/21/15

    Responding to recent fatal passenger train crashes and crude-oil train derailments, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) yesterday announced new legislation that would require railroads to install positive train control (PTC) technology by 2018.

    The senators said their Positive Train Control Safety Act (S. 1006) also would require railroads to report on their PTC implementation status and require trains carrying crude oil to run on tracks installed with PTC.

    The bill would extend the federal government’s PTC deadline by three years by allowing one-year extensions, on a case-by-case basis, until 2018. The current deadline is Dec. 31. Recently, other legislation has been introduced to extend the deadline by five years.

    The senators said they believe their legislation is necessary “to ensure railroads are moving forward swiftly” to install the crash-prevention technology. The bill would also improve rail inspection practices, in addition to enhancing safety at grade crossings and work zones in response to reports of lax inspection and oversight and numerous fatal accidents, they said.

    “The Positive Train Control Safety Act will require railroads, including both passenger and freight trains, to implement PTC by 2018 and the legislation makes sure railroads are transparent about their efforts and requires regular status updates on implementation,” said Schumer.

    Also sponsoring the bill are Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

    “This bill will hold railroads’ feet to the fire and ensure they’re moving forward to install PTC, receiving deadline extensions only on a case-by-case basis and year-by-year, and only if factual evidence shows a valid, credible need for more time,” Blumenthal said.

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