Category Archives: Train crew size

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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California Governor signs law requiring minimum 2-person freight train crew

From the Press Release
[See also: 9/11/15 coverage on Progressive Railroading.  – RS]

Governor signs Wolk rail safety bill into law

Bill requires minimum two–person train crews

 
September 9, 2015 

SACRAMENTO—Late yesterday Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines and railroad workers by requiring trains and light engines carrying freight within California to be operated with an adequate crew size.

 

“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk. “With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger. This new law will provide greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers.”

 

Senate Bill 730 prohibits a freight train or light engine in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess civil penalties, at its discretion, against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

 

The CPUC supports SB 730, stating that requiring two-person crews is a straightforward way of ensuring two qualified crew members continue to operate freight trains in California.  According to the CPUC, of all the industries subject to their oversight – energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation—rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year. 

 

“This new law will help keep us at the forefront of rail safety,” said Paul King, Deputy Director of the Office of Rail Safety for the CPUC. “This law will ensure that freight trains continue to have the safety redundancy that a second person provides. Such redundancy is a fundamental safety principle that is evidenced in certain industries, such as using two pilots in an airplane cockpit, or requiring back-up cooling systems for nuclear reactors.”

 

The bill is also supported by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; California Teamsters Public Affairs Council; and United Transportation Union.

 

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Melissa Jones-Ferguson

State Senator Lois Wolk – 3rd District

Phone: (916) 651-4003

E-mail: melissa.jones@sen.ca.gov

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Rail workers score big safety win in California

Repost from People’s World
[Editor:  See earlier coverage:  News Release from California Senator Lois Wolk.  – RS]

Rail workers score big safety win in California

By: Mark Gruenberg, August 26 2015
lacmegantic

Photo: Police helicopter view of Lac-Mégantic, the day of the derailment. Forty-two people were confirmed dead, with five more missing and presumed dead. Licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0 via Commons

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (PAI) – Rail workers scored a big safety win in California on August 21 as state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill mandating two-person crews on all freight trains.

The measure, pushed by the Teamsters and their California affiliates, the Rail Division of SMART – the former United Transportation Union – and the state labor federation, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who is expected to sign it.

Rail unions nationwide have been pushing for the two-person crews while the rail carriers have been pushing for just one, an engineer. Several months ago, the head of one carrier, the Burlington Northern, advocated crewless freights.

The unionists told lawmakers presence of a second crew member would cut down on horrific crashes such as the one that obliterated downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, two years ago. Then, a runaway oil train crashed and exploded, killing 47 people. That train had only an engineer. There has been a string of similar U.S. accidents since, especially of oil-carrying trains. Recent oil train accidents were near Galena, Ill., Lynchburg, Va., and in West Virginia.

The proposed California statute requires trains and light engines carrying freight within the nation’s largest state – home to one of every eight Americans – to be operated with “an adequate crew size,” reported Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank-and-file rail workers from SMART, the Teamsters and other unions.

The minimum adequate crew size, the bill says, is two. Railroads that break the law would face fines and other penalties from the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission supported the bill, SB730.

“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said sponsoring State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Solano.

“With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger. I urge the governor to sign this bill into law, providing greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers.”

“California has nearly 7,000 miles of railroad track that winds through both wilderness and urban areas, making train safety a priority issue,” said California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith. “SB730 will help to protect railway workers, the public, and the environment from freight train derailments by ensuring trains operate with a two-person crew.

“The labor federation is proud to support this critical legislation and we’re urging the governor sign it into law.”

The rail workers union and Railroad Workers United have also pushed for two-person crews at the national level, but they’ve run into indifference, at best, in the Republican-run 114th Congress. Meanwhile, the carriers lobby federal regulators to let them have one-person crews.

Dennis Pierce, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Teamsters Rail Conference, told the U.S. House Transportation Committee in June that while another safety measure – positive train control (PTC) – would also help cut down the possibility of accidents, it’s no substitute for two-person crews.

“PTC can’t replace the second crewmember,” Pierce said then. “It doesn’t provide a second set of eyes and ears trained on the road ahead or monitor the ‘left’ side of the train for defects like hot wheels, stuck brakes or shifted lading, or observe the ‘left’ side of highway-rail grade crossings for drivers who fail to stop, or separate stopped trains that block crossings to allow first responders to cross the tracks.”

SMART, the Teamsters and other rail unions and workers are pushing the Safe Freight Act (HR1763), mandating the two-person crews, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the senior Republican in the House.

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said, “The safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. With several major train derailments having occurred in the last few months…our lawmakers and the general public must understand that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though it can fly itself. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different.”

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