Rail Safety bill passes out of California Senate Committee

From an email Press Release…
[Editor:  To read and track the bill, see LegTrak at http://www.legtrack.com/bill.html?bill=201520160SB730.  – RS]

Rail Safety bill passes out of Senate Committee

Bill requires minimum two–person train crews
April 23, 2015, Contact: Monica Schmalenberger, (916) 651-4003

SACRAMENTO—Legislation authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to protect communities along rail lines by requiring a safe crew size for trains operating within California secured passage from the Senate Labor Committee yesterday on a 4-1 vote.

“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, pesticides and rocket fuel that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” said Wolk. “With over 6000 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.”

SB 730 prohibits a train or light engine hauling freight in California from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 people.   It also authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission to assess civil penalties against anyone who willfully violates this prohibition.

The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously last week to support 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 until such time as the rules and practices of safe operation may be updated for safer operation with smaller crews.  According to the Commission, of all the industries subject to their oversight — energy, water, telecommunications, and transportation — rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year.

“SB 730 is a great step toward enhancing safety and security on our state’s rail system by requiring two operating crew members to be on board each freight train and light engine,” said Timothy Smith, State Chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, the sponsor of SB 730,  “This is very similar to the necessity of having a pilot and co-pilot on every airliner.  The people of this great state demand this type of check and balance for the sake of rail safety and rail security for themselves and our environment.  If SB 730 becomes law, the railroad industry will move one major step closer to ensuring that those goals are realized.”

SB 730 will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.