Miles-Lengthy Freight Trains Now Require 2 Entire Crew Members

A train carrying crude oil burns while derailed on December 22, 2020 in Custer, Washington.

Photograph: David Ryder (Getty Photos)

Freight railroads are utilizing one thing referred to as Precession Scheduling to run longer trains with fewer crewmembers with a view to maximize earnings. To hopefully curb potential accidents, the Biden Administration mandated Tuesday a naked minimal that at the least two folks be aboard typically miles-long freight trains. Some trains, nevertheless, will get a cross even on this naked bones primary security requirement.

Harmful derailments, particularly the poisonous chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio, prompted public scrutiny, however progress on new laws has moved at a glacial tempo. This new rule is the primary proposed since 2022. In an announcement from the Federal Railroad Administration, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg mentioned:

“Frequent sense tells us that enormous freight trains, a few of which will be over three miles lengthy, ought to have at the least two crew members on board – and now there’s a federal regulation in place to make sure trains are safely staffed. This rule requiring secure practice crew sizes is lengthy overdue, and we’re proud to ship this modification that can make employees, passengers, and communities safer.”

Now, I wouldn’t contemplate a practice over a mile lengthy with two crewmembers “safely staffed.” Persevering with on from Buttigieg’s instance, a crewmember is anticipated to stroll six miles if a three-mile-long practice is pressured to cease on account of a problem on the different finish. Throughout this prolonged hike, the practice is stopped wherever it’s for at the least an hour. Sure, requiring a second crewmember is a marked enchancment, but it surely barely reaches the naked minimal for security. The railroad firms declare there’s no proof that bigger crews will make operations safer, however the smaller, much less secure crews have been one of many many complaints railroad employees dropped at the desk in 2021 when a nationwide freight strike loomed.

The brand new FRA rule doesn’t outright ban one-person crews. Current single-handed operations, together with hauling hazardous supplies, can proceed in the event that they “don’t pose vital security dangers to railroad workers, the general public, or the surroundings.” The brand new rule additionally establishes an approval course of for brand spanking new one-person crew operations.

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