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Two-person crew bill (S. 1979) introduced in United States Senate

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, June 27 — A two-person crew bill was introduced in the United States Senate on June 26. The Safe Freight Act of 2019 (S. 1979), a companion bill to H.R. 1748 in the U.S. House of Representatives, would promote rail safety by mandating at least two-person crews on all freight trains in the United States. The bill was introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

According to a press release from Senator Markey’s office: “The bill is designed to correct the Federal Railroad Administration’s recent rollback of a proposed rule that would have established these necessary safety standards. The Safe Freight Act will specifically require that all freight trains have at least one certified conductor and one certified engineer on board, who can then work together to protect the safety of both the train and people living near the tracks.”

Other Senators co-sponsoring the Safe Freight Act are Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

“The FRA abdicated its responsibility as our nation’s rail safety agency when it withdrew the proposed two-person crew rule,” Senator Markey said. “A series of tragic accidents have resulted in recent years from unattended and understaffed trains, making clear that we need enough crew on board to protect both property and the public. I am proud to lead the introduction of the Safe Freight Act with Senator Wyden to address this critical safety concern.”

Senator Markey cited the 2013 tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec where an unattended freight train carrying 72 tank cars of crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people, destroying much of the town, and causing millions of dollars in environmental damage. The train was operated by a single employee.

“The decision by the FRA to abandon its planned two-person crew rule makes no sense, especially in light of recent rail accidents,” said Senator Wyden. “This is a matter of safety and security for rail crew and the public, and experts agree. It’s now up to Congress to step in and require freight trains have the staffing required to keep folks safe.”

“The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has led the fight for railroad safety for over 156 years,” said BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce. “Two-person crews make for safer, more efficient train operations, and two-person crews play a key role in safeguarding our nation’s communities when a serious accident occurs. I congratulate Senator Markey for stepping up to lead the fight for a safer railroad industry and a safer America.”

“SMART Transportation Division has been working tirelessly to promote safety in the railroad industry,” said SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich. “There is no doubt that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. After several major train derailments, we must send a clear message to our lawmakers and the general public that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Senator Markey for his leadership on this critical issue as we continue improve safety on our nation''''''''s railroads for both our members and the general public.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced H.R. 1748 on March 22, 2019. Also known as the Safe Freight Act, the House version of the bill would also require that two certified crew members operate freight trains the United States. It currently has 74 co-sponsors.

A copy of the Senate’s Safe Freight Act can be found here (PDF).

Thursday, June 27, 2019
bentley@ble-t.org

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