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Heitkamp introduces two-person crew bill in U.S. Senate

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 1 — On January 30, 2018, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced S. 2360, a bill that would mandate a minimum crew size for freight trains in the United States.

The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It has immediately garnered four Senate co-sponsors: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Senator Ed Markey (D-MA); Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Senator Angus King (I-ME).

This bill marks the first time a minimum crew-size bill has been introduced in the United States Senate. Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced a companion bill — H.R. 233, known as The Safe Freight Act —in the 115th House of Representatives on January 3, 2017. It currently has 75 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Text of the Bill will be available usually 1-2 days after introduction of the bill on the floor of the House or Senate.

“The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has long advocated for the safety benefits that come from having a minimum of two persons in the cab of the locomotive,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “We support this legislation and are actively lobbying for additional co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. Our Brotherhood thanks Senator Heitkamp and Representative Young and all co-sponsors for their support of safe freight train operations in the United States.”

Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) has long been an advocate for rail safety improvements, even more so since a collision between a crude oil train and a derailed grain train in Casselton, N.D., on December 30, 2013, which caused a huge fire and evacuation. The impact of the Casselton derailment was lessened significantly thanks to the bravery of the multiple crew members who were aboard the locomotive.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), “the heroic actions of the grain train’s (three) crewmembers potentially prevented the environmental and property damages from being much worse” in the Casselton derailment. They pulled a cut of 50 tank cars to safety away from the burning derailed cars. The crew later went back and removed 20 additional cars from the scene of the fire. “That wouldn’t have happened if there were only one-person crews,” President Pierce said. “The BLET continues to oppose single-person freight operations as adverse to worker and public safety.”

Like Senator Heitkamp, Senator King (D-ME) is also an advocate for rail safety. His home state of Maine is near Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where an oil train derailment and subsequent fire resulted in 47 fatalities on July 5, 2013. A one-person train crew operated the oil train in the Lac-Megantic tragedy.

Details of the bill can be found here.

Thursday, February 1, 2018
bentley@ble-t.org

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