Freight Rail Policy Stance: The government should not mandate the requirement of two crew members in the cab in a highly prescriptive manner.

Why This Matters: The proposed rule would freeze the evolution of railroad operations that might affect crew size, removing the incentive for future innovation.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is proposing regulations that would require almost all freight trains to use a minimum of a two-person crew.

This would be a watershed rule if enacted because crew size has traditionally been addressed under collective bargaining agreements.

The FRA proposal was issued despite the agency’s own stated belief that there is no “reliable or conclusive statistical data” to support the rule. A recent review of the FRA train accident database found no evidence that trains with one-person crews have accidents at a higher rate than trains with two-person crews. The FRA itself, after its own review, stated in 2009 that it found no “factual evidence to support the prohibition against one-person operations.”

The proposal makes even less sense when considering that all modes of transportation are moving to greater automation and thus greater levels of safety.  What’s more, railroads already are under a government mandate to install a multi-billion dollar automated safety system known as Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC will make the world’s safest freight rail system even safer and has the potential to render a second crew member redundant.

The FRA’s proposed rule would effectively freeze the evolution of railroad operations that might affect crew size.

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