Freight railroads push back on state train crew laws

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
A national rail strike has been averted.
Photo by William Beecher

The Courthouse News Service is reporting that freight railroads and other rail agencies have requested a federal judge not enforce a law regarding train crew size, created when Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed it in August of this year.  The new bill is to become law on January 1, 2020.  Opponents of the law claim that the state law defies federal law, and the state law is without merit because having more than one crew member in the cab of a locomotive does not enhance safety.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago against the Illinois Commerce Commission include the Indiana Rail Road Company, the American Short Line Association, and the Association of American Railroads.

Illinois, along with several other states, have enacted legislation requiring a minimum of two people in the cab of a locomotive pulling a freight train, in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s decision to rescind a proposed rule made in 2016 requiring two people in the cab after two horrific rail accidents, including the one in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in 2013, which obliterated the downtown area and killed 47 people.  This proposed rule was withdrawn on May 29, and the FRA said “no regulation of train crew staffing is necessary or appropriate for railroad operations to be conducted safely at this time.”

Opponents of a law requiring at least two people in the cab of a freight train say that technological advancements, such fuel management systems and positive train control (PTC), have created such a level of safety that only one person is needed to operate the train.  In a related development, New York Air Brake and the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. recently completed a successful test of a freight train run controlled totally by an on-board computer system called LEADER, manufactured by New York Air Brake, at the TTCI test facility in Pueblo, Colorado.

Source:  Courthouse News Service.

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