The Altoona Mirror reports that at a hearing of the Pennsylvania State House Transportation Committee in Altoona last week, Norfolk Southern Resident Vice President Rudy Husband said “It’s mystifying to me that Pennsylvania is thinking of mandating the number of people in the cab (of freight trains), while it’s a leader in the development of autonomous vehicles.” Husband added that there is no data demonstrating that two-person crews are safer.
In 2016, Martina White, (R-Philadelphia), a member of the committee, submitted legislation mandating two or more crew members in the cab of a locomotive operating a freight train. Sparked in part by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) withdrawal of its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) around the issue of a minimum of two crew members, railroads across the country have been planning to implement one-person crews.
Committee Chairman Tim Hennessey, (R-Chester and Montgomery counties), said that the requirement of having two pilots in commercial aircraft should also apply to freight train crews. Committee member Ed Nielson, (D-Philadelphia) said that there should be a nationwide study to determine the safety of one-person crews in freight trains. Neilson added that although reducing costs with only one person in the cab may be welcomed by stockholders, “I don’t want to trust my neighbor’s lives” to this. Philadelphia, of course, was the site of the wreck of Amtrak train 188 in 2015, in which eight people were killed and 200 injured.