The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) does not believe removing one live body from the locomotive will create a higher risk for casualties.
The Administration has decided to withdrawal a rule that would require two-member crews, and the White House has banned states from requiring such a standard. Currently at least nine states require a two-man crew.
In pulling the rule, the FRA said “no regulation of train crew staffing is necessary or appropriate for railroad operations to be conducted safely.”
The two-person requirement was first proposed by then-FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo in 2013 following one of the worst train accidents in recent memory. Forty-nine people were killed when an unattended 74-car freight train loaded with crude oil crashed into the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic. The explosion leveled the town. Later in 2013 two trains collided in Casselton, N.D., causing 476,000 gallons of crude oil to go up in smoke.
Officials believe technology, like positive train control, is making trains safer and will eliminate human error when it is fully implemented at the end of 2020.
Labor unions disagree and believe corporate profit is being chosen over safety.
“If the ongoing grounding of the Boeing Max aircraft has taught us nothing else, FRA and the Department of Transportation should be mindful of the danger of transferring the risk of a human-factors accident from [crew members] to [a computer] programmer when autonomous technology is implemented,” two unions said in a joint statement.