The FRA has just published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a two-person crew requirement. The original motivation for the rule was to ensure the safety of crude-oil trains; however, the FRA intends to apply the rule to all train types, including passenger trains.
The FRA apparently is unaware that train conductors have become an anachronism. Automation has eliminated the need for the second crewmember. These days, the conductor does nothing more than punch tickets. That task is much better handled by faregates, smartcards, or POP (proof-of-purchase) ticketing. Single-crew operation has an excellent safety record on non-FRA transit systems (such as BART, light-rail, etc). Since labor expenses make up a large portion of a transit system budget, the rule will have major impact on the budget for agencies like SMART and Caltrain (assuming they ever get their act together and eliminate the conductor position). Although the FRA suggests waivers might be possible, the rule will almost certainly reduce frequency of service.
The FRA concedes that there is no data to justify the 2-person rule (even for dangerous freight cargo). Moreover, the report admits that international operations with 1-person crews have “acceptable” safety records. The only beneficiaries of the rule is the United Transportation Union, which would see increased employment as a result of the rule.