Archive for November, 2022

During the latter days of the Obama Administration, the FRA proposed a new two-man crew mandate. It would have required all trains — including passenger trains — to have both a train driver and conductor. The effort was widely seen as a gift to railroad unions.

The Trump Administration quickly cancelled the rule-making effort — but now the idiotic rule is back:

The Federal Railroad Administration has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed rule that would require at least two crew members for most trains.

Set for 9:30 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 14, the hearing will take place virtually and in-person at the National Association of Home Builders headquarters in Washington, according to a notice published in the Oct. 27 Federal Register.

The proposal calls for regulations establishing safe minimum requirements for the size of train crews depending on the type of operation. This minimum requirement is proposed for all railroad operations except for those that don’t pose significant safety risks to railroad employees, the public or the environment. Other exceptions would include trains working as a helper service, as well as those consisting of only a locomotive or a locomotive attached to only a caboose.

As noted previously, single-man operation is common throughout the world for passenger operations. This rule would outlaw cost-effective commuter and regional train service in the US. This time, the FRA at least acknowledges that the new rule is contrary to global practice — which the agency then dismisses with some cringeworthy arguments:

Foreign train operations in developed countries, other than Canada, are not comparable for the most part due to differences in train lengths, territory, and infrastructure. For instance, a foreign, one-person freight train operation in an industrial-type railroad servicing only one origin and one destination would not be comparable due to the complexity of most U.S.-based freight rail operations. Most foreign, one-person freight train operations also do not carry out extensive interlining or switching with other railroads. Further, many foreign, one-person passenger train operations do not have to share track with freight operations or operate over highway-rail grade crossings, and thus the safety hazards associated with those foreign operations are not comparable to those involving U.S. passenger train operations.

The idea that single-man operated passenger trains don’t have to deal with grade-crossings or freight trains will no doubt come as a surprise to anyone who ridden trains in Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK, etc, etc…

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