Apr 4, 2024 - News

New federal railroad regulation requires two-person crews

Photo of US DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking at a podium

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg announces the new rail safety regulation Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Railroad Administration this week finalized a rule mandating that U.S. freight operators staff their trains with at least two-person crews.

Why it matters: The bipartisan rail safety bill, introduced last year and co-sponsored by both Ohio senators, included the two-person crew safety requirement, but the legislation has stalled.

  • The provision has been a sticking point between labor unions and the rail industry.

What they're saying: Sen. Sherrod Brown called the regulation an "important first step" but said passing the Railway Safety Act would ensure that railroad lobbyists couldn't roll back the rule in the future.

Between the lines: The country's largest freight railroads already typically staff their trains with two workers — an engineer and a conductor.

  • In the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine last year, which invited renewed scrutiny on railway safety, there were actually three workers — an engineer, a conductor and a conductor's trainee.
  • The derailment has been tied to an overheated wheel bearing.

The other side: The Association of American Railroads, a trade industry group, called the two-person crew mandate "unfounded and unnecessary" in a statement and said the government had not demonstrated a connection between crew size and safety.

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