VIRGINIA - LO 051

Dear Carl:

On March 15th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a long overdue
proposed regulation requiring that most trains in America have a minimum of two crew members. While SMART TD supports the core requirements of the rule, we believe that it can be strengthened and improved before this proposed regulation becomes final.  We also expect the railroads to do everything in their power to weaken the rule. That is why we need your help.

As a railroad worker you have firsthand knowledge of the importance of two-person crews and the dangers of single-person operations. That is why the
FRA needs to hear your voice on this critical safety issue.
Please follow this link to submit your own comments on the rule, citing your personal experiences and expertise in operating trains.

The most effective thing you can include in your comments is a personal story of how having two people on your crew prevented an accident from happening.  It is not necessary to include all the details like train numbers or dates;  just an overview of the incident and how having the second crew member made a difference. Examples of how the second crew member cleared a blocked crossing for an emergency vehicle or dealt with emergency responders during a derailment would also be very beneficial.           

No one can make a stronger case for two-person crews than those who work -- or have worked -- on the front lines operating trains every day.
The deadline for comments is May 16, 2016.

Thank you for your help with this critically important issue.

Below is an excellent example comment submitted by retired member Daniel Potaracke from Wisconsin:

Agency: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Document Type: Rulemaking
Title: Train Crew Staffing
Document ID: FRA-2014-0033-0001

Comment:
Thank You for this opportunity to comment on this important issue.

I started on the BNSF RR in 1972 and retired in 2013 after 42 years of service. In 1972, I was one of 5 crew members on a train. When I retired, there were just 2 people on a train, the engineer and I the conductor. I've seen lots of changes on the railroad and that is putting it very mildly. With all the technology, you would think it would be safer but, I believe it has actually gotten less safe for a number of reasons. The railroads went from handling and hauling basic cargo and smaller trains to now handling much bigger trains with lots more dangerous cargo in increasing amounts. I remember having "a few" dangerous shipments but, when I retired, I was responsible for having LOTS of dangerous and hazardous cargoes. Just before I retired, I had to sift through lots and lots of paperwork to make sure I had ALL the information and redundancy so if there was a problem, I had some solutions for emergency workers and whomever needed it. I'm not saying it is bad but, making sure I had the paperwork and having someone else to count on made it somewhat better; and, how else are shippers going to transport these dangerous cargoes other than the nations highways? From what I've read about the trucking industry, with one person driving a huge truck with dangerous materials and the fatigue the truck drivers put up with, I'm amazed there aren't more crashes. Having 2 people on a train is definitely much more safe!

Having two sets of eyes and ears on the front end of ALL trains is essential for safety for everyone including the public, the employees and the railroads themselves. As a retired BNSF RR conductor, I've personally witnessed many "emergency" type incidents that warranted immediate attention and I'm not at all sure that they would have been caught by just one person. Splitting duties in such a way that there are two people onboard makes it easier for one of them to catch a problem vs having one person having so many things to be aware of and all at the same time. I know from personal experience that I've averted a few derailments or possible derailments because I've caught a problem on either my train or another passing train be it sticking brakes, cracked wheels or hot bearings and shifted loads or other problems.

As you know, the railroads carry so many commodities that are very hazardous including oil trains that will burn out of control for days at a time, nuclear waste, chemicals that are certain death with contact or inhalation and munitions and explosives.
Having two people on a train can catch a problem before a derailment with any of the above cargoes in a city or even out in the country where winds can blow dangerous inhalations to a city or town. Imagine a burning and exploding oil train in a congested city as big as Chicago or Minneapolis or even a small town where the entire population could be wiped out! We have all seen the images of burning oil trains; now imagine that in the middle of a city with populations living within a few hundred feet!

I sometimes wonder if the railroad companies are like the automobile companies that work out the risks or odds of a derailment or toxic release or something similar where they cross their fingers and hope nothing happens but, if something did happen, the chances are 1 in X amount of percent, they could live with that and the resulting monetary damages...or deaths...or whatever.

Please keep America safe with the railroads running safe with two people!

 

 

In Solidarity,

John Risch
National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division