DATE: September 19, 2022
SUBJECT: Flyer #2: FRA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – Crew Size Regulation

Updated to reflect new due date of December 2, 2022.

As of this morning, there is one week left in the public comment period for the FRA’s notice of public rulemaking (NPRM) entitled Train Crew Size Safety Requirements. This NPRM would establish minimum crew size requirements for trains operating in the United States, and now is the time to make your voice heard. For those outside the industry, the current crew size for nearly every freight train operating today is two – a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor. Most folks know that the locomotive engineer operates the train, but the conductor’s responsibilities are less well known:

  • Responsible for the train itself – maintains paperwork including train standing order and updates as work is done during the trip.
  • Performs much of the communication – with management, yardmasters, and dispatchers throughout the trip, and with first responders if issues arise.
  • Mobile member of the crew – if there is an emergency, the conductor is the initial first responder – able to assess the scene, work with other responders to protect the public. Additionally, the conductor is able to split the train to free up public road crossings in the event a train is parked for an extended period of time.

Beyond these tasks, the conductor acts as an active member of the crew. Continuous communication between the two crew members keeps focus on the task at hand, confirms upcoming tasks, and allows for combined experience to guide decisions. Long days and an unpredictable schedule provide substantial challenges to railroaders, and the second crew member provides protection against fatigue.

The BLE&T and SMART-TD both feel that having at least two crew members on a train is critical to the safety of employees and the public. We ask that you submit your own comments in favor of maintaining the standard crew size of two (or more). Here’s where you can help:

The FRA Crew Size Proposed Rule can be found here:

Click below to comment before the December 2, 2022 deadline:

Or use the automated form on the BLE&T website to leave a pre-written comment:

The automated form makes it quick and easy, but consider leaving your own comments – remember, you’re the expert! When crafting your comment, remember the following:

  1. Be concise.
  2. Stay focused on your area of agreement or disagreement.
  3. Use your experience as your guide.
  4. Be professional and courteous.

Some talking points to consider:

For Railroaders: Teamwork (rule compliance, forward observation for dangers and trespassers, inspections, brake tests, fatigue, medical emergencies, dangers and complications of dark territory and other-than-main-track, mental health), Close Calls (events that didn’t happen because of the presence of two people in the locomotive), Task Overload (increased danger of exhaustion, confusion, and inability to focus on the terrain ahead), Crossings (blocked crossings, incidents at crossings), and Undependable Technology (inconstancy and failure of PTC, Trip Optimizer, and more). You can also discuss the dangers of having a “roving conductor” – inability to access locations, travel time required to assist trains, and the safety of conductor in motor vehicle – and discuss Homeland Security issues that will be strained by reducing crew size.

For General Public: HAZMAT (second crew member allows for immediate response to derailments, spills, etc.), Communication (in the event of an emergency, the second crew member provides critical communication with first responders and railroad management), Medical Emergencies (if something happens to a crew member, allows for immediate assistance), and Railroad Emergencies (trespasser strikes, derailments, mechanical failures).

Be sure to indicate clearly that you are in favor of having two crew members on all trains. The FRA should also continue to allow state legislation with more restrictive crew size mandates.

For a video walkthrough of the comment submission process, please watch this presentation courtesy of SMART-TD:

Thank you to the BLE&T National Division and SMART-TD for providing the information above.