The Federal Railroad Administration’s (“FRA’s”) proposed regulation, published on March 14, 2016 in the Federal Register, would require two engineers on all trains except for “operations that FRA believes do not pose significant safety risks to railroad employees, the general public, and the environment.” The rule would also establish minimum requirements for the “roles and responsibilities of the second train crewmember on a moving train, and promote safe and effective teamwork.”

The Association of American Railroads (“AAR”), opposes the proposed rule and is questioning the lack of data showing that two-engineer crews increase safety. In a statement opposing the FRA rule, AAR’s President and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger, said “Safety is this industry’s number one concern, but there is simply no safety case to be made for a regulation that requires two-person crews, especially where Positive Train Control is fully operational. Worldwide, trains safely operate with one person in the cab, including here in the United States with passenger and commuter trains and some short line freight railroads. Major European railway systems running many mixed freight and passenger trains per day have safely implemented single-person train crews. Coming from an administration that champions smart, data-driven regulations, it is inexplicable how this proposal was approved by the President’s Office of Management and Budget. Even the FRA concedes they have no ‘reliable or conclusive statistical data’ to suggest that two-person crews are safer. I encourage the FRA to reexamine the facts and exercise sound regulatory judgment before finalizing a rule that lacks empirical support.” Hamberger also noted that Class I freight railroads already require two people per train and will continue to do so for mainline operations that have not been equipped with PTC. Once PTC implementation is complete, PTC will be in operation for 60,000 miles of the United States’s 140,000-mile freight rail system. “PTC is designed to provide continuous monitoring of train operations to protect against human error in controlling train speeds and movements. This is exactly the kind of safety redundancy through technology for which the FRA has long advocated,” he said. “The freight rail industry is spending billions to automate operations inside freight locomotives,” said Hamberger. “Instead of piling on additional, duplicative regulatory costs that offer no incremental safety benefit, the government should focus on creating an environment that fuels innovation and technological advancement in furtherance of safety.”

The FRA is seeking written comments on the proposed rule until May 16, 2016. The full proposed regulation can be found here.