Michaud Introduces Bill Requiring Two-Person Train Crews

Aug 2, 2013 Issues: Transportation and Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Mike Michaud introduced “The Safe Freight Act,” a bill requiring a minimum of two-person crews for freight trains. Representative Chellie Pingree is an original cosponsor of the bill. Following the rail accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada recently issued an emergency directive implementing several safety enhancements, including requiring a minimum of two-person crews for trains carrying hazardous materials. However, no such requirement exists in the United States.

“After meeting with federal agencies and hearing from Mainers and experienced train operators, it’s clear to me that there is a significant safety advantage in having two or more people operating a freight train,” said Michaud. “Trains can be a mile or more long and carry volatile shipments such as ethanol and oil. With a single person crew, what if the operator suffers a heart attack or another health related problem? What if there is an accident and the operator is unable to perform his or her duties? I’d hope technological backups would work, but to me it’s commonsense that having another person on that train is going to be better than just one.”

“This legislation is a good first step in addressing some of the safety concerns that we have heard in meetings with officials since the tragedy in Lac-Megantic,” said Pingree. “With freight trains’ potentially hazardous cargo and sheer size, it makes sense on many levels to have at least two people on a crew at all times. Having only one person onboard who is responsible for a train’s safe operation simply allows too much room for errors to go uncorrected.”

Over the last three weeks, Michaud and Pingree have met with the heads of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) following their request for a safety review of Maine’s rail infrastructure in the wake of the Lac-Megantic tragedy.

After hearing the serious safety concerns raised by the NTSB over DOT-111 tanker cars, which were among the ruptured cars in Quebec, Michaud and Pingree urged PHMSA to issue a new rule enhancing the design of these cars as soon as possible.