Continuing a cooperative effort to promote safety in the railroad industry, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers International Association (SMART) have jointly announced that legislation requiring at least two crew members on all freight trains in the U.S. has been introduced in the 114th Congress.

The Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1763), introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) April 13, would require two crew members — one certified locomotive engineer and one certified conductor — on all freight trains. The newly-introduced legislation mirrors H.R. 3040, which had more than 80 co-sponsors last year prior to conclusion of the 113th Congress. H.R. 1763 has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. 

H.R. 1763 would require that “no freight train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least 2 individuals, one of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a locomotive engineer pursuant to section 20135, and the other of whom is certified under regulations promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a conductor pursuant to section 20163.”


The joint effort reflects heightened concerns over crew size arising from the July 6, 2013, derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) oil train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people and destroyed the center of the town. The MM&A train was crewed by a single person. Since that time, there has also been movement by major freight railroads to seek collective bargaining agreements to allow for widespread use of one-person train operations.

“The BLET continues to oppose and condemn single-person freight operations as adverse to worker and public safety,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “All parties involved must understand that as things stand today, there are only two ways to end one-person train operations: federal laws or regulations that outlaw this dangerous practice, or collectively bargained contract language that requires two crew members on every train. We will continue to work to protect contractual language to defend two-person crews, and it also is our goal to protect the safety of railroad workers and the general public by advocating for passage of H.R. 1763.”

SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said, “The SMART Transportation Division has always espoused that the safest rail operation is a two-person crew operation. With several major train derailments having occurred in the last few months, most notably the oil train derailment and explosion near Charleston, W. Va., in February, our lawmakers and the general public must understand that multi-person crews are essential to ensuring the safest rail operations possible in their communities. I would like to thank Cong. Don Young (R-Alaska) for his leadership on this critical rail safety issue. No one would permit an airliner to fly with just one pilot, even though it can fly itself. Trains, which cannot operate themselves, should be no different.”

Young is serving his 22nd term as Alaska’s only representative in the House and is a former Chairman of both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (2001-2007) and the House Natural Resources Committee (1995-2001).

Amtrak LogoWhat’s up with California Rep. Jeff Denham? Enquiring Amtrak enthusiasts would like to know.

According to a report by Politico transportation writer Adam Snider, the Republican representative from California’s 10th Congressional District “has been busy with rail lately, hitting up both New York and Illinois in the past few days.”

Snider writes further: “Fresh off roundtables in Chicago and Springfield, Ill., Denham told Morning Transportation that his look at Amtrak’s long-distance trains is all about the limited money.”

“Like anything in government, we’ve really got to look at the dollars and cents behind it. How do we fill seats? It’s one thing to have the transportation — it’s another thing to have it sitting empty,” Denham told MT.

How do you fix that, Snider asks?

“I think we have a variety of different options. Everything from cancelling them altogether to using private industry. Even looking at a state-supported route type scenario — where is it of greatest value to each state, or is it of great value?”

The last Amtrak bill, in 2009, shifted some of the financial burden for shorter routes to states, a model Denham is eying, Snider writes.

Rep. Denham sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.