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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA aims to advance rulemakings on train crew size, load securement

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday announced plans to issue a proposed rule that would require two-person crews on crude oil trains and establish minimum crew-size standards for most mainline freight- and passenger-rail operations. The FRA also intends to advance a rulemaking on load securement and recommends a rulemaking on hazardous material movements.

The announcement follows the deliberations of three Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) Working Groups on appropriate train crew size, load securement and haz-mat transportation issues. All three groups were created last summer in response to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Two of the groups issued recommendations that were adopted by the full RSAC for consideration in future rulemakings. In light of the working group's failure to reach a consensus on crew size, the FRA decided to move forward with a rulemaking, FRA officials said in a press release.

Although existing regulations do not mandate minimum crew staffing requirements, the current industry practice is to employ two-person crews for over-the-road operations. The notice of proposed rulemaking most likely will require a minimum of two-person crews for most mainline train operations, including trains carrying crude oil, and cite appropriate exceptions, FRA officials said.

“We believe that safety is enhanced with the use of a multiple person crew — safety dictates that you never allow a single point of failure,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. “Ensuring that trains are adequately staffed for the type of service operated is critically important to ensure safety redundancy."

The FRA also plans to issue an additional NPRM based on the consensus recommendations of the Securement Working Group and approved by the full RSAC that would prohibit certain unattended freight trains or standing freight cars on main track or sidings, and require railroads to adopt and implement procedures to verify securement of trains and unattended equipment for emergency responders. In addition, the proposed rule would require locomotive cabs to be locked and reversers to be removed and secured, and mandate that railroads obtain advance approval from FRA for locations or circumstances where unattended cars or equipment might be left.

Moreover, the full RSAC has approved four recommendations of the Hazardous Materials Issues Working Group relating to the identification, classification, operational control and handling of certain shipments. Directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the recommendations include amending or revising the definitions of “residue” and “key train,” and clarifying the regulatory jurisdiction over the loading, unloading and storage of haz-mat before and during transportation.

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