As I mentioned just over a week ago Rep. Michaud (D,ME) introduced HR 3040, the Safe Freight Act. According to a press release the Congressman introduced this bill in response to the recent fatal derailment, fire and explosions in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
The bill would amend 49 USC Chapter 201 Subchapter II by adding §20168, Freight train crew size. The bill would require that all freight trains moved in the United States to have a minimum of two crew members; one would be a certified (IAW §20135) locomotive engineer and the second would be a certified (IAW §20163) conductor.
While the train involved in the Canadian incident was crewed by only a single person, there is currently no information that shows a direct connection between the crew size and the initiation of the accident. The best that can be said is that if a second crew member had been present, perhaps the breaks would have been set better.
The Canadian authorities have issued an emergency order that address the crew size issue on all freight trains pulling hazmat loaded tank cars, requiring two crew members. The FRA’s Emergency Order #28, published last week, did not specifically address the crew size issue other than saying that they would refer to it in an upcoming meeting of Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) later this month.
If this bill were to make it to the floor of the House, it would likely pass. It is, however, not clear that it will make it out of Committee, much less make it to the floor. It is possible however that this could be offered as an amendment to HR 2610, the FY 2014 DOT spending bill that is currently on hold in the House. It would be much more likely to get approved that way.