The freight railroads would have the public believe that operating massive freight trains with a “one-man crew” is perfectly safe.
According to NBC News, the railroads want to operate their trains with a one-person crew. They want only the engineer to have to be aboard with no conductor.
Despite erroneous claims by the industry lobby that there is a lack of “conclusive statistical data” to support a two-person crew standard, data gleaned from reports on accidents, crashes and fatalities, as well as the real-life experiences of frontline employees, all indicate that the arguments in favor of a two-person crew standard are compelling.
The industry’s assertion that mandates to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) technology in the rail industry are somehow in conflict with the FRA’s crew size rule is absurd. PTC is simply one more redundant safety tool in rail operations that requires a great deal of train crew interaction, in order for it to work. In fact, a fully operational PTC system puts more demands on the attention of the crew because of the distractions it causes. While advancement in transportation technology can provide essential safety support and save lives, it is not, and never will be, a replacement for highly trained, experienced and adequately staffed crews.
Federal regulators’ own research about a one man crew underscores the necessity of having at a minimum a federally certified engineer and a federally certified conductor on trains. These employees support each other’s decision-making process. They work together to combat fatigue, especially in the real-world of train crews defined by mandated long shifts and unpredictable work schedules. They support safe operations in the event of emergencies or if one of the crew members becomes incapacitated, a fact that is also recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration as it prohibits cockpit crews of fewer than two pilots.