In comments submitted in response to a July 15th public hearing, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) again urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to withdraw its proposed rule mandating two-person crews on railroads. The AAR also called on the FRA to disclose the data sources it has used to inform its proposal, which is not supported by any publicly available safety data.
"The simple fact is that no data exist showing two-person crews will enhance safety," said Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO. "The FRA needs to be fully transparent in disclosing the sources it has relied on during this rulemaking process. Until the agency can provide any hard evidence to make its case, it should abandon this misguided proposal." The AAR sent the FRA a letter on May 20th identifying five specific categories of data and asking that this information be posted prior to the close of the public comment period. The FRA has yet to respond or make this information available. Additionally, the AAR has learned the FRA is currently funding a study at Duke University which is still examining whether there is a correlation between crew size and safety. "The fact that the government continues to investigate this question - at the same time it has proposed a rule based on the assumption that there is a correlation between crew size and safety - raises serious concerns, and further underscores the absence of evidence supporting the proposed rule," the AAR stated in today's comments. "At a minimum, the FRA should refrain from issuing a final rule until it has the results of the work it commissioned, and has made those results publicly available."
"It is somewhat puzzling why the FRA would go forward with this proposed measure without having completed its due diligence," said Hamberger, who again pointed to the FRA's own admission it lacked safety data. "The Agency should take a step back and complete a fact-based, data-gathering process first, instead of continuing to push through a rule that lacks supporting empirical data." The AAR's comments also respond to concerns raised during the July hearing that it is more difficult for a one-person crew to clear a stopped train blocking a highway-rail grade crossing. New technologies and approaches will continue to be developed the AAR noted in its submission, and that the presence of a second crew member alone does not solve the problem. As has been the case with every crew-size reduction to date, railroads will develop and implement whatever procedures and technologies are necessary to maintain safe operations, including remote control technology and roving conductor positions.