Dem Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Strengthen Railroad Safety
Say 2-person crew will prevent fatal accidents
October 15, 2015
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COLUMBUS—Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate joined together to introduce legislation aimed at strengthening train safety. Reps. Michael P. Sheehy (D-Oregon) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), along with Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), say that the bill, which requires an operating crew of at least two individuals on freight trains, will cut down on operator fatigue and reduce the likelihood of fatal accidents.

“Safety has to be our number one priority,” said Senator Schiavoni. “Conductor fatigue not only places our workers at risk, it also jeopardizes anyone within range of the train if a derailment were to take place. This simple step helps prevent costly and time-consuming accidents and, most importantly, it keeps people safe.”

“Having spent 43 years in the railroad industry, I can affirm the absolute necessity of requiring a two-person crew on all freight trains that run through Ohio,” added Rep. Sheehy “Public safety demands it.”  

The legislation comes just months after a tragic train-related incident near Philadelphia, PA that took the lives of eight people and injured 200 others. The train traveling 102 mph in a 50 mph zone derailed after barreling into a curve; only one engineer was on board. 

“Even with technology that allows planes to fly themselves, there’s a reason why we have still have two co-pilots in the cockpit of passenger planes,” said Senator Yuko. “We want to apply those same safety standards to our freight trains to help combat conductor fatigue and prevent what could be a disastrous situation if an emergency would occur.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, conductor fatigue was the cause of at least eight major train accidents investigated by the board between 2000 and 2014. NTSB representatives estimate this number could actually be far higher, as fatigue also increases the likelihood of human error, which has been attributed to additional train crashes.

“A company shouldn’t take shortcuts by eliminating a crew member simply to improve their bottom line. Safety must be the number one concern,” added Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “Just last week a pilot died of a heart attack while the flight was still in the air and the co-pilot had to land the plane. Now imagine a train carrying toxic chemicals through a town and the only crew member conducting the train suffers the same ill fate.”

In 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration analyzed railroad workers’ sleep habits and found that railroad workers are more likely than the average adult to sleep less than 7 hours on a workday. They also reported more sleep disorders than the average adult. Both of these factors can contribute to fatigue, and point to the need for two person crews.

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