Two-person crew bills have been introduced a number of times in recent years, but have rarely made it to a vote, despite some bipartisan support. The Safe Freight Act has five cosponsors in the Senate and the House version has 74 bipartisan cosponsors.
In a news release, Heitkamp said that the BNSF Railway oil train derailment in Casselton, N.D. in 2013 is what inspired her to introduce the legislation.
“When a disaster like the Casselton derailment sends shockwaves through our communities, we must do everything we can to prevent accidents and improve our ability to respond in the future,” Heitkamp said. “After the Casselton derailment, it was clear that having two crewmembers on board the train made all the difference to prevent the fire from escalating and threatening those living nearby.”
Unions quickly came out in support of the legislation.
“We are very pleased that Sen. Heitkamp has introduced this vital rail safety legislation. said John Risch, National Legislative Director of SMART Transportation Division. “We don’t fly passenger planes in America with only one pilot, and trains are no different. The only safe way to operate a train is with a minimum of two crew members.”
Although the legislation has languished in Congress, Young told Trains News Wire in 2017 that he was slowly but surely educating his colleagues on the matter. He called it “common sense” legislation.
The Association of American Railroads has previously spoken out against laws requiring two people aboard freight trains, adding that there is no evidence that the presence of a second person increases safety.