Senator Introduces Bill Requiring Two People on Train Crews
Gains Support from other Senators
By SHAUN FRIEDRICHSEN, News Director
Though this may be his first year in the legislature, State Senator Tom Brandt is taking action, introducing a number of bills, including one that would require train crews of at least two individuals. Brandt, who represents Legislative District 32, has gained support for this bill from several senators, including Senators Steve Erdman and Tom Brewer. The introduced copy of the bill states that, “No train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals.”Anyone in violation of the bill would receive a fine of $100 for the first offense, $ 250 for the second offense and $500 for each subsequent offense committed within a three-year period.
In an interview with the Alliance Times-Herald, Brandt explained the reason he introduced the bill, noting similar bills have been introduced in other states.
“What’s happening is, I know Burlington has proposed with the unions to go to one-person train crews,” said Brandt. “That has spurred action not only in Nebraska, but in Wyoming and Colorado. This is a bill that has been brought before in Nebraska, so this is nothing new.” Brandt noted that he has worked closely with SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, in the development of this bill. He said the bill comes as a way to promote caution and responsible practices.
“It’s about safety,” Brandt said. “The problem with going to a one-man crew isn’t that you can’t run the train with one man, it’s what happens if they hit a vehicle. If they hit a vehicle, railroad regulations state that man has to stay in the engine; he can’t go back and render aid. He can’t go back and unhook his train so the first responders can get there.
“This affects more than just railroads. If they have one man, and they get into a situation, our first responders would have to be trained how to, possibly, split a train, or they would have to wait with the emergency response until the railroad had other people out there to help. You’re dealing with trains that are a mile long,” said Brandt.
Currently, Brandt mentioned, there are options for crew members to run some trains remotely from outside of the train, but he believes there could be difficulties with that solution as well, noting medical issues could affect a person’s ability to control the train. “We need two people so that we have safety all the time,” Brandt said. “The railroad has quite an investment, and I can tell you, just from a grain standpoint, our grain trains carry half a million bushels
of grain. You’ve got millions of dollars of investment just on the grain side. If it’s freight or coal, it’s probably even more than that. I would think this should be a no brainer on their part to have two individuals on that train.”
So far, the bill is still before the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. Brandt noted that many senators have already shown their support by adding their names to the bill, and that more continue to approach him asking to be added to the bill as well.
“We’ve had pretty good support,” said Brandt. “Last time this was introduced, the co-ops were against it, and this time they’re neutral, or they’re for it. The issue was that it wasn’t written well enough last time to exclude, like in Plymouth, we have a little engine; when we fill the train, the way the law was written, they would have had to have two people on that, and it doesn’t take two people. “We have an amendment to the bill that says the stuff on the side tracks is exempt from this law,”
Brandt said. “The co-ops actually wrote the amendment, so they’re cool with that. In Nebraska, 90percent of your side tracks, or better, are grain motors because we don’t ship a lot of other stuff out of the state.”