State Reps. Michael P. Sheehy (D-Oregon) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today announced the introduction of House Resolution (HR) 383, legislation aimed at improving the safety of freight train operations in Ohio. The resolution expresses support for a recently proposed Federal Rail Administration (FRA) rule to require an operating crew of at least two individuals on all freight trains.
“With over 40 years of experience in the rail industry, I can affirm the absolute necessity of requiring a two-person crew on all freight trains that run through Ohio,” said Sheehy. “Ensuring the safety of both our freight operators and our communities should be a top priority.”
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), locomotive engineer 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.
The federal rule proposal comes after several recent tragic train-related incidents, including one near Philadelphia last summer that took the lives of eight people and injured 200 others. The train, traveling 102 miles per hour in a 50 miles per hour zone, derailed after barreling into a curve. Only one engineer was on board.
“A company should not take shortcuts simply to improve their bottom line. Safety must be the number one concern,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Imagine a train carrying toxic chemicals through a town and the engineer operating the train suffers a heart attack. The results would be disastrous; in fact, they were disastrous in a tragic train accident in Canada just three years ago.”
The two Democratic lawmakers have also previously introduced House Bill 371, legislation to require all freight train operating crews in Ohio to consist of at least two people. HB 371 is currently awaiting its second hearing in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.