(Feb. 25) – Rep. Daneya Esgar’s bill to increase safety by requiring a freight train to have at least two crew members on board any moving train passed the House Transportation & Energy Committee on a party-line vote this afternoon.
Generally, an engineer drives the train and a conductor monitors the long line of cars. The conductor’s role is to communicate with dispatchers and monitor the entire train length. Concerns about a single-person crew include fatigue, dangerous cargo, obstructions on the tracks, and technological failures. With the engineer required to stay in the cab to drive the train, the conductor is the only mobile member of a two-person crew. A second set of eyes and hands is crucial for the safe passage of these enormous trains through Colorado.
“This bill ensures that our Colorado rails remain some of the safest in the country,” said Rep. Esgar, D-Pueblo. “Trains have always been important to Pueblo. But just as important as the industry is the safety of our crew members, people crossing the tracks, and our communities. Everyday there are freight trains driving through our towns, some of them carrying chlorine, crude oil or other hazardous materials alongside houses, some even near schools.”
“Our state is unlike any other: we have steep mountains, steep passes, and we travel very close to cities, towns, colleges, and military installations,” testified Jim Wilmesher, representing the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. “The safest way to traverse those areas is with a two-person crew.”
“We care about the communities we run through,” testified Walter Page, a Class I railroad conductor. “That extra set of eyes and ability to have someone deal with a medical emergency is essential.”
Two-person train crew legislation has been passed and introduced in several other states. Colorado has safety regulations in statute for truckers, EMS, and air ambulances.
The 7-6 party line vote sends the bill to the House floor.