Union Pacific is renewing its push for one-person train crews later this summer.
The railroad is testing out the idea of having a conductor in a truck respond to problems on trains in Nebraska and Colorado. Union Pacific will continue using two crew members on its trains during the test, but railroad officials believe this could bolster their case in future negotiations for cutting crew size if it is successful. A UP executive confirmed the plan yesterday when he testified against a proposed Kansas rule that would require two-person crews. Railroad unions say the value of having a conductor onboard has been demonstrated time and time again. If the rule is approved, Kansas will join at least nine other states that have passed laws requiring two-man crews. While all the major freight railroads continue to use two-person crews, a number of short-line railroads have already been using one-person crews for years.
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker testified at the Kansas hearing yesterday that many of those smaller railroads have also found other benefits of having a conductor based in a truck such as having them adjust switches ahead of a train or go ahead to visit with customers before a train arrives. Railroad safety has been a key focus nationwide this year in the wake of a February derailment in eastern Ohio that forced evacuations and created lingering health concerns.