Kentucky House committee hears railroad safety legislation

Republished from WEKU.

Legislation to require at least two individuals in the operating cab of a freight train came under review Tuesday in a House committee. The bill has been filed more than once but never moved beyond that. Mark Elkins is a locomotive engineer with almost 30 years of experience. Holding up papers detailing sections of the train, he spoke about the November derailment outside of Livingston.

 “That train derailed through here in this section of the train where it was only molten sulfur. It was a hazardous material. But let me assure you, had that train derailed on the last page we’d all be talking a different story. You’d have everybody sitting in here pounding their fist, wanting some regulation,” said Elkins.

Elkins said a train without two people on board could cause a locomotive inspector to come from an hour away to the scene of an accident. He said trains a half-century ago had 70 to 80 cars. Now, trains may have 280 cars.

Elkins said the railroad industry has gone from five to two crew members and moving to one would be too risky.

Stu Johnson

CSX Governmental Affairs-CSX David Hall

David Hall with CSX Railroad testified ‘crew size mandates’ don’t equate to increased safety. He said the railroad industry has invested some $12 billion over the last 14 years in new technology to improve rail safety. Hall also said the Federal Railroad Administration is looking into the crew issue.

“We think this type of legislation also overlooks the fact that some freight railroads as well as Amtrack and some commuter lines, hundreds of which operate with one person in the cab of a locomotive each day and do so safely,” said Hall.

Transportation Committee Chair John Blanton said whether a vote is held or not will depend on lawmaker feedback.

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Originally published by WEKU.

Republished with permission.