U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Friday introduced “The Safe Freight Act,” a bill requiring a minimum of two-person crews for freight trains. Rep. Chellie Pingree co-sponsored the bill.
Following the rail accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada recently issued an emergency directive implementing several safety enhancements, including requiring a minimum of two-person crews for trains carrying hazardous materials, after the July rail accident in Lac-Megantic that killed up to 47 people. The U.S. has no requirement for two-person crews.
In the last few weeks, Michaud and Pingree have met with the heads of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration to request a safety review of Maine’s rail infrastructure in the wake of the Lac-Megantic tragedy.
“Trains can be a mile or more long and carry volatile shipments such as ethanol and oil. With a single person crew, what if the operator suffers a heart attack or another health related problem?” Michaud said in a press release Friday. “What if there is an accident and the operator is unable to perform his or her duties? I’d hope technological backups would work, but to me it’s common sense that having another person on that train is going to be better than just one.”
Pingree said the legislation is a first step in ensuring rail safety.
“Having only one person onboard who is responsible for a train’s safe operation simply allows too much room for errors to go uncorrected,” she said.
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.