In a final rule released April 2, 2024, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandates that railroads "staff every train operation with a minimum of two crewmembers (including a locomotive engineer and an additional crewmember who will typically be a conductor) that travel with the train and can directly communicate with each other... ." However, the rule includes a variety of exceptions to the two-person crew requirement and also gives railroads the opportunity to petition the FRA for a waiver of the requirement for a given operation. Nevertheless, even for operations exempted from the two-person crew requirement, the new rule imposes additional safety measures depending on the type of one-person crew operation, as well as new requirements to notify the FRA before commencing certain one-person crew operations.

Among the exemptions in the final rule is a carveout for "train operation[s] controlled by a remote control operator, even if that remotely controlled train is operated by a one-person train crew." The FRA reasoned that existing safety measures obviated the need for further regulation of these operations. Certain passenger and tourist services, urban transit systems, as well as some Class II and Class III railroads, are also exempted from parts of the rule. Even so, these operators may face additional reporting requirements under the regulation and may also be required to develop and follow new safety protocols that the FRA will find "as safe or safer than a two-person minimum train crew operation."

For operators that do not fit within any of the enumerated exceptions, the FRA has established a process for petitioning for relief from the two-person crew rule. This process includes conducting a "rigorous risk assessment" and subjecting the petition to public comment.

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If you have any questions about this Alert, whether your business may be impacted by the rule or options for responding, please contact Sharon L. Caffrey, Jeffrey S. Pollack, Drew T. Dorner, any of the attorneys in our Transportation, Automotive and Logistics Industry Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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