Droves of railroad workers testify for Nebraska bill requiring two-man crews

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Nebraskans were talking railroad safety at the State Capitol on Monday after the recent train derailment in Ohio that wreaked havoc on communities and left a host of questions unanswered.

Legislative Bill 31 was presented by Sen. Mike Jacobson. It seeks to address safety concerns by requiring all crews to have a minimum of two people.

One thing that routinely came up during testimony on the bill is PSR.

That stands for Precision Scheduled Railroading. Some say it puts money over safety by decreasing the railroad workforce and delaying inspections and repairs.

Eleven-year railroad veteran Jakob Forsgren says this bill helps put safety first.

“I’m fully in support of it as a track maintenance worker,” he said. “If I’m working on a double main, where there’s more than one track right next to each other, we might be working on one of those tracks while we’re still having traffic pass us on the other track upwards of 79 mph. Having another set of eyes is much safer than removing some of those people.”

Forsgren said these trains can go up to 140 mph and can be 1½ to 3 miles long, so having only one person on the crew can make it difficult to spot derailments before they happen.

Person after person stepped up to the mic to support the bill.

But not everyone was in support of the bill. Some think the number of staff should not be regulated by government.

Channel 8 reached out to Union Pacific Railroad for comment, and it sent us an official statement.

“Train crew size should continue to be determined through collective bargaining, and not on a state-by-state basis,” spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said.  “The proposed legislation would restrict the free flow of interstate commerce and limit our ability to compete in a business landscape where technology is rapidly changing the transportation industry. No data shows a two-person crew confined to a cab is safer.”

Others who opposed the bill talked about extensive hazmat training that is required by the railroad. They said that train derailments are somewhat uncommon compared to the number of trains that operate.

Senators had a lot of questions. They wanted to know what conductors do, how engineers work with conductors and how long it takes to stop a train, in addition to what safety steps are taken after derailments.

No action was taken on the bill Monday.

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