Today, the Federal Railroad Administration released a final rule titled the “Train Crew Size Safety Requirement,” despite the lack of evidence connecting crew size to rail safety. The FRA abandoned a similar rule in 2019 after failing to identify evidence to justify a safety need.

“FRA is doubling down on an unfounded and unnecessary regulation that has no proven connection to rail safety,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Instead of prioritizing data-backed solutions to build a safer future for rail, FRA is looking to the past and upending the collective bargaining process.”

Rail carriers prioritize data-driven safety improvements through extensive employee training and private investments in technology and infrastructure. These actions have driven tangible results: the casualty rate for Class I railroad employees has dropped by 63% since 2000—reaching an all-time low in 2023—and the overall train accident rate is down 27% since 2000 and 6% since 2022. Each year, railroads devote billions to enhance their infrastructure, deploy safety technologies and invest in their employees to help the industry deliver safely and reliably into the future.

Jefferies continued: “Railroads are committed to working with our union counterparts and policymakers to build on this momentum and advance proven solutions that meaningfully advance safety. Unfortunately, the crew size rule takes the industry in the exact opposite direction.”

Historically, railroad staffing and crew size policies have been managed through the collective bargaining process, which provides for direct dialogue between rail carriers and the unions representing their employees. The FRA’s overreach into this area will diminish the importance of collective bargaining by inserting the regulator between parties.