DOT Train Staffing Rule Back on Track

Posted on 7/28/2022 by Roger Marks

The US DOT Federal Rail Administration (FRA) proposed a rulemaking to establish minimum staffing requirements for all railroad operations (except those that pose no significant safety risks). The proposed rule also lays out requirements for location of crewmembers on a moving train and rules to ensure communication between crew members.

FRA proposed a similar rule in 2016, which was later withdrawn.

DOT Train Staffing Rule Back on Track

Hazardous Materials Trains

The proposed rule would require a two-person crew (at minimum) on all trains containing certain quantities and types of hazardous materials that pose a safety and security risk. The rule would apply to trains transporting one or more car loads containing materials designed as rail security-sensitive materials (RSSM).

Defined at 49 CFR 1580.3, RSSM include:
  • Rail cars carrying more than 5,000 lbs. of Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 explosives,
  • Poison by inhalation (PIH) materials including anhydrous ammonia,
  • Division 6.1 liquids assigned to hazard zone A or B, and
  • Highway route-controlled quantities of Class 7 (radioactive) material. 
The rule would also cover trains transporting 20 or more car loads or portable tank loads of flammable gas (Division 2.1), flammable or combustible liquids (Class 3), Division 1.1 or 1.2 explosive, or hazardous substances regulated by US DOT.

The proposed rule includes a list of exceptions to the train staffing requirements. Operators will also be able to continue certain legacy operations with a one-person crew.

The exceptions will not be applicable to trains carrying hazardous materials identified above and continuing one-person legacy operations will be prohibited on trains carrying hazardous materials.

Hazmat Employee Training

US DOT considers crew members aboard trains hauling hazardous materials to be “hazmat employees” who can affect transportation safety  (87 FR 45576).

US DOT’s hazmat training requirements apply to all hazmat employees. Crew members must complete training that covers a general awareness of hazardous materials, the security risks inherent in hazmat transportation, function-specific training to safely perform any job roles they are assigned. Hazmat safety training and in-depth security training are also required for these employees (see 49 CFR 172.704).

Learn more: DOT Hazmat Training FAQ

Lac-Mégantic Derailment

In the proposed rule, PHMSA highlights a catastrophic hazardous materials incident involving a one-person train crew that occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in 2013.

In July of that year, a freight train carrying one and a half million gallons of petroleum crude oil (UN 1267) derailed, causing explosions and fires that killed forty-seven people, destroyed fifty-three vehicles, and spilled about one million gallons of product.

The incident began when the train’s one crew member left the train unattended on a mainline track. The train did not stay secured, rolled down a grade into the center of the town, and ultimately derailed. Following the incident, and a spate of crude oil derailments, spills, and fires in North America, PHMSA collaborated with Transport Canada to bolster the regulations for shipping flammable liquids by rail.

Training on Additional Hazmat Rail Rules

The Shipping Hazmat by Ground–Additional Rail Requirements online course will expand on your 49 CFR highway shipping expertise and introduce the unique rules for rail shipments. The course provides critical function-specific training for hazmat employees who prepare or offer hazmat shipments by rail. 
Maintain your 49 CFR, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code hazmat training certifications with Lion's interactive online hazmat courses: 

Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)
Hazmat Air Shipper Certification (IATA)
Hazmat Vessel Shipper Certification (IMDG)

Tags: DOT compliance, hazardous materials, hazmat by rail

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