Railroads shamelessly place profits over the safety of their employees on a routine basis, as evidenced by CSX Transportation, Inc.'s rollback of time-tested safety measures such as three-step protection, the mandatory use of brake sticks and not requiring their employees to get on and off moving railroad equipment. The railroad industry’s lack of a strong safety culture has now spilled over to endanger the public at large.
The Maryland General Assembly is currently considering legislation (HB66/SB252) that would require that certain freight trains traveling through Maryland continue to be crewed by at least two persons. The safety advantages are clear: if one crew member suffers a debilitating health condition, the other crew member could prevent a disaster by stopping the train; if an emergency occurs and the train derails or a hazmat car is leaking, the second crewmember can assist in averting disaster and help direct first responders; and if a freight train strikes a motor vehicle at one of Maryland's many grade crossings, the second crewmember would be present to potentially save the lives of a Maryland family trapped in the vehicle. The scenarios are endless – a second crewmember is critical to protect the safety of the public. Many of these freight trains pass through our communities at all hours of the day and night. We need to protect the families in those communities.
How do the freight railroads that operate in Maryland respond? In a recent hearing before the House of Delegates, representatives of freight railroads that operate in Maryland blatantly threatened to pass the cost of continuing to operate with a second crewmember to the public to the tune of $5.1 million by increasing the costs it charges the Maryland commuter rail system to operate on its tracks – a totally unrelated operation. Fortunately, last year the General Assembly did not bow to such threats and the legislation passed with broad support. Unfortunately, the legislation was vetoed by the Governor. This year, we hope that the Governor signs this legislation or the General Assembly overrides any veto. The railroads should not be able to hold the citizens of Maryland hostage with financial threats.
How can we help? Let's contact our legislative representatives and the Governor's office and tell them that the safety of our communities is more important than the profits of freight railroads.