Republicans despise federal micromanagement, but that hasn’t kept Rep. Don Young of Alaska from hopping aboard the Washington-Knows-Best Express. He recently introduced a bill mandating that freight trains have a minimum of two crew members on board trains at all times.
While Young justifies his bill on safety grounds, the bill also appears to reflect pressure from rail workers’ unions fearful that automation is putting their members out of jobs.
Here’s the backstory: Following the fatal 2008 Chatsworth train collision in Los Angeles, President Bush signed the Rail Safety Improvement Act into law. The law required freight railroads, by the end of 2020, to integrate Positive Train Control (PTC) — a nationwide system of technologies that constantly process thousands of data points to stop a train before human error-caused accidents occur. One of the benefits of PTC was that it was a win-win for consumers and the railroads, enhancing safety and allowing railroads to boost productivity by moving to one-person crews somewhere down the road.
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