Conductors want new train law

Published 10:00 am Friday, March 3, 2017

LaGRANGE – A representative from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen addressed LaGrange City Council on Tuesday night regarding a national bill that is currently under review that would require two-man crews on the estimated 20 to 25 trains that pass through the city every day.

The proposed legislation comes in response to a push from the railroads to reduce crew sizes in recent years to just one engineer.

“The railroads are looking to reduce crew size to one member on a train car,” said Dwayne Massengale, of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. “We feel that is not safe at all. Not safe for our work environment – being up on the train by ourselves – and not safe for the cities and communities. Having that extra person there – having that extra human perception, intuition and extra focus – it means a lot.”

Railroads have cited increased use of automated safety devices – which use GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions – as justification for the change, but the railroad workers are hesitant to believe that those safety measures would be enough in the case of an emergency.

“There have been several accidents where there was one crew member, where we feel if the second crew member would have been there making that other person aware, those accidents could have been prevented,” said Massengale, who cited the Lac-Megantic rail disaster that resulted in 47 deaths.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada who investigated the accident did not rule the incident to be due to the single-man crew, but it did recommend a thorough risk assessment to mitigate the risks involved with one man crews in the future. A major incident in Casselton, North Dakota was also cited.

Besides the national bill, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen is also advocating bills to require two man crews at the state level in several states including Georgia, and bills mandating two man crews have already passed in some states.

“That’s what we would like to do for the safety of the citizens of the state and for our safety, and our work environment,” sad Massengale.

To review the federal proposal, visit

City officials were interested to hear the information, but did not have a response to the request for support at this time.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.