I am a certified locomotive engineer, an active member of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and have worked for the railroads for more than two decades. So when my colleagues and my community brought a safety issue to my attention, I made a commitment to help.
This year, I introduced a bill, HB 2577, that would require all trains operating in Arizona to have two-employee crews. We’ve seen tragedy occur when a train had only one crew member on board. That danger is compounded when the trains carry hazardous materials. In 2013, a train operated by a single crew member and that was carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Forty-seven people tragically lost their lives, and the town’s center was destroyed.
Commercial airline planes can be operated by one pilot, but the Federal Aviation Administration does not allow it. Making two-person crews the law for trains makes sense. Although my bill gained bi-partisan support, the railroads lobbied against it. Railroad officials argued that their businesses assume the financial liability when people are killed or property is destroyed. But human life is priceless, and my fellow railroad workers have been vocal about their support for the two-person crew requirement.
If railroad officials want to continue to claim that safety is their top priority, then they have made a major mistake by blocking HB 2577. This bill did not proceed through the legislative process. It might be dead, but this issue is not.
I will continue talking with people in cities and counties across the state about this issue, and I will be working with other legislators to make sure the idea gains momentum. The safety of both railroad employees and communities that have railroads running through them depends on it.
--Rep. Richard Andrade represents Legislative District 29