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Great news! On Friday August 9th, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed Senate Bill 24, the state’s Two-Person Crew Bill. Illinois is now the 7th state to have either a state law or regulation requiring a crew of two on freight trains — Illinois joins Colorado and Nevada in enacting a two-person crew law in 2019. The Maryland legislature also passed a state two-person crew bill which was vetoed by the Governor (the legislature has an opportunity to over-ride the veto in January 2020).

Current state laws on two-person crews are on hold after the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) withdrew its proposed rulemaking to require two-person crews on freight trains. The agency then went further and stated that all state laws concerning the subject were preempted by the ruling. Nevada (joined by California and Washington) has filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals asking the court to review the action by the FRA that prevents states from passing laws mandating train crew size. Read here for more on state’s pending action.

This is a big deal. Getting a law passed (especially when large corporations like the railroads are in opposition) is not just showing up at the capitol for a few months during the legislative session and then expecting magic to happen. Instead it takes a lot of planning, a lot of hard work, combined with grit and electoral alignment (elections have consequences).

And we had that in spades in Illinois — this is a major accomplishment, and I once again send my congratulations to the Illinois State Legislative Board and State Director Bob Guy (pictured below with Governor Pritzker) for working tirelessly on this the past 6-years. Years of hard work paid off for Illinois members, starting with countless days and nights educating state legislators and stakeholders, garnering support of key groups (like AFL-CIO and the firefighters), finding a prime legislative sponsor who understands how to make things happen at the capitol, and then leaping into action when the new governor was elected who supported us on this issue.

This issue is bigger than just SMART TD and the other rail unions directly impacted. Illinois State Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored the bill, had this to say about the bill signing: “With federal bureaucrats failing to act to protect public safety, it is clear states must act on their own. This is simply a matter of protecting the general public. Two-person crews can react more efficiently to mechanical failures or equipment malfunctions and can potentially save lives in a serious situation.” Well said senator, well said.