Gov. Laura Kelly urges railroads in Kansas to maintain two-person crews

    Gov. Laura Kelly says passage by Missouri voters of Medicaid expansion leaves Kansas in a five-state group with Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma still resisting a federal program extending health care to low- and moderate-income people. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
    Gov. Laura Kelly says passage by Missouri voters of Medicaid expansion leaves Kansas in a five-state group with Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma still resisting a federal program extending health care to low- and moderate-income people. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

    TOPEKA — The administration of Gov. Laura Kelly proposed Monday a regulation requiring railroads operating in Kansas to maintain a minimum two-person crew in the engine compartment of trains.

    Railroad companies operating in the United States have been angling to reduce staffing to one person as new braking technology was implemented to moderate the threat of human error.

    “Kansas has faced issues ranging from crew member fatigue to derailments which pose a threat to our safety and security,” Kelly said. “By maintaining the current practice of requiring a two-person crew we can ensure the health and safety of Kansas workers.”

    Other states to enact measures on minimum railroad crew requirements are Wisconsin, Arizona, Oregon, California, West Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and Illinois.

    The Kansas Department of Transportation recommended a regulation mandating railroads operating in the state keep at least two crew members in the control compartment of the lead locomotive.

    Railroad companies believe completion of the $15 billion automatic braking system will bolster its argument to reduce the number of crew members in most trains to one. These companies want conductors to be taken out of the locomotive cab to serve in ground-based roles.

    Labor organizations have taken the opposite view, arguing single-person crews would make trains more likely to be involved in accidents.