A train is moving across a country railroad crossing. There is a stop sign and railroad crossing signs in front of two sets of railroad tracks.
LB 31 aims to make Nebraska railroad crossings like this one safer by requiring two crew members on every freight train. Photo by Kloee Sander/NNS

Nebraska Legislative Bill 31 would require every freight train in Nebraska to have two crew members–the conductor and engineer–in the cab when traveling. Sen. Mike Jacobson of North Platte introduced the bill and has railroad union support.

“This is a public safety issue,” Jacobson said. 

Nebraska railroad union representatives said this would make railroad crossings safer because the engineers cannot leave the train. If the conductor is on board, they can help in emergencies or “break” a train if it stops and blocks a crossing. In the past, railroads and their unions have determined crew size through contract negotiations.

As someone in the public, I am not a party to those collecting bargaining deals,” Jacobsen said. “So, in my mind, I am bringing this bill on behalf of John Q. Public.”

Union Pacific’s Media manager Robynn Tysver said in a statement that Union Pacific prioritizes safety but thinks this bill hurts interstate commerce and that there is no data to prove two-man crews would make crossings safer. 

When they try to take a person off the train, that’s a business plan. When we try to keep someone on the train, that’s a safety initiative,” said Pat Pfeifer, a Union Pacific engineer and Nebraska State Legislative chairman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

A public hearing on the bill was scheduled for March 6 at the Nebraska Capitol.