Myers Lafferty Personal Injury Blog


Why There Should be Two Engineers on Each Passenger Train

Errors made by engineers kill and injure passengers, contractors and other employees. While all trains would be safer if two people were making sure the train was being operated safely, given that hundreds of lives are potentially at risk with every passenger train, the need for safety on these trains is at its highest.

Why are two needed?

  • Probably because of mistakes made by the engineer responsible for Amtrak train 188 in May, the train was travelling at over twice the posted speed limit around a curve and derailed, killing eight and injuring dozens. The accident in Philadelphia clogged the railways up and down the East coast for days. The total costs of the accident will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The National Transportation Board believes it was a sleeping commuter train engineer was to blame for a commuter train to be travelling nearly three times the posted speed limit (82 mph), derailing it in New York City in 2014, killing four people and injuring at least 65.
  • Four were killed in a New York City commuter train in 2013 because the engineer was asleep. He reportedly nodded off and was awoken by an alarm but too late to prevent the accident.
  • In 2008 a California commuter rail engineer was texting instead of paying attention and his train rain a red light. His train collided into a parked freight train, killing 25.

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a system that’s integrated into the command, control, communications, and information systems for controlling train movements, ideally providing the train with additional measures for safety and efficiency.  

  • The federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that PTC be implemented across a significant portion of the country’s rail industry by the end of the year.
  • The goal is to eliminate or greatly reduce engineer caused accidents.
  • There was no PTC for the Amtrak 188 train and there still is no such system for that section of track four months later.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Amtrak’s CEO Joseph Boardman claimed Amtrak was a leader in PTC (spending $119 million on the project). Philadelphia’s own regional rail system, SEPTA has a fraction of the railway miles that Amtrak has yet has spent $329 million for PTC.

The cost of the 188 crash dwarfs what Amtrak has spent on PTC and until all needed areas are covered by it, there should be two engineers driving each training, keeping people safe, because Amtrak’s not capable of doing the job.

If you have any questions about railroad safety and applicable laws, contact our office today.