A recent survey of likely Nebraska voters strongly support a crew of at least two people per freight train, the SMART Transportation Division’s Nebraska State Legislative Board announced Sunday.
In an Oct. 23-27 survey, 77% of likely voters said they would back a statewide measure that requires a minimum of two people on a train crew, SMART officials said. Only 9% of respondents said they would vote no if an election were held on the question.
The SMART Transportation Division consists of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry, including North Platte’s Bailey Yard. SMART Transportation has about 125,000 active and retired members in Nebraska and the U.S., state director Bob Borgeson said.
Despite the public support, two-person crew freight rail legislation has failed to emerge from committee at the state legislature, Borgeson noted.
The most recent effort (LB 404) was introduced in January 2017 by Sens. Mike Groene (R–Dist. 42) and Tom Brewer (R-Dist. 43.)
“More than 3 of 4 respondents to this poll understand the risk of single-person operators on freight trains,” said Borgeson, who is the director of SMART TD’s Nebraska State Legislative Board. “Safety is a top priority for them and requiring all trains in the state to be operated by a crew of at least two people, no exceptions, makes perfect sense.”
Borgeson said the serious safety risks posed by single-person freight train operations are well-documented, such as “the catastrophic Lac-Mégantic disaster in 2013 that devastated that town in Quebec and killed dozens.”
Borgeson said nearly 80% of respondents said that a one-person freight crew cannot operate a train as safely as a 2-person crew, and 72% said that they would worry about a derailment if trains with one or no crew member were operating in their community.
The survey also showed that Nebraskans feel that the state’s infrastructure of roads, highways, bridges, rail, air and public transportation is at least “satisfactory.”
A strong majority (74%) of respondents described the Cornhusker State infrastructure as either “satisfactory” or “good,” Borgeson said.
When asked about U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R–2nd Dist.), 52% of 2nd District voters said that they would vote for him, compared with 45% for his opponent, Kara Eastman. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.
Borgeson said the SMART TD Nebraska State Legislative Board endorsed Bacon because of his support for the national Safe Freight Act (H.R. 233), which would require two-person train crews across the nation.
The poll was of 683 randomly selected people who are likely to vote in the mid-term election, using both cell phones and landlines, conducted by DFM Research of St. Paul, Minn. The total margin error of this poll is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. Borgeson said.