Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Labor & Workplace Standards Committee

HB 1669

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Brief Description: Establishing minimum crew size on certain trains.

Sponsors: Representatives Farrell, Chandler, Blake, Haler, Stonier, Johnson, Chapman, McCaslin, Jinkins, Stambaugh, Sells, Wilcox, Stanford, Barkis, Ryu, Macri, Koster, Goodman, Rodne, Doglio, Holy, Muri, Young, Vick, Fey, Stokesbary, Irwin, Senn, Harmsworth, J. Walsh, Santos, Sawyer, Hudgins, Ormsby, MacEwen, Harris, McBride, Riccelli, Fitzgibbon, Wylie, Lytton, Ortiz-Self, Bergquist, Lovick, Tarleton, Pollet and Robinson.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Establishes minimum crew size requirements for freight and passenger trains and trains carrying hazardous materials.

  • Creates exceptions to the requirements and increases monetary penalties for violations.

Hearing Date: 1/30/17

Staff: Trudes Tango (786-7384).


State statutes addressing crew size on freight and passenger trains explicitly state that no law may prevent a railroad from staffing its trains in accordance with collective bargaining agreements or any national settlement regarding train crew size. For passenger trains, if there is no collective bargaining agreement or national settlement, a railroad operating with less than two crew members is subject to a safety review by the Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission).A violation of the crew size provision is a misdemeanor, and upon conviction the railroad carrier is subject to a fine of at least $100, but not more than $500, for each offense. Each train run in violation of the crew size provision is a separate offense. The penalty does not apply in the case of disability of a crew member while out on the road between division terminals, wrecking trains, or to any line, or part of line, where not more than two trains are run in each 24 hours. Federal law provides that laws, regulations, and orders related to railroad safety must be nationally uniform to the extent practicable. A state may enact a law related to safety unless the United States Secretary of Transportation adopts a rule or issues an order covering the subject matter. A state may adopt a more stringent law when it: (1) is necessary to eliminate or reduce an essentially local safety or security hazard; (2) is not incompatible with a federal law; and (3) does not unreasonably burden interstate commerce. In 1999, a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals case addressed whether a Wisconsin crew size statute was preempted by federal law. The court held that the state law was preempted with regard to certain types of train operations because there was a federal order on the subject matter. However, the court held that the state law on crew size for some of its operations was not preempted. The Hazardous Materials Division of the Federal Railroad Administration oversees the transportation of hazardous materials, such as petroleum, chemicals, and nuclear products, across the country. Federal regulations define what materials are hazardous and specify such things as proper placards for trains carrying hazardous materials and train car configuration.

Summary of Bill:

The Legislature declares that regulating minimum crew staffing constitutes an exercise of the state's police power to protect and promote the health, safety, security, and welfare of Washington's residents by reducing the risk of exposure to local communities and protecting environmentally sensitive and/or pristine lands and waterways. The crew size regulations and the misdemeanor and monetary fines related to violations are repealed and replaced.

With certain exceptions, the following minimum crew size requirements are established:

The following exceptions apply:

A violation of the crew size requirements results in a monetary fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $100,000 for each offense. Each train or engine run in violation of the crew size requirement constitutes a separate offense. It is not a violation in the cases of disability of a crew member or crew members assigned to wrecking trains.

Definitions for "hazardous material" and "hazardous material train" and other terms are provided. "Hazardous material train" means:

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill contains an emergency clause and takes effect on July 1, 2017.