WASHINGTON – Passenger and commuter train conductors and engineers face new hours-of-service rules effective Oct. 15 under a final rule published Aug. 12 by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The new rules differ in certain areas from hours-of-service regulations imposed on freight railroad employees.

Among the differences is that passenger and commuter train hours-of-service regulations are more stringent for assignments between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.; there is no cumulative-hours limit for passenger and commuter train crews; passenger and commuter train operators must submit certain employee work schedules for scientific study to determine schedule-specific risks of fatigue; and passenger and commuter carriers must take steps to mitigate fatigue among crews on-duty between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

The FRA said that based on its “understanding” of current fatigue science, and information received through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), FRA determined that the requirements imposed on train employees by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 were not appropriate for passenger train employees.

The FRA said that while it “agrees that [a 10-hour call requirement] would provide predictability as to when an employee will be called to work, adopting a 10-hour call requirement is not possible at this time, as it was not a part of the proposed rule … The regulation requires labor involvement in the determination of fatigue mitigation tools to be applied, so there may be opportunities to voluntarily make use of this schedule practice.”

Following are key provisions, as outlined by the FRA, of the new hours-of-service rules scheduled to go into effect for conductors and engineers on passenger and commuter trains Oct. 15 (unless otherwise noted):

* Limitations on time-on-duty in a single tour: 12 consecutive hours of time on duty or 12 nonconsecutive hours on duty if broken by an interim release of at least four consecutive hours in a 24-hour period that begins at the beginning of the duty tour.

* Limitations on consecutive duty tours or total duty: If employee initiates an on-duty period each day for six consecutive calendar days include at least one “Type 2” assignment (between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.), employee must have 24 consecutive hours off-duty at the employee’s home terminal.

Additionally, if an employee initiates an on-duty period on 13 or more calendar days in a period of 14 consecutive days, then the employee must have two consecutive calendar days without initiating an on-duty period at the employee’s home terminal. Employees may be permitted to perform service on an additional day to facilitate their return to their home terminal.

These limitations on consecutive duty tours or total duty do not take effect until April 15, 2012.

* Cumulative limits on time on-duty: None.

* Mandatory off-duty periods: Eight consecutive hours (10 consecutive hours if time on duty reaches 12 consecutive hours).

* Specific rules for nighttime operations: Schedules that include any time on duty between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. must be analyzed using a validated biomathematical model of human performance and fatigue approved by FRA.

Additionally, schedules with excess risk of fatigue must be mitigated or supported by a determination that mitigation is not possible and the schedule is operationally necessary and approved by FRA.

The analysis must be completed and required submissions made by April 15, 2012.

* Specific rules for unscheduled assignments: The potential for fatigue presented by unscheduled work assignments must be mitigated as part of a railroad’s FRA-approved mitigation plan.

* Use of fatigue science: Passenger train employees’ work schedules are to be analyzed under an FRA-approved validated biomathematical fatigue model with the exception of certain schedules (completely within the hours of 4 a.m. and 8 p.m., or nested within other schedules that have been previously modeled and shown to present an acceptable level of risk for fatigue, and otherwise in compliance with the limitations in the regulation).

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem added his perspective, saying the final rules:

* Provide a permanent separation from freight hours of service regulations because of the predictable work schedules of our intercity passenger and commuter rail assignments. Now we have two systems of HOS coverage – freight and passenger

* Require at least two days of rest every 14 days for all assignments, with some flexibility allowed for assignments not working after midnight (i.e., 6-1, 12-2, 1-12-1, 14-2.)

* Require, for the first time, use of a scientific validated biomathematical fatigue model tool to analyze all assignments for risk of fatigue.

* Require consultation and agreement between the carrier and general chairman on adjusting identified assignments for fatigue mitigation.

* Continue to require eight hours off-duty between assignments for passenger operations because of the predictable work schedules.

* Create a tool box of acceptable fatigue mitigation strategies that the carrier and the general chairman may select. Also there is encouragement to adopt a napping strategy, even for assignments that are only off-duty at an interim release location for 90 minutes.

* Require improved facilities at interim release locations of four hours or more.

* Require much stronger reporting requirements of all aspects of hours-of-service operations.

Said Stem: “These final rules recognize and maintain the significant contribution to safety that a defined reporting time makes for safety-critical operations. Our operating employees are professionals. When they know the time they must report for service, they show up rested and fatigue is not a factor.

“Also, a napping policy for our assignments that turn in fewer than four hours is a significant improvement for safety. Sleep scientists confirm that a 30-minute nap is a great fatigue mitigation tool.”

To read the final hours-of-service rule for passenger and commuter train conductors and engineers as published Aug. 12 in the Federal Register, click on the following link:


WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says he wants Amtrak and the Department of Homeland Security to create a “no-ride” list for intercity passenger trains, similar to the Secure Flight monitoring program in place for airlines whereby names of air travelers are cross-checked against the federal government’s terror watch list.

Separately, Virginia Railway Express has instituted a program whereby armed federal officers riding those commuter trains between their jobs in Washington, D.C., and Virginia suburbs act as volunteer train marshals during their commute.

Creation of an Amtrak no-ride list, Schumer said, would keep suspected terrorists off the U.S. rail system. Such a list would not apply to commuter trains.

Schumer called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to expand to Amtrak the Secure Flight monitoring program, which cross-checks air travelers with the terror watch list in an attempt to prevent anyone on the “no-fly” list from boarding commercial airliners.

Schumer said also he would push for restoring the $50 million Congress recently cut from rail and port security grants, saying that information obtained from Osama bin Laden’s hide-out — that al-Qaida had considered targeting U.S. passenger trains for terrorist acts — warrants reconsideration of rail security funds that were cut as part of the congressional budget compromise.

Schumer also called for increased funding to allow more rail-commuter and rail-passenger track inspections.

“Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains,” Schumer said May 8.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the September 11 Commission recommended rail-passenger names be checked against terror watch lists prior to boarding. The recommendation was not adopted for intercity passenger trains.

As for Virginia Railway Express (VRE), the Washington Examiner reports that 140 federal armed officers ride those commuter trains daily and serve as a volunteer police force for the commuter railroad, which does not have its own police force.

VRE, reports the Washington Examiner, gives those armed federal officers — employed by the FBI, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security — zero-price rides in exchange for their remaining alert.

The Washington Examiner quoted a VRE spokesperson as saying the commuter railroad knows which trains those armed officers ride and where they sit, and that their passes contain a special marking allowing conductors to know who they are.