WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) May 8 announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to update the regulation that governs locomotive engineer qualification and certification to make it consistent with the corresponding regulation for conductors.
“The proposed revisions would modernize locomotive engineer certification regulations to match those for train conductors, and provide regulatory efficiencies and cost savings without compromising safety,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. “The proposal would streamline the engineer certification process, and reduce paperwork burdens for the responsible parties.”
The proposed rule would adopt the conductor certification regulation process established in 2012 by making conforming amendments to the engineer certification regulation, which was first issued in 1991 and last amended in 2000. Consistent with Executive Order 13771, the proposed rule would reduce overall regulatory reporting and cost burdens for railroads and locomotive engineers. Harmonization of the conductor and engineer regulations would also provide greater clarity to locomotive engineers.
The NPRM includes the following five proposed changes to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 240:

  • Clarifies locomotive engineer certification requirements (Part 240) and aligns them with conductor certification requirements (Part 242) to make it easier for railroad certification managers to become familiar with and administer both regulations.
  • Reduces the reporting burden of a person’s former employer to clarify that only certain listed information in the individual’s railroad service record that directly relates to FRA’s requirements in the certification regulation needs to be shared.
  • Defers the requirement for railroads to seek a waiver from annual testing of certified locomotive engineers when individuals take an extended absence from performing service requiring certification.
  • Modernizes the dispute resolution process by reducing the paperwork burdens for both employees and railroads and allowing for web-based dockets.
  • Simplifies the submission process by which qualification and certification programs are modified by allowing electronic submissions.

The proposed revisions for locomotive engineer qualification and certification ensure that certain provisions are consistent, to the extent possible, with those for conductors. FRA is seeking comments on the proposed rule, and will address comments received when preparing a final rule. Comments may be submitted to the docket for the proceeding FRA-2018-0053, and are due by July 8, 2019. Read the full proposed rule here.

On July 7, Grupo Mexico S.A.B. de C.V. announced that its Grupo Mexico Transportes S.A. de C.V. unit (GMXT) completed its procurement of Florida East Coast Holdings Corp., parent company of Florida East Coast Railway (FECR).
The acquisition had approvals from the Committee on Foreign Investment, Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Communications Commission.
SMART TD represents approximately 200 conductors, engineers, trainmen and yardmasters employed by FECR. The railway operates 351 miles of track between Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami.
Click here to read more from Florida East Coast Railway.

Are you prepared to make the decision?

  • How many times have you been a part of a crew-induced emergency?
  • Conductors, how many times have you alerted your engineer to take action to stop the train?
  • Engineers, do you discuss parameters with your conductors for emergency brake application in your job briefings?
  • Conductors, have you ever pulled the emergency brake (dumped the air) to stop your train?
  • Do you discuss the possible situation of emergency in your job briefings and develop an action plan?
  • Did you know that on the BNSF only three percent of crew-induced emergencies are performed by the conductor?

According to the SMART Rail Safety Task Force, this message is not intended for conductors to take control of the locomotive from the hands of the engineer. This message is meant to encourage crews to work together for safe train operation. Conductors must know they are empowered to take action if deemed necessary after assessing the situation with their engineer. It is paramount for both crewmembers to stay engaged and focused on the task at hand for safe train operations.

All too often when signals are run, speeding is excessive or train handling is improper, conductors say, “I thought the engineer had it.”

Tips for success:

  1. Job briefing: crews discuss parameters for conductors to take action and put that plan in place for emergency situations.
  2. Conductors must stay focused and alert your engineer that he or she needs to take action.
  3. Engineers must remain vigilant and aware of their situation.

CSX operating rule: 301 – control of train speed 

  • 301.1: Crewmembers must notify the locomotive operator of any condition that requires the train to reduce speed or stop not more than five miles, but not less than two miles, before reaching the condition.
  • 301.2: If the locomotive operator fails to control the train in accordance with authorized speed, other crewmembers must take action to ensure the safety of the train. When train speed exceeds authorized speed by:( a.) Less than five mph, other crewmembers must direct the locomotive operator to slow the train to authorized speed, or (b.) five mph or more, other crewmembers must direct the locomotive operator to stop the train and immediately report the occurrence to the proper authority. The train must not proceed until released.
  • 301.3: Make an emergency air brake application to stop the train if the: (a.) automatic braking system fails to respond as expected, or (b.) locomotive operator fails to take action when the train is required to stop or (c.) locomotive operator becomes incapacitated.

Do you see an unsafe trend developing, do you have an idea that will make our work place a safer one? Click here to email your SMART Rail Safety Task Force.

(This is Safety Alert #10 in a series of alerts posted by the SMART Rail Safety Task Force.)