WASHINGTON – Responding to petitions for reconsideration to its Nov. 9, 2011, final rule on conductor certification, the FRA has delayed for six months the testing implementation dates and clarified other mandates affecting territorial qualifications and the definition of hostlers.

The FRA, in a Feb. 8 Federal Register notice, said that because its final rule was published Nov. 9, 2011, six months later than contemplated, carriers were not permitted sufficient time to formulate training programs and have them approved by the FRA in time for testing to begin March 1, 2012.

Therefore:

* By Sept. 1, 2012 (rather than March 1, 2012), each railroad (other than Class III) shall designate as “certified conductors” all persons authorized by the railroad to perform the duties of a conductor as of Jan. 1, 2012; and issue them certificates of certification.

* Class I and Class II (regional) railroads, Amtrak and railroads providing commuter services, will have until Sept. 30, 2012, to submit to the FRA for approval their programs for training, testing and evaluation. Class III (shortlines, switching and terminal) railroads will have until Jan. 31, 2013 to do so. The programs submitted by railroads will require collaboration with UTU general chairpersons.

* After Sept. 1, 2012, each railroad (other than Class III) shall designate as a “certified conductor” those authorized by the railroad to perform the duties of a conductor subsequent to Jan. 1, 2012, upon successful completion of testing, training and evaluation.

* After Dec. 1, no Class I or Class II railroad, Amtrak or railroad providing commuter service shall initially certify or recertify a conductor unless that conductor has been tested and evaluated. For Class III railroads, that date is April 1, 2013.

* No later than March 31 of each year (beginning in calendar year 2014), all railroads other than Class III railroads, shall conduct a formal annual review and analysis concerning the administration of its program for responding to detected instances of poor safety conduct by “certified conductors” during the prior calendar year.

* If a conductor lacks territorial qualifications on main track physical characteristics, that conductor shall be assisted by a person who meets the territorial qualification requirements.

* For a conductor who has never been qualified on main track physical characteristics of the territory over which the conductor is to serve, the assistant shall be a “certified conductor” who is not an assigned crew member.

* For a conductor who was previously qualified on main line physical characteristics of the territory over which the conductor is to serve, but whose qualification has expired for one year or less. and who regularly traversed the territory prior to the expiration of the qualification, the assistant may be any person, including an assigned crew member, who meets the territorial qualification requirements for main track physical characteristics.

* For a conductor who previously qualified on main track physical characteristics of the territory over which the conductor is to serve, and whose qualification has been expired for one year or less, but who has not regularly traversed the territory prior to the expiration of the qualification, or a conductor whose territorial qualification on main track has been expired for more than a year, the assistant may be any person, including the assigned crewmember other than the locomotive engineer, so long as the serving assistant would not conflict with that crewmember’s other safety sensitive duties and who meets the territorial qualification requirements for main track physical characteristics.

* As for qualification, and since territories differ in their complexity, railroads will be given discretion to determine how many times a conductor must pass over a territory to be considered to have regularly traversed a territory.

* Each of these territorial qualification issues will be included in each railroad’s plan filed with the FRA and will contain the input from general chairpersons.

Hostler Type Assignments Not Covered

* A person who moves a locomotive or a group of locomotives within the confines of a locomotive repair or servicing area — or moves a locomotive or group of locomotives for distances of less than 100 feet, and this incidental movement of a locomotive or locomotives is for inspection or maintenance purposes — is not subject to conductor certification requirements.

Theproposed new minimum training standards for those in in safety sensitive positions, announced by the FRA in aFeb. 7 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (see link, below), will also apply to conductor certification training programs. “With many thousands of new employee coming on board in the near future, the new training standards will help provide adequate training,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem.

Click here to read the changes to conductor certification as published Feb. 8 in the Federal Register.

Click on the following link to read the proposed new minimum training standards for those in safety sensitive positions (that will also apply to conductor certification training):

https://www.smart-union.org/news/fra-proposes-new-minimum-training-standards/

Click on the following link to read about the Nov. 9, 2011, final rule on conductor certification:

https://www.smart-union.org/news/conductor-certification-clear-track-for-jan-1/

FRA logoWASHINGTON – New minimum training and qualification standards are being proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration for rail workers in safety sensitive positions.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published Feb. 7 in the Federal Register, the FRA said affected employees would have to be trained and qualified in federal rail safety laws, regulations and orders. Those affected include train and engine workers, maintenance-of-way employees, and workers who inspect and repair freight and passenger cars and locomotives.

The FRA proposes that each railroad or contractor develop a training program designating the qualifications of each employee and them submit that program for agency approval. The training would consist of proficiency-based, incremental training modules, with workers required to demonstrate proficiency in one area before being permitted to accept additional instruction.

Employers would then be required to conduct periodic oversight of their own employees to determine compliance, and conduct annual written reviews of their training programs to close performance gaps.

The proposed rule is a requirement of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“Well-designed training programs have the potential to further reduce risk in the railroad environment,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo. “Better training can reduce the number of accidents, particularly those caused by human factors, which account for the vast majority of reportable accidents each year.”

The proposed new rule was developed with the input from officials in numerous federal and state government agencies, industry and labor.

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem said, “We need to start at the end of the pipeline. When you have a student, a new employee or an existing employee who is being trained on new equipment or new operating practices, what skills do we expect that employee to possess at the end of the training process? And then we’ll work back from that.”

Stem said many railroads, seeking to reduce training costs, have delivered self-directed, computer-based training, “leaving workers unprepared for the hazards of the job. Where there’s no instructor in the room, and all of the available information for the student is on the screen, if the student doesn’t understand the question, he or she has no one to ask. That student is then sent to the field.”

Stem said the proposed rule would create nationwide uniformity in training.

To read the FRA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, click on the following link:

www.fra.dot.gov/rcc/pages/fp_321.shtml and then click on “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”.

FRA logoThe Federal Railroad Administration’s new associate administrator for administration is Michael Logue, a 29-year employee of the agency.

Logue has served as a railroad safety inspector trainee and in various positions within the Office of Safety and the Office of the Administrator. In 1999 he was named deputy associate administrator for safety compliance and program implementation.

Most recently, Logue worked with a team to improve human resources, information technology and acquisition management within the FRA. The agency cited his efforts “to increase diversity of the FRA workforce” through “strong support of a trainee program for rail safety inspectors and his participation in the selection of candidates for leadership positions throughout the agency.”

FRA logoWASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration, in response to inquiries about when it is permissible for an employee directing the movement to operate a motor vehicle in the context of a pushing or shoving movement, has issued the following advisory:

The central concern in each situation is whether the practice violates the prohibition in the Railroad Operating Practices regulations at 49 CFR 218.99(b), which states, in part:

No unrelated tasks. During the shoving or pushing movement, the employee directing the movement shall not engage in any task unrelated to the oversight of the shoving or pushing movement.

Factual circumstances may dictate whether an operation is safe and in compliance with the regulations.

Question 1: Do the Railroad Operating Practices regulations allow an employee to make an initial determination that the track is clear from a motor vehicle in which the employee is operating prior to the initiation of the shoving or pushing movement?

Answer:  While there may be some risk involved when an employee is both determining that the track is clear and operating the motor vehicle, the regulation does not strictly prohibit the same person from doing these tasks simultaneously when the movement has not been initiated and oversight of the movement is not required. However, if the terrain is uneven or the view is obstructed, the person may occasionally have to operate the vehicle at a slower speed or even stop the vehicle in order to accurately determine that the track is clear. 

Question 2: Do the Railroad Operating Practices regulations allow an employee to determine that the track is clear from a motor vehicle in which the employee is operating while simultaneously directing a shoving or pushing movement that is in motion? 

Answer:  Although there is no strict prohibition, the FRA is concerned that an employee who operates a motor vehicle while the shoving or pushing movement is in motion may not be adequately overseeing the train movement.

One of the stated purposes of the prohibition against engaging in any task unrelated to the oversight of the shoving or pushing movement was that it “increases the probability that the controlling employee will be in a position to reduce the severity of any accident that might occur.” (73 Fed. Reg. 8442, 8476) The cited language in the preamble to the rule immediately follows a recap of the fatal accident in Manlius, N.Y., which led to the issuance of FRA Safety Advisory 2007-01.

That fatal accident involved a carman whose vehicle was dragged a considerable distance before the employee directing the movement was contacted to stop the movement. The preamble language clarified that the “no unrelated task” provision was added as a compromise in exchange for the FRA giving up the proposed requirement that the leading end of the movement be continuously kept in sight by the employee directing the movement. 

The FRA recognized that “a ‘continuous observation’ requirement would force more employees either to walk or ride the point – creating an even greater vulnerability that someone could get hurt.” (73 Fed. Reg. 8476) The same type of argument could be made regarding an employee directing the movement who is instructed or elects to drive a vehicle while the shoving or pushing movement is in motion. 

With these concerns in mind, the FRA determined that an employee must not simultaneously direct a shoving or pushing movement while operating a motor vehicle of any type, except as follows:

* An employee may operate a motor vehicle to a point where he or she can visually determine that the track is clear, pursuant to 49 CFR 18.99(b)(3)(i).  After stopping the motor vehicle and determining that the track is clear for a specified distance, the employee directing a shoving or pushing movement may give an initial instruction to the engineer to start a shoving or pushing movement for the specified distance.

* After giving the initial instruction, the employee may operate the motor vehicle while the shoving or pushing movement is in motion. 

* After visually determining that the track is clear for an additional specified distance, the employee directing a shoving or pushing movement must stop the motor vehicle in order to provide any additional instructions to the engineer. This process may be repeated until the shoving or pushing movement is completed. 

* The FRA recognizes “that employees can safely make shoving or pushing movements without continuously observing the leading car (i.e., the leading end of the movement) for the entire distance of the movement.” (73 Fed. Reg. 8477) However, to the extent possible, the FRA would expect an employee to observe a shoving or pushing movement in progress and be able to take appropriate action to minimize the severity of any unexpected derailment or accident that might occur.

* Under all circumstances, the engineer must stop the movement in one-half the specified distance, unless additional instructions are received.  (49 CFR 220.49)

Question 3: Do the Railroad Operating Practices regulations allow an employee directing the shoving or pushing movement that is in motion to determine that the track is clear while riding in a motor vehicle as a passenger? 

Answer:  There is no strict prohibition on an employee determining that the track is clear while riding in a motor vehicle as a passenger. Of course, if the terrain is uneven or the view is obstructed, it may not be factually possible to make the determination that the track is clear.  As always, the FRA will consider enforcement action when the circumstances show that the person could not make an accurate determination.

FRA logoWASHINGTON – Deputy Federal Railroad Administrator Karen Rae is departing the agency Nov. 3 to rejoin the New York State government as deputy secretary of transportation in the office of New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Rae has been the number two to Administrator Joseph Szabo since March 2009. No successor, who will require Senate confirmation, has been nominated.

Before her appointment as deputy FRA administrator, Rae was deputy commissioner of policy and planning for the New York DOT.

During the first six months of 2011, 37 serious injuries occurred during switching operations, resulting in three fatalities and eight amputations; while over the past two years, five rail workers have died in accidents involving rolling rail equipment.

The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group and the UTU Rail Safety Task Force have been consulting with the FRA to study the causes and prevention of such horrific accidents, leading the FRA Oct. 11 to issue new recommendations aimed at preventing such fatalities and injuries.

The recommendations, published in the Federal Register, are intended, says the FRA, to convey to carrier management and rail workers “the critical importance of following key operating procedures when going between rolling equipment.”

These recommendations include:

* Review current operating and safety rules that specifically address remote control locomotive and conventional switching operations that require employees to go between rolling equipment, and determine whether those rules provide adequate protection to employees, or need to be updated or revised;

* Develop, implement and monitor sound communication protocols that require employees on multi-person switch crews to notify their fellow crewmembers when the need arises to enter between two pieces of rolling equipment – regardless of whether the employee is the primary RCO or working on a conventional crews.

* Review SOFA Safety Recommendation No. 1 relating to adjusting knuckles, adjusting drawbars and installing end-of-train devices, and communicate procedures implementing that recommendation to employees working in yards or other locations where the possibility of entering between rolling equipment exists.

SOFA Safety Recommendation No. 1 provides: “Any crew member intending to foul track or equipment must notify the locomotive engineer before such action can take place. The locomotive engineer must then apply locomotive or train brakes, have the reverser centered, and then confirm this action with the individual on the ground.

“Additionally, any crew member that intends to adjust knuckles/drawbars, or apply or remove EOT device, must ensure that the cut of cars to be coupled into is separated by no fewer than 50 feet. Also, the person on the ground must physically inspect the cut of cars not attached to the locomotive to ensure they are completely stopped; and, if necessary, a sufficient number of hand brakes must be applied to ensure the cut of cars will not move.”

* Convey to employees that their own personal safety is their responsibility and that railroad management supports and encourages those employees that make safety their number one priority, regardless of their immediate assignment;

* Convey to employees that they should encourage fellow employees to perform their tasks safely and in compliance with established railroad rules and procedures.

To view the FRA’s Federal Register notice, click on the following link:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-11/html/2011-26283.htm

To view more information on rail safety, click on the following link:

https://www.smart-union.org/td/safety/

FRA logoCHICAGO — Here is an opportunity to voice your rail safety concerns directly to the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

A 90-minute town hall meeting on rail safety will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, in Chicago. FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo will take questions and hear concerns as part of the agency’s outreach to rail labor.

Szabo, formerly the UTU’s Illinois state legislative director and a fifth-generation railroader, promises “a frank and often safety discussion.” He also will share with the audience details on the FRA’s risk reduction program, which is a non-punitive approach to addressing safety in advance of an accident or injury.

FRA Associate Administrator for Safety Jo Strang wrote of that program some months ago in an exclusive column that appeared in the UTU News and on the UTU website. A link to that column is provided below.

Here are the details of the town hall meeting:

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 9-10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Chicago Laborers District Council, 999 McClintock Drive, Burr Ridge, Ill. Burr Ridge is 20 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.

To read the Jo Strang column on the FRA’s risk reduction program, click on the following link:

https://www.smart-union.org/news/help-fra-stop-harassment-improve-safety/

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:

http://www.fra.dot.gov/rcc/content/pages/Passenger-Train-Hours-of-Service-Final-Rule-081211.pdf

Witnesses say it’s a grey sedan.

A grey four-door sedan — occupied by two men.

A grey four-door sedan occupied by two men that shows up at railroad facilities.

The men claim to work for the Federal Railroad Administration. That say they are there to inspect a bridge, or to observe train and engine crews switching tank cars in a yard.

But when asked for their identification, the two men immediately drive away in their grey sedan.

That’s the story told by a Canadian Pacific railroad bridge tender in Milwaukee, Wis., and 31 hours later by a Union Pacific supervisor 2,100 miles southwest of Milwaukee at a UP yard in Long  Beach, Calif., where tank cars were being switched.

Although the bridge tender notified Canadian Pacific police, and the UP supervisor notified the FRA – both providing a description of the vehicle and the two occupants — neither was able to obtain the vehicle’s license plate number.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is investigating. The FRA said that in neither of the reported incidents were their employees nearby.

For it to be the same vehicle and same pair of men in Milwaukee and Long Beach — 2,100 miles apart — they would have had to travel non-stop at 68 mph for 31 hours.

So, could they be separate sets of federal officers in a similar sedan testing security awareness? If not, then …?

It’s the, “If not, then … ?” that is so properly worrisome in this era of worldwide terror attacks.

The FRA and TSA continue to remind front-line rail employees that they are the critical eyes and ears first able to spot and report potential terrorist activity.

Advises the FRA and TSA:

* Request credentials of any person claiming to be an official government inspector, law-enforcement officer or representative.

* When observing a suspect vehicle, record its description (type, color, make, model, number of doors) and license plate number.

* Stay vigilant for suspicious people, behaviors, activities, and objects at and near rail facilities.

* Report potential security concerns to the railroad’s communications or operations center, following individual railroad procedures for such reporting.

* Review these procedures with other employees and supervisors during awareness briefings.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration will soon publish final rules instituting conductor certification and imposing new hours-of-service limitations on intercity passenger-train and commuter employees in safety sensitive positions.

FRA Associate Administrator for Safety Jo Strang made the announcement at the UTU’s regional meeting June 21 in San Antonio, Texas.

She observed that since former UTU Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo became FRA administrator, the partnership between the UTU and the FRA in seeking improved workplace safety “has certainly been strengthened.”

Conductor certification, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2012, “recognizes the level of professionalism required by our conductors today,” Strang said.

A notice of proposed rulemaking on conductor certification was published in November and is the product of a collaborative effort through the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee, which includes carriers, rail labor and the FRA.

UTU members serving on the RSAC Conductor Certification Working Group include Local 1470 Chairperson David Brooks, General Chairperson (CSX, GO 049) John Lesniewski, Local 538 Legislative Rep Ron Parsons, Local 645 Local Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore, National Legislative Director James Stem, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch, and UTU safety consultant Larry Mann.

Strang said the passenger hours-of-service regulation will apply sleep science and fatigue management to railroad hours-of-service, “which is the first time in our industry’s history that this has been done. It recognizes the inherent differences between freight and passenger service.”

For example, intercity passenger and commuter railroads operate on fixed schedules. Commuter railroads operate primarily during daylight hours, and most commuter employees return to their home terminals every night.

The passenger hours-of-service regulation will “balance the need to manage fatigue with the need to maximize income,” Strang said. “The rule also recognizes the significant safety contribution that a defined start time has for the employees involved. When the employee knows when they must report for service, they can manage the necessary lifestyle adjustments. The outstanding safety record of our passenger and commuter rail operations is an excellent example of just what it means to have a regular start time.”

Strang also mentioned risk reduction programs, acknowledging that their FRA-sponsored implementation on some railroads “have earned a bad reputation. Let me be clear about FRA’s viewpoint,” Strang said. “Building strong safety cultures can only be accomplished through the establishment and nurturing of voluntary risk mitigation policies and procedures — setting realistic benchmarks and milestones, and favoring constructive corrective behavior over punitive discipline. To be clear, both railroads and labor have to define boundaries since compliance with the rules is at the heart of safety.

“Railroads have had the same culture for 180 years,” Strang said. “We have been trying to change it for five years.”