The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has now made their Hours of Service (HOS) App available for download in the iPhone app store. Those wishing to download the app, should search for “FRA HOS Manual.”
The HOS app was developed to provide users with clarification on HOS requirements found at 49 CFR Part 228, Hours of Service Recordkeeping, and FRA hours of service interpretations and policies.
This tool allows users to navigate through FRA guidance that exists addressing the complexity hours of service requirements, along with the diversity of railroad operations, it assists to provide comprehensive guidance and consolidates this information into one manual to ensure standardized application and compliance. Users can select from multiple railroad user groups: freight, passenger, dispatching or signal employees.

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 — 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.”

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 made the first significant amendments to hours-of-service laws in nearly 40 years.

In response, the FRA issued an interim statement of agency policy and interpretation, which poses significant problems for train- and engine-service employees with regard to employee safety and earnings.

The UTU and the BLET now have jointly asked the FRA to reconsider portions of their interim statement of agency policy and interpretation. The new rules would impact more than 85,000 train- and engine-service employees who are members of the UTU and BLET.

Significantly, the UTU and BLET are asking the FRA to revisit its interpretation of how to determine whether an employee has received the statutorily required amount of off-duty time as prescribed by the Rail Service Improvement Act (RSIA).

The RSIA amended the statutory off-duty period by eliminating the option of eight consecutive off-duty hours, and required that the minimum statutory off-duty period be 10 consecutive hours in all cases (except in intercity passenger and commuter service).

The UTU and BLET assert that, “on its face, this change did nothing to force FRA to change its longstanding interpretation of how sufficient off-duty time is determined.”

Under the existing FRA method, a railroad is required to look back 24 hours at the employee’s on-duty time and determine if the employee had 10 hours of undisturbed rest in that window. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then the employee can work a full 12 hours. That approach is called the “fresh start look back” analysis.

But the FRA, in its interim statement of agency policy and interpretation, proposes to scrap the “fresh start look back” analysis and substitute what is called a “continuous look back” analysis.

A “continuous look back” analysis would require the railroads to look back at every moment during a duty tour to determine if the employee has had 10 consecutive hours of undisturbed rest in the 24 hours prior to that particular moment.

This new “continuous look back” approach would prohibit an employee from working the full 12 hours that are permitted by the law if they were to have more than a two-hour call.

The FRA’s proposed “continuous look back” approach not only adversely impacts an employee’s earnings, but interferes with a railroad’s need to maximize employee productivity.

In fact, the “continuous look back” approach also could result in more employees being forced to remain at away-terminal locations rather than returning home, which adversely impacts family life and imposes greater costs on a railroad.

For example, if an employee has a three-hour call — and this is generally of necessity in large metropolitan areas where commute times are long — the employee could only work 11 hours, because when the first minute of the 12th hour arrives, the railroad could not look back 24 hours and find 10 consecutive hours undisturbed hours off duty. (11 work + 3 hour call + 10 hours rest = 24 hours) Thus, the longer the call time, the less work the employee can legally perform.

For assignments with an interim period of rest, the most an employee could ever work is 10 hours. For an unassigned (extra board) employee who is working on call, the call time further reduces the amount of work time proportionally. If they get the typical two-hour call, the interim period of release is rendered moot.

10-hour call is best

The better solution would be to require a 10-hour call, which would permit 12-hour on-duty shifts, the UTU and BLET told the FRA. “It is obvious that an employee who is aware that they will be required to report for work in 10 hours is best able to schedule their rest so that they arrive at work in the most alert condition possible.

“The best medical evidence available establishes what the labor organizations have known for years: that employees will be most alert just after they wake up,” the UTU and BLET told the FRA. “We contend that an employee who sleeps or naps as close to their reporting time as possible, within reason, is the best rested employee and therefore the safest.”

In the joint statement signed by UTU International President Mike Futhey and BLET Acting National President Paul Sorrow, the FRA is asked to “reaffirm the long-standing ‘look back fresh start’ interpretation, which has served both safety and the industry well, and decline to adopt the proposed ‘continuous look back.'”

Click here to read the joint UTU/BLET submission to the FRA.

In a joint submission aimed at improving safety and the security of member paychecks, the UTU and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to clarify and simplify its interim policies relating to, and interpretations of, the Rail Safety Improvement Act’s changes to hours-of-service limitations that went into effect July 16.

The sought-after clarifications and simplifications fall into three categories:

  1. The Rail Safety Improvement Act’s (RSIA) prohibition of communication with employees during statutory off-duty periods;
  2. The RSIA’s provisions pertaining to mandatory off-duty time following the initiation of an on-duty period for a specified number of consecutive days; and,
  3. The maximum number of hours that may be worked in a calendar month.

The joint UTU/BLET comments observe that the hours-of-service provisions in the safety act “produced the most far-reaching effects on hours-of-service of safety-critical railroad workers since enactment of the original Hours-of-Service Act in 1908.” In fact, the FRA, itself, observes that the hours-of-service amendments “are extraordinarily complex and comprehensive.”

Because of the complexity, said the UTU and the BLET, “the statute itself fails to adequately address a number of important issues that will almost certainly have a substantial effect on our members. Moreover, FRA has been forced to provide interpretations that must address goals that sometimes are in conflict. It is our sincere hope that these [joint UTU/BLET] comments will provide a basis for improvement of FRA’s policies and interpretations in a way that is faithful to the intent of Congress.”

The UTU and the BLET also asked the FRA “to further clarify their stated interpretations in plain language to the maximum extent possible, so there is no room for debate concerning the application of those interpretations.”

The UTU and the BLET noted also that they were not commenting on each policy and interpretation “because we do not want to unnecessarily burden the record. However, FRA should not conclude that we concur with each of the policies and interpretations with which we strongly disagree, but we are withholding comment concerning them because FRA’s position has been dictated by the statute itself, and FRA cannot depart from statutory requirements; therefore, comments concerning these subjects would be futile.

“The comments are intended to provide greater clarity to the sometimes confusing provisions of the law, and to assist UTU and BLET general committees in their efforts to negotiate a better balance between maintaining earnings and the new requirements,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey and BLET National President Ed Rodzwicz in a joint statement.

To read the joint UTU and BLET submission to the FRA, click here.