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.

FMCSA-LogoWASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that the Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Restart Study has concluded data collection for the congressionally-mandated naturalistic study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of two provisions of the hours-of-service (HOS) restart regulations.  
Following the study requirements set forth by Congress, the study team collected data to compare five-month work schedules of drivers to assess safety critical events (e.g., crashes, near-crashes, and crash-relevant conflicts), operator fatigue/alertness, and short-term health outcomes of drivers who operate under the HOS restart provisions in effect between July 1, 2013 and December 15, 2014, and those drivers who operate under the provisions as in effect prior to July 1, 2013.
Drivers from a wide variety of fleet sizes and operations provided a substantial amount of data throughout the course of the study period.  More than 220 participating drivers contributed data as they drove their normal, revenue-producing routes, including:

  • More than 3,000 driver duty cycles, as captured by electronic logging devices
  • More than 75,000 driver alertness tests
  • More than 22,000 days of driver sleep data

Data analysis has commenced, and the agency is working toward completing the final report by the end of the year.  The agency does not have preliminary study findings; however, FMCSA is pleased with the high volume of data collected from participating drivers and expects this data will help inform future activities by the agency as well as the current study.
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235), enacted December 16, 2014, suspended enforcement of sections 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) of the HOS regulations.  Section 395.3(c) requires a CMV driver who wants to restart his/her weekly driving window (of 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days) to take two consecutive periods off duty from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. as part of the 34-hour (or longer) restart.  Section 395.3(d) allows the voluntary 34-hour restart to be used only once every seven days.  These provisions were enacted following extensive research and public comment with the goal of reducing excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers.  Enforcement of these sections will remain suspended as required by Congress until the Secretary of Transportation submits the CMV Driver Restart Study final report to Congress.
For additional information and to view an updated list of Frequently Asked Questions, click here.

bus; CATS; CATS busSEPTA and Port Authority employers are awaiting a decision to be made by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) on whether or not they can continue to ignore state law and keep drivers on the clock for shifts lasting up to 18 hours. SEPTA drivers can work up to 30 hours within a two-day period. Pennsylvania state law currently states that it is illegal for drivers to drive for more than 10 hours or work shifts longer than 15 hours. SEPTA employers frequently overlook this law.

PennDOT was petitioned by the Port Authority as well as SEPTA to put in place a temporary waiver to the law. They are asking for a three-year waiver to the law and propose to work with PennDOT and Pa. legislators to amend the hours-of-service policy. Transit employers want the law changed to the same policy as rail transit drivers. The policy for rail transit drivers states that a driver can be scheduled to work up to 16 hours with no more than 14 hours of actual work during that span and at least 10 hours rest between shifts.

SEPTA and Port Authority argue that to obey the current law they would have to spend millions to hire enough drivers. SEPTA argues that to be in compliance, the city of Philadelphia would need to hire an additional 135 drivers at a cost of $4.7 million a year and a one-time training cost of $600,000. If additional drivers are not hired, SEPTA claims that they would have to cut service by four percent to be in compliance.

SEPTA asserts that sleep and public safety do not factor into this issue and are “unaware of any evidence to suggest that the long-standing practice of exempting Pennsylvania transit agencies from hours-of-service regulations presents any substantial risk to public safety.”

Sleep experts disagree. It is a well-known fact through numerous sleep studies that sleep has an effect on a person’s ability to perform. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), “sleepiness/fatigue in the work place can lead to poor concentration, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries and fatalities.

People who work in the transportation industry face some of the most serious challenges. They battle fatigue because of their irregular sleep schedules and endure long tedious hours at the controls or behind the wheel. In fact, research suggests that driver fatigue behind the wheel caused by sleep deprivation is one of the leading safety hazards in the transportation industry.”

The foundation also states that the more tired you are, the more likely you are to experience what is called a “microsleep” which is an involuntary bout of sleep brought on by sleep deprivation that lasts for a few seconds.

PennDOT is expected to make a decision on this issue by the end of this month. 

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:

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.