As kids all over the world know, railroaders tend to work “all the live-long day.” This is baked into the cake and explained at hiring sessions of all the major railroads, but the hours-of-service (HOS) laws in place say, in no uncertain terms, that 12 hours is the extent of how long rail workers are supposed to be on duty.  

The first time the federal government limited the consecutive hours at work on a train or asset(s) for a railroad transportation employee was in 1907 when they set the mark at 16 hours. It has since evolved into the 12 hours that all of us in railroading are familiar with today.  

Though the intention of the HOS laws is that a rail crew is supposed to be entirely relieved of duty by the 12-hour mark and on their way home or to away-from-home lodging, we all know that is not how it plays out. Often, crews stop their train at the 12-hour mark and spend additional hours waiting on a recrew or transport.  

The carriers expect their transportation employees to skirt these federal laws. When crew members mark off time tickets, there is a mechanism to report to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that HOS have been exceeded. Unfortunately, self-reporting these violations to the carriers and FRA has not changed the reality on the ground.  

SMART-TD’s National Legislative Department is asking for all rail members to help us bring this quality-of-life issue into a better light. 

Today we are announcing that an Hours-of-Service Violation Report has been added to the SMART Union website. This new report can be accessed from the “Get Involved” menu on the home page of the website by clicking “Report a Worksite Issue.”  It is our intention and goal to use the data we collect from you to inform regulators, as well as congressional members, about the frequency and magnitude of these federal violations.  

SMART-TD’s leadership is very aware that after a criminally long day of work, no one looks forward to filling out long paperwork. We kept that in mind when we put together the form. It is short and won’t take longer than a minute or two to fill out. There is also a tutorial available that will hopefully answer any questions you might have. 

In the spirit of being user-friendly, the Technology Event and Safety Condition Reports that are available on the app have been streamlined as well. All three are pivotal to SMART-TD’s ability to represent you in the manner you deserve and they play a large role in our government affairs strategy.

The information we are trying to gather will only be effective if we consistently hear from our outlawed crews across all carriers about HOS violations. Please make your voice known and help us represent your interests in the halls of Congress and to hold carriers accountable now, and into the future.  

Information gathered on the SMART website and via any links on the SMART app is solely visible to SMART-TD and the details on the forms we receive (including the names of who reported) will not be given to carriers.  

PLEASE be a part of the solution to this problem. SMART-TD looks forward to working with you to help bring this abuse to an end. 

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.