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FRA’s final HOS rules for passenger, commuter service

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, scheduled to take effect Oct. 15, 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 carrierss 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 wer enot appropriate for passenger train employees.

The FRA’s final rules follow a proposed rulemaking issued March 22. At the time, the UTU sought a requirement for a 10-hour call prior to assignment.

The FRA said that while it “agrees that such a 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,” the FRA said.

Note that the UTU National Legislative Office is working separately with labor’s friends in Congress to impose – by law, rather than regulation – a 10-hour call prior to assignment for both freight and passenger service.

Following are key provisions 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. (By contrast, freight railroad train and engine workers are limited to 276 hours of time on duty, in deadhead transportation to a point of final release, or any other mandatory activity for the railroad carrier.)

* 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).

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 FRA will accept comments for reconsideration of specific provisions of the final rule through Oct. 5, and may make changes based on those comments.

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