February 25, 2008

CHICAGO (Feb. 25)—The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has found Amtrak and the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) guilty of holding a train crew in service one hour and 35 minutes past the federally permitted 12-hour maximum.

UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo requested an investigation of the December 17, 2007, incident in a letter he sent to the agency December 18.

FRA Region VI Administrator D.J. Tisor notified Szabo by letter February 25 that the union’s complaint of an HOS violation had been sustained.

“Our findings were essentially as outlined in your letter,” Tisor wrote: “At approximately 1:30 a.m., December 17, 2007, the crew [of
Amtrak train No. 5] was advised by the BNSF dispatcher…and Amtrak Assistant Superintendent Gerry Isrealson to exceed their hours of service. The crew continued to M.P. 422, arriving at 2:45 a.m. December 17, 2007, and stopped and performed no more covered service while waiting for their relief crew. The conductor and assistant conductor were on duty for a total of 13 hours 35 minutes.”

Tisor said the investigation revealed both BNSF and Amtrak had violated the federal Hours of Service Law in ordering the crew to remain on duty. He said the FRA would recommend fines against both carriers.

“Once again, we have seen that the complaint process works when our members promptly provide their Local chairman or legislative representative with an accurate account of an alleged violation by railroad management,” Szabo said.

“In this case the reporting was prompt to an exemplary degree,” Szabo added. “The incident happened in the early hours of December 17, and the crew members briefed their Local leadership very shortly thereafter, enabling our office in Chicago to get a request for an investigation off to the FRA on the next calendar day. Their report was brief, but it was detailed and accurate, which helped us to get a favorable decision.”

Szabo said the same procedure should be followed by every member who believes a violation of federal regulations may have occurred.

“Carry out your supervisor’s instructions and do not be insubordinate,” he said. “Then, as soon as you have time, jot down pertinent details including people’s names, the date and time, and the location of the incident. Turn the material over to your Local for forwarding to Chicago, and the Legislative Board will file a complaint. Our record shows we get results.”