November 21, 2007

CHICAGO (Nov. 15)—Region IV officials of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) told the UTU Illinois Legislative Board the agency will seek “civil penalties” against the Canadian National Railway for violating the Hours of Service Act by illegally detaining a Decatur switching crew for an interrogation last April.

It was the second time in less than three months that the FRA found CN guilty of an Hours of Service violation for essentially the same reason. FRA Region VI had cited the carrier in August in connection with a February 18 incident in Centralia in which a conductor who was injured while tying up was brought back to the yard from the emergency room and interrogated for period of time that exceeded his statutory 12 hours on duty.

In the most recent case, Region IV FRA Administrator Laurence Hasvold advised UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo that CN managers in Decatur admitted they held the train crew members of Job R92291-17 beyond the allowable time for hours of service.

“They mistakenly believed that that in circumstances where there was an injury, the Hours of Service Act allowed them to conduct interviews with crew members concerning the incident,” Hasvold told Szabo. “FRA notified the managers that the HS does not allow them to continue to question the crew beyond the time allowed by the Hours of Service Law.”

FRA investigators found that the crew members were held one hour and 35 minutes beyond the expiration of their legal Hours of Service. The agency filed a second count for the carrier failing to report their exceeding of the Hours of Service.

Szabo praised the crew members for bringing the violation to the attention of UTU Local #453 Chairman Lloyd Holman.

“These brothers handled the matter exactly as it should have been handled,” Szabo said. “Although they knew the railroad officials were in violation of a federal law, they were not insubordinate. They complied with the instructions of their superiors and notified their Local leadership only after the violation occurred. Local Chairman Holman drafted a letter to the Illinois Legislative Board, and we took it to the FRA.”

In addition to its rulings in connection with the two CN incidents, the FRA also cited Norfolk Southern Corp. May 31 for allowing officials in Chicago to hold a freight conductor beyond his hours of service for an investigation of an incident that occurred while his train was en route from Toledo, Ohio.

“The frequency of these Hours of Service violations should remind all of us to remain vigilant and to report them whenever they occur,” Szabo said. “Reasonable hours of work followed by adequate hours of rest are essential to safe train operation. Even if you are injured and taken for treatment, the carrier cannot force you to return to participate in an interrogation if it exceeds a total of 12 hours.”