August 24, 2016
(Chicago—August 24, 2016) Acting on a SMART-TD formal complaint, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said it will file multiple formal violations and one defect against the CSX for a March incident that involved a CSX manager “piloting” a student engineer who was performing his final qualifying run.
While this is somewhat common-place in the industry, the trouble began that day when the train the manager was “piloting” failed to reduce speed properly for a slow order. Ironically, the student engineer the RFE was piloting was our own Asst. State Director Joe Ciemny.
“Joe notified me almost immediately about the incident,” said SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “And according to his account the actions of the manager threw up red flags for me, as well as Joe.”
“I had never been on a portion of the territory in which I was going to qualify that day,” said Ciemny. “I notified the RFE of that fact and he said not to worry, that he would pilot me.”
But as the train was moving over territory in which Brother Ciemny had never traversed, the RFE was attempting to contact the train dispatcher using his cell phone.
“The RFE finally got ahold of the dispatcher after numerous attempts,” Ciemny said. “We were an eastbound train and he was trying to find a westbound train to stop and meet us so that we could head back to the terminal.”
In all of the confusion the RFE didn’t realize that the train had switched tracks and was now traveling on Track 1 approaching a temporary speed restriction. After questioning where they were and realizing that they were, in fact, on Track 1 the RFE ordered Joe to take action to slow the train, but they were unable to reduce speed to the required 25 MPH before hitting the slower speed zone. The RFE once again used his cell phone to contact a CSX senior manager, who told them to stop their train.
“It was those very actions that set off the alarm bells when Joe and I spoke,” Guy said. “I asked Joe to get me the details and that we’d ask FRA to investigate fully.”
“We asked FRA to look specifically at the RFE’s phone use while he was performing covered service while “piloting” Joe,” Guy said. “And we also asked them to look into the RFE’s Hours of Service and if any actions had been taken against his engineer certification.”
After a comprehensive and lengthy investigation, FRA found our concerns to be valid.
On August 8, FRA Region IV Deputy Regional Administrator Kirk Gill reported back to Guy that an official investigation had confirmed the complaint and that violations and a defect would be filed with FRA’s Office of Chief Counsel in Washington, D.C.
“That usually means civil penalties against the carrier,” Guy said.
Gill also noted that the complaint was specific and concise and related to 49 CFR 228 (HOS), Part 220.305 (use of personal electronic devices) and Part 240 (requirements of engineer certification and DSLE not taking appropriate action while instructing and/or piloting).
FRA issued the violations to CSX for failure to comply with 49 CFR Part 220.305 regarding a managers unauthorized cell phone use and, equally as serious, 49 CFR Part 240.307 for a failure to suspend a managers certificate. FRA also found that the manager failed to report the covered service assignment on an hours of duty record and reported it as a defect.
FRA also notified CSX and informed the railroad of the violations and requirement for compliance with the statute.
“These are serious violations and ones that we anticipated,” Guy said. “Being able to quickly gather the details of the incident and get the specifics to the FRA was crucial.”
“I want to commend FRA on their thoroughness during the investigation,” Guy said. “We provided a lot of evidence and information to them and they used it accordingly.”
“I’m also pleased to see that rail carrier management will be held to the same zero-tolerance threshold that our members are held to when it comes to personal electronic device usage,” Guy said. “Our members need to take notice of that and realize that cell phone use is an absolute no-no while on duty, and that FRA is watching.”