August 11, 2015

CHICAGO (Aug. 11)–Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) investigators have confirmed a SMART-TD complaint that Canadian National Railway failed to record deadhead travel and withheld deadhead allowances from crews assigned to start work at points remote from their assigned terminals.

In a July 29 letter to SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy, FRA Region IV Administrator Steven W. Ilich said the agency had found “CN set up relief jobs that inadvertently was (sic) violating the Hours of Service Law (HSL)” when the carrier assigned crew members to go on duty at reporting points too far from their home terminals.

The offenses, which were first reported to Guy by Local #453 Legislative Rep. Jarrod A. Hudson, involved CN employees based in Decatur, Clinton, Effingham and Mattoon.

Hudson learned that a Decatur employee who normally worked trains based at Decatur was assigned occasionally to cover a job based at Clinton but was not allowed deadhead for the 22-mile drive in each direction. Another investigation showed a conductor based at Mattoon was not allowed deadhead when assigned to work a job starting at Effingham, 22 miles south.

“None of the guys working any of the jobs mentioned are required to show travel time or been allowed to claim mileage when tying up!”–Hudson wrote to Guy in a June 1 e-mail. “Myself and some members feel there are Hours of Service violations here.”

And so it proved.

“With regard to this incident the FRA has filed one formal violation for the Hours of Service Law and four record-keeping violations in regards to 49 CFR Part 228 with the FRA Office of Chief Counsel in Washington, D.C.,” Ilich wrote. “FRA has contacted the CN and informed the railroad of this violation and the requirement of compliance with the statute. The CN has since changed the reporting point of these jobs.”

“With the FRA, 30 minutes seems to be the Golden Rule,” Guy said. “If you have to travel more than 30 minutes beyond your home terminal to start a job at a remote point you are entitled to deadhead time. CN was getting an extra 30 minutes’ work out of these members without properly recording it.”

Guy said the swift correction of CN’s error showed exactly how the system is supposed to work when a union protects its members against abuses.

“Jarrod Hudson did a great job getting information from his crews,” Guy said. “His members came to him and asked him whether their Hours of Service were being recorded correctly. He listened to their stories, recorded their work and travel hours, and then came to me with a request to have the FRA investigate. The investigation showed CN was violating or ignoring the rules, and the FRA got the practice stopped.

“The information received from Brother Hudson was even cited by the FRA,” Guy said. “In his closeout letter to me Mr. Illich noted that ‘the complaint was specific and concise and related to the CN violation of the Hours of Service law.’”

Guy said FRA officials usually act quickly on Illinois Legislative Board complaints because they know the union does its homework before approaching the feds and gathers substantial amounts of evidence likely to lead to quick confirmation of the union’s allegations.

“How long would CN have kept getting away with this violation in the absence of member activism?” asked Guy. “Who knows? Fortunately, our members recorded their time accurately and approached their LR promptly, which led to a quick correction of the problem.”