November 18, 2003

CHICAGO (Nov. 18)—The Federal Railroad Administration has ruled that Union Pacific supervisors violated the federal Hours of Service Law when they held an expired train crew for an accident investigation while recording the two employees as being “off duty.”

The FRA said it will recommend “civil penalties,” i.e., a fine, against the railroad.

The conductor and engineer both passed drug and alcohol tests administered at the scene and were found not to have contributed to the 6-mph derailment that occurred when the train was doubling its head-end cars at the conclusion of a trip from Milwaukee to Chicago.

In a letter to Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, FRA Regional Administrator Laurence Hasvold said investigators found that the crew of UP train MSSPR was called for duty at Butler, Wis., outside Milwaukee, at 8:20 a.m. July 9, 2003, and arrived at the railroad’s Proviso Yard, west of Chicago, at 4:50 p.m. the same day.

While the front portion of the 136-car train was being doubled to a second track, a slow-speed derailment occurred at the point where the train was passing over the switch from the lead into the yard track. Officials detained the train crew for drug and alcohol testing, as well as for an investigation into the cause of the derailment. The drug-and-alcohol test, plus examination of data from the event recorder aboard the locomotive, required the crew to remain at the yard until they finally were discharged at 11:30 p.m.

FRA investigators said records completed by the carrier failed to show the train crew as performing “excess service” during the 3 hours and 10 minutes in which they were detained on railroad property following expiration of their federally defined hours of service. Instead, their excess time on the property was shown as “deadhead time.”

“As a result, FRA will be able to recommend a civil penalty to be assessed against the railroad for the actual violation of the Law as well as the improper preparation of the hours of duty records completed by the train crew,” Hasvold wrote.

“The FRA has done an excellent job of following up on a management violation of federal law,” Szabo said.

“However, the real credit goes to Engineman Roger Wilhelmi, Local Chairman of UTU-E Local 597, and to John W. Babler, General Chairman,” he said.

“Brother Wilhelmi did a complete and thorough job of writing up the incident and forwarding it to Brother Babler,” Szabo said. “Their work enabled the FRA to investigate promptly and determine that this carrier had committed a federal violation subject to a fine.

“This is a typical example of UTU members can use their union to protect their rights under the law or under their contract,” Szabo said. “It’s all about the individual member taking the time to document the facts and process a complaint through their union. Membership involvement is the key to bringing results.”