June 23, 2008

CHICAGO (June 23)—Following up on a UTU Complaint filed in April, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has recommended the Indiana Harbor Belt Railway be fined for allowing yardmasters to work in covered service without being subjected to random drug and alcohol testing.

“Covered service” is work normally done only by train crew members who are under federal regulations for random drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements.

In a June 9 letter FRA Regional Administrator Laurence H. Hasvold said an investigation had confirmed that IHB yardmasters at the carrier’s Blue Island Yard had been operating switch machines and protecting shoves by radio for at least five months prior to the UTU Complaint.

FRA Regulation 49 CFR, Part 219, Subpart G, mandates that management personnel who perform such crew tasks more than once every three months must be included in the random drug and alcohol testing pool.

Hasvold said IHB management has since agreed to place its yardmasters in a random drug and alcohol testing pool but that the agency also would recommend that a fine be assessed against the railroad for the earlier violations.

“Yardmasters, trainmasters and other management officials are exempt from the Hours of Service law and from random drug testing—as long as they stick to their managerial duties and do not perform safety-sensitive work – work that would normally be performed by train crews,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

“Once they begin throwing a switch, tying a hand brake, or protecting a shove move they become subject to all Hours of Service requirements and must be placed in the random testing pool for drugs and alcohol, ” he said.

Szabo said members should be alert to any covered service performed by management officials and should note down the time, date and place where they observe such work being done.

“If you see a manager performing covered service, inform your local chairman or other union officer so we can ask FRA to investigate whether federal regulations were violated,” he said. “FRA will not enforce the conditions of our contract, but it will ensure that the federal regulations are being adhered to.

“Your eyes and ears are the best way to ensure compliance with those federal regulations.”