June 28, 2011

CHICAGO (June 28)—Investigators for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have found that Alton & Southern Railroad officials violated the Federal Hours of Service Law (HOSL) last March when they held a switch crew on duty for more than 12 hours in order to administer drug tests and hold post-accident interviews.

The violation was committed after a one-car sideswipe that occurred March 29 in A&S’s Gateway Yard in East St. Louis. The incident did not cause a derailment and there were no injuries.

In a June 21 letter addressed to UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy, FRA Regional Administrator D.J. Tisor said A&S violated the Hours of Service law when it held the members of Job YAS231 28 beyond their 12-hour day after drug-and-alcohol testing had been completed.

Guy’s April 28 Formal Complaint to the FRA alleged that after the drug-and-alcohol tests the crew members were held beyond their Hours of Service and ordered to complete a company incident report and undergo oral questioning before being released to leave the property.

The crew had gone on duty at 2:30 p.m. Tisor said one crew member was eventually released at 4:59 a.m. the next day, while the other was not released until 5:16 a.m. Guy said both missed their next scheduled work day because the HOS violation had rendered them ineligible to report at their normal starting time.

“It is alarming that a carrier official would knowingly violate the Federal Hours of Service Law in order to hold an investigation after such a minor incident,” Guy said. “It’s irrelevant whether the officials were ignorant of the law or simply chose to ignore it. Either is a red flag.

“It would be one thing to hold a crew for a quick ‘reasonable cause’ drug-and- alcohol test,” Guy said. “But to hold a crew for almost three hours after they’ve expired to subject them to an investigation is a blatant violation and is unacceptable.”

Tisor said his office had forwarded its findings to the FRA Chief Counsel with a recommendation that A&S be fined for the violation.

Guy said the A&S incident disturbed him because another St. Louis switching carrier, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, was fined for the same type of violation in June of last year after one of its crews was detained beyond its Hours of Service after a one-axle switching derailment.

Guy advised members who find themselves faced with similar supervisor conduct to comply with orders but report the incident fully to their union local for follow-up by the Illinois Legislative Board.

“If a supervisor holds you beyond your Hours of Service limitation for any reason, do not be insubordinate,” Guy said. “Comply with instructions, but try to remember the details of what happened and write them down as soon as you are able.”

Guy said members should jot down the names and titles of all supervisors involved, what the supervisors directed them to do, what advice or information the supervisors provided, and the time when the encounter began and ended.

“As soon after the incident as possible, share the information you have collected with your legislative representative or local chairman,” Guy said. “Don’t worry about writing up a full report. The union will do that, and we will take it to the appropriate authorities. As the Alton & Southern case proves, we’ll get the results.”