May 6, 2014

CHICAGO (May 6)—For the second time in a matter of weeks the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has cited a carrier operating in Illinois for violation of the Hours of Service (HOS) law following a complaint by the SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Board.

FRA Region VI Administrator Steve Fender told Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy that his office would recommend the Canadian National Railway be fined for the February 2 violation.

According to a February 10 letter from Guy to the FRA, a CN conductor was called to work February 1 at his home terminal in Downstate Benton, Ill., to work a coal train to Fulton, Ky.

The assignment was the conductor’s sixth consecutive start in as many days with less than 24 hours off between tours of duty. The conductor arrived at Fulton later the same day and garnered 25 hours and 13 minutes of rest before being assigned to work to Centralia on an empty grain train.

According to the FRA investigation, CN violated Hours of Service Law Section 21103 (a)(4)(a) when it failed to deadhead the conductor to his home terminal after 24 hours of his completing his six consecutive starts.

“If you work six consecutive days you are entitled to 48 hours off at your home terminal,” Guy said. “The railroad has the right to work you back to your home terminal within 24 hours of completion of a sixth consecutive start, but then you’re entitled to 72 consecutive hours off, which this employee was not given.”

Guy urged all members to become familiar with the terms of the Hours of Service Law and to be alert to attempts by carrier supervisors to order employees to work in violation of its provisions.

“There are basically three options when a member works a sixth consecutive start to an away-from-home terminal,” Guy said. “The carrier can immediately deadhead you home upon that trip’s completion, work you back within 24 hours or deadhead you back if you are off-duty for 24 hours or more at the away-from-home terminal.

“These are the interpretations and guidelines the FRA has given us and the carriers,” Guy said. “They seem simple and straightforward to me, yet we’ve now seen numerous carriers violate these HOS standards, even after being notified by our members that they could be potentially violating the federal rule.

Guy said an employee faced with an instruction to violate the HOS law should comply at the time but be ready to contest the action later.

“If a supervisor orders you to take an assignment in violation of HOS, do not be insubordinate,” Guy said. “Inform the supervisor that you will comply with instructions and perform the assignment, but upon completion be sure to inform your local legislative representative or my office of the potential violation.

“And be sure to document all pertinent information such as start times, quitting times and the number of the jobs you worked, or simply provide an accurate work history showing the consecutive starts,” Guy said. “These recent violations have proven that when we get our facts right and share them with the FRA, we win these complaints.”

“I’d also like to recognize SMART-TD Local #1525 Legislative Representative David Gage,” Guy said. “He did some excellent work in gathering the proper information necessary to sustain the complaint. Great job, Brother Gage!”