August 30, 2007

CHICAGO (Aug. 30)—For the second time in three months the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has ruled favorably on a UTU Complaint that a carrier violated the Hours of Service Law by keeping an employee on duty for more than 12 hours in order to question him.

As it did in a May 31 ruling against Norfolk Southern Corp. (See “Hot Topics, June 26), the FRA recommended that Canadian National Railways be fined for bringing a freight conductor back to the company’s yard and holding him for an interview that adjourned more than 12 hours after he reported for the assignment during which he was injured.

In an Aug. 21 letter to UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, FRA Region VI Administrator D.J. Tisor said CN “was in violation of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 228.11 and 228.19 for failure to maintain the required records.

“The CN also is in violation of United States Codes (USC) Chapter 211—Hours of Service,” Tisor wrote.

The incident that provoked the UTU Complaint and the FRA ruling occurred Feb.18, 2007. The CN conductor reported to the company’s yard at Centralia at 1 a.m. for a regularly scheduled local turn to Mattoon. When the job returned to Centralia and was shoving into a yard track at approximately 10:30 a.m., sudden slack action caused the conductor to be thrown to the ground from the side ladder on which he had been riding.

Regaining his feet only with great difficulty, the conductor radioed the yardmaster that he had been injured and needed medical assistance. The trainmaster heard the transmission on his own radio and took the conductor to a local hospital, where he was treated for a broken leg and released at 12:48 p.m., twelve minutes before his workday would have expired under the Hours of Service Law.

Instead of returning the conductor to his home, however, the trainmaster drove him back to the Centralia yard, where they arrived at 1:38 p.m. An interview was conducted from 1:45 p.m. to 2:04 p.m., after which the trainmaster drove the employee home.

The conductor stated in his witness statement that he knew his return to the yard placed him outside his maximum Hours of Service and that he agreed to the interview at that time because he “just wanted to get it over with and go home.”

“This employee did the right thing,” Szabo said. “He knew the law entitled him to be home, but he resisted any urge to be insubordinate.

“If you perform covered service, get injured, seek treatment and then are required to return to the property, all of that time would fall under the Hours of Service,” Szabo said. “If this happens to you, advise the carrier that your return to the property would violate Hours of Service, but don’t be insubordinate. Do as instructed, and then inform the union later, providing as many details of the incident as you can remember, particularly times, places, the names of supervisors and any relevant dialogue. We’ll then write up the Complaint and take it to the FRA.”