January 20, 2012

CHICAGO (Jan. 20)—More than 200 employees joined with union officials, federal safety regulators and railroad officials at a special workshop scheduled to explain the new Hours of Service(HOS) regulations for passenger-train crew members.

The workshops, held in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Hall near Metra’s Ogilvie Transportation Center, were held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

As expected, most crew members learned that their typical work assignments will not be affected by the federally mandated regulations that take effect April 12. Only passenger-train crews are affected, and most of the changes will affect only those crews that start their work assignment between 8:01 p.m. and 3:59 a.m.

“These are the starting hours that studies have shown have the greatest potential to cause fatigue and lack of attention on the part of train-crew members,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “Fatigue is related not just to the number of consecutive hours worked or the time of day when the work occurs, but to the hour when the workday begins. That 8 p.m.-to-4 a.m. period turns out to be troublesome and has raised the most red flags.”

Under the new HOS rule, work shifts beginning during that window will be called “Type 2 assignments” and will be subject to special restrictions on the number of consecutive days an employee can work such a shift.

A PowerPoint presentation was given by UTU National Legislative Director James Stem, BLET Vice President Stephen J. Bruno and Federal Railroad Administration Hours-of-Service Specialist Rich Connor explaining the new rule, and the three narrators took many questions from the audience during the two sessions.

A copy of the PowerPoint is available on the UTU Web site at www.illini.utu.org under “Federal Agencies.” Look for the link labeled “Passenger Hours of Service Information.”

All UTU officers and members who perform passenger service are encouraged to visit the website and read the presentation.

“I think the success of the workshop is a wonderful testimonial to the ability of the carriers, the regulators and organized labor to cooperate in the cause of safety,” Guy said.

“Veteran railroaders on both the labor and management side had suspected for many years that there was some sort of relationship between starting times and accident rates, but it took several years of federally financed studies of human biorhythm to identify the ‘red-flag’ hours and confirm that they really did have a negative effect on crew performance and fatigue,” he said.

“Once those studies were completed and understood, the unions, the industry and the federal government collaborated to deliver an effective solution. It’s business-labor-government success story we can all be proud of.”