Archive for the ‘Cell Phone Ban’ Category

FRA clarifies "Smartwatch" Rule – Fitbits restricted

FRA_logo_wordsThe question? May an employee wear a device like a “Garmin Vivofit” or “Fitbit” wristband that acts like a watch, and counts the steps that an individual takes each day?  The devices are not searching for the internet, or Wifi, to do this and must be synchronized with Bluetooth on a separate device. The devices are essentially digital watches and track the number of steps an individual takes each day in the background. Does the FRA consider these devices “smart watches”? 

FRA considers Fitbits and similar devices to be “personal  electronic devices” that are subject to the restrictions in part 220. Per the definition of an “electronic device” at 49 CFR 220.5, they are an electronic device that performs functions not necessary for the health or safety of that person and entail the risk of distracting employees from safety-related tasks.

FRA understands some Fitbit devices are rather limited in their functionality. However, a number of different fitness tracking devices are available. The Fitbit Blaze, for example, has functions that include mobile playlists, call alerts, text alerts and fitness tracking. These functions are the same type of distracting functions that have caused railroad accidents and were the impetus for the restrictions contained in part 220.

The regulation text of part 220 does not distinguish between Fitbits that have limited functionality, and those that are more akin to smartphones or smartwatches. Unless a waiver granting an exemption for certain fitness tracking devices with limited functionality were issued by FRA in the future, the agency considers all such devices to be “personal electronic devices” that are subject to the restrictions in part 220.  However, railroad operating employees are allowed the use of digital clocks or wristwatches whose primary function is to tell time.

Timepieces are commonly used in the railroad industry to verify the accuracy of a locomotive’s speed indicator. This function is safety-related in that it accurately allows a train crew to comply with relevant track speed limits during the course of a train’s movement. This exception is limited to those wristwatches that do not have functions which violate the requirements set forth under 220 subpart C. The Primary function of fitness tracking devices is not to tell time.

As stated in Title 49 CFR 220.303, a railroad operating employee shall not use an electronic device if that use would interfere with the employee’s or another railroad operating employee’s performance of safety-related duties. No individual in the cab of a controlling locomotive shall use an electronic device if that use would interfere with a railroad operating employee’s performance of safety-related duties.

The exceptions within 220 subpart C account for varying operating situations, with particular flexibility for railroad supplied devices. 

The only exceptions within 220 subpart C are specially stated in § 220.309:

§ 220.309 Permitted uses; exceptions to other restrictions.

Notwithstanding any other limitations in this subpart, a railroad operating employee may use the following, if that use does not interfere with any employee’s performance of safety-related duties—

(a) The digital storage and display function of an electronic device to refer to a railroad rule, special instruction, timetable, or other directive, if such use is authorized under a railroad operating rule or instruction.

(b) An electronic device as necessary to respond to an emergency situation involving the operation of the railroad or encountered while performing a duty for the railroad.

(c) An electronic device to take a photograph of a safety hazard or a violation of a rail safety law, regulation, order, or standard, provided that—

  1. A camera that is part of a cell phone or other similar multi-functional electronic device is not included in this exception unless it is a railroad supplied device and is used for an authorized business purpose;
  2. The camera, unless otherwise permitted, is turned off immediately after the documentation has been made; and
  3. If the camera is used in the cab of a moving train, the use is only by a crewmember other than the locomotive engineer.

(d) A stand-alone calculator if used for an authorized business purpose.

(e) A medical device that is consistent with the railroad’s standards for medical fitness for duty.

(f) A wireless communication device to conduct train or switching operations if the railroad operating employee is part of a crew assigned to a train that is exempt under § 220.9(b) from the requirement of a working radio when the employing railroad has fewer than 400,000 annual employee work hours.

Additionally, railroads may impose more stringent requirements that are subject to change at the railroad’s discretion, without notice to FRA, and can vary from railroad to railroad.

Engineer says cell phone not factor in crash

The engineer of one of two ore trains that crashed head-on just outside of Two Harbors, Minn., in 2010 is taking issue with the National Transportation Safety Board report on the accident, disputing that cell phone use by the train crews was a relevant factor.

In an exclusive interview with the News-Chronicle Feb. 20, Dan Murphy, engineer of the northbound train, conceded that he had used his phone on the day of the Sept. 30, 2010, accident, but that the call was less than a minute and in no way interfered with his duties.

Read the complete story at Lake County News Chronicle.

2012 safest year in railroad history

Last year was the safest year in the history of the railroad industry, based on performance measures tracked by the Federal Railroad Administration.

For the fifth fiscal year in a row, the industry has improved on all six of the FRA’s official safety performance measures, including the rate of grade crossing incidents, human factor-caused train accidents, track-caused accidents, equipment-caused accidents, signal and miscellaneous train accidents, and non-accidental rail hazmat releases.

The industry has also met the Department of Transportation’s set safety performance goal for rate of rail related accidents and incidents.

Those performance measures were highlighted in a message to railroad industry and labor leaders from Federal Railroad Administration head Joe Szabo.

“We thank our partners at the railroads, their employees and communities across America for their commitment to achieving these results. Keeping our railroads safe is a team effort,” Szabo said.

These statistics are somewhat welcome news to the UTU and its membership. In 2012, six members of the UTU were killed while on active railroad duty. That is the least number of UTU rail members killed on active duty since 2009.

“While there is a bright side to the data released by the FRA, there are still some clouds in the sky,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. “Even one death on the railroad is one too many.”

Szabo acknowledges there is more work to be done.

“This year, we will continue to take proactive measures to prevent accidents and incidents by aggressively advancing Risk Reduction and System Safety Programs. We will also stay focused on our collaborative effort with industry and labor to eliminate electronic device distraction. Together, we can make 2013 even safer,” he said.

Distractions kill, maim and end careers

FRA logoDistractions occur everywhere in our daily lives, but when those in safety sensitive positions are distracted on the job, the results too often result in death or career-ending injuries.

A collaborative effort among the Federal Railroad Administration, rail labor and carriers has been launched to educate and raise awareness through peer-to-peer programs of the dangers of being distracted by using electronic devices while on the job.

Specifically, the FRA has asked carriers to adopt anti-distraction programs and to remind and reinforce among rail workers in safety sensitive positions that use of electronic devices while on the job is not only in violation of federal and carrier regulations, but “socially unacceptable.”

In 2008, the FRA issued an emergency order prohibiting the use of electronic devices by rail operating employees, and it was followed in 2010 by a new permanent regulation that applies to all operating employees.

“Addressing the use of electronic devices as a safety hazard requires integrity in the process, consistency in application to all employees and all devices, and common sense in the design of the process,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. “When we push the decision making process down to the level of local employee representatives and local managers, and a consensus based approach, all hazards will be addressed.”

Stem compares this consensus based approach to the success of Operation Redblock programs and the new model for success known as the Confidential Close Call Reporting system.

Stem also reminds members that in the event of a collision, derailment or fatality, one of the first actions taken by the National Transportation Safety Board is to pull the phone records of all crew members involved, as well as the phone records of crew members on other trains in the area of the event. “You don’t have to be directly involved to have your phone records examined by NTSB investigators,” Stem said.

“A good and safe practice,” Stem said, “is for all conductors and engineers starting their shift to show other crew members that they have turned off their cell phones.”

Click here to view FRA Administrator Joe Szabo’s message.

Court: Cab cams don’t violate privacy

LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit brought by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen against Los Angeles Metrolink to eliminate inward-facing video cameras in the cab has been dismissed by a judge here.

Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin said the inward-facing cameras, which monitor crew activities in the cab, do not violate privacy rights, reports the Associated Press.

Metrolink ordered that inward-facing cameras be installed in commuter-train cabs following a September 2008 catastrophic accident in Chatsworth, Calif., in which a Metrolink train ran a red signal and collided with a freight train, killing 25 and injuring more than 100 on the Metrolink train. The Metrolink engineer, who died in the crash, was found to have been texting repeatedly.

Following that accident, the Federal Railroad Administration banned the use by train crews, nationwide, of most electronic devices.

Safety Task Force alert: Electronic device ban

The Federal Railroad Administration’s permanent ban on use of electronic devices, including cellphones, became effective March 28.

Please make careful note of the following:

  • In the event of a collision, derailment or fatality, one of the first actions taken by National Transportation Safety Board investigators is pull the phone records of all crew members involved.
  • NTSB investigators ALSO pull the phone records of crew members on other trains in the area of the event, including the last train at that location, or any other person they think may even remotely shed light on the event being investigated.
  • You don’t have to be directly involved to have your phone records examined by NTSB investigators.

The NTSB has authority under the law to demand these records from cellphone providers. These actions are taken because the NTSB considers distractions to be major contributors to collisions, derailments and fatalities, and the use of electronic devices, including cellphones, are considered a distraction.

Moreover, a carrier’s rule relating to the FRA ban on the use of electronic devices, including cellphones, may be more restrictive than the FRA regulations.

It is thus essential you also be aware of your carrier’s rules as they relate to the electronic device and cellphone ban. While the FRA does not permit carrier bans to be less restrictive than the FRA final rule on the ban, the FRA does permit carriers to have a more restrictive rule.

The UTU Transportation Safety Task Force cautions that the safest course of action for our members working in train service is to turn off your cellphone at the beginning of a shift and keep it off.

Many of our members are taking a leadership role in reminding fellow crew members to turn off cellphones and other electronic devices.

We understand many conductors and engineers are starting their shift by showing other crew members that they have turned off their phone.

This is an outstanding way to promote safety through leadership, and we encourage each UTU member to be a leader in this effort.

In solidarity,

UTU Rail Safety Task Force

Greg Hynes, UTU Arizona state legislative director

Steve Evans, UTU Arkansas state legislative director

Jerry Gibson, UTU Michigan state legislative director

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, click below:

https://smart-union.org/safety/smart-rail-safety-task-force/

Highlights of the permanent ban on electronic devices and cellphones:

  • The ban prohibits the use of an electronic device — whether personal or railroad supplied — if it interferes with that employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties. This means while the train is moving, a member of the crew is on the ground or riding rolling equipment during switching, or any railroad employee is assisting in the preparation of the train for movement.
  • While railroad-supplied electronic devices may not be used by the engineer while the train is moving, they may be used by the conductor for authorized business purposes in the cab if use does not interfere with performance of safety-related duties, a safety briefing is conducted that includes all crew members, and all crew members agree that it is safe to use the railroad-supplied electronic device.
  • There is no exception for personal or medical emergencies, such as to check on an ill or injured family member.
  • The ban includes use of personal global positioning service (GPS) devices.
  • The use of calculators is permitted for determining formulas such as train stopping calculations or tons per operative brake.
  • Stand-alone cameras (not part of a cellphone or other electronic device) are permitted to document a safety hazard or a violation of a rail safety law, regulation order, or standard. The camera must be turned off immediately after use. Stand-alone cameras may not be used by the engineer for the above purposes when the train is in motion.
  • Crew members may use railroad-supplied multi-functional devices that include a camera for authorized business purposes as specified by the railroad in writing, and only after being approved by the FRA. An engineer is banned from using such a device when the train is in motion. The railroad-supplied device must be turned off immediately after use.
  • Deadheading crews may use personal electronic devices when not in the cab of the controlling locomotive and such use does not compromise the safety of any operating employee or the safety duties of another operating employee. But when in the cab of the controlling locomotive, deadheading employees are prohibited from using any electronic devices; and they must be turned off and the earpiece must be removed.
  • Personal medical devices such as hearing aids and blood sugar monitors may be used, but must be consistent with the railroad’s standards for medical fitness for duty.
  • A passenger train conductor or assistant conductor may use a railroad-supplied electronic or electrical device for an approved business purpose while on duty within the body of a passenger train or railroad business car. Use of the device shall not interfere with the responsibility to call or acknowledge any signal, inspect any passing train, or perform any other safety-sensitive duty assigned under the railroad’s operating rules and special instructions.
  • A passenger-train conductor or assistant conductor located inside the cab may use a GPS application or a railroad-supplied camera if the crew has held a safety briefing and all crewmembers have unanimously agreed that it is safe to use the device.
  • A passenger-train crewmember outside the cab of a locomotive may use a railroad-supplied camera to photograph a safety hazard if it is for an authorized business purpose and does not interfere with safety-related duties.
  • Railroads have the right to implement their own more stringent rules on the use of electronic devices; but railroads may not liberalize any provisions of the FRA permanent ban.
  • The ban does not subject engineers or conductors (when conductor certification is implemented) to revocation of their certification for a violation of the ban.
  • The FRA has authority under the law to subpoena cellphone records from a cellphone provider.

To read the FRA’s final 40-page rule imposing the permanent ban on electronic devices, including cellphones, click on the following link:
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov:80/2010/2010-23916.htm

April 4, 2011

Rail cellphone ban permanent March 28

The Federal Railroad Administration’s ban on the use of cellphones and other electronic devices — personal and carrier-issued — becomes permanent Monday, March 28.

The ban applies to all on-duty train crew members.

Don’t let a railroad or federal safety inspector make an example of you in proving a dedication to enforcement of the ban.

Here are highlights of the permanent ban:

  • The ban prohibits the use of an electronic device — whether personal or railroad supplied — if it interferes with that employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties. This means while the train is moving, a member of the crew is on the ground or riding rolling equipment during switching, or any railroad employee is assisting in the preparation of the train for movement.
  • While railroad-supplied electronic devices may not be used by the engineer while the train is moving, they may be used by the conductor for authorized business purposes in the cab if use does not interfere with performance of safety-related duties, a safety briefing is conducted that includes all crew members, and all crew members agree that it is safe to use the railroad-supplied electronic device.
  • There is no exception for personal or medical emergencies, such as to check on an ill or injured family member.
  • The ban includes use of personal global positioning service (GPS) devices.
  • The use of calculators is permitted for determining formulas such as train stopping calculations or tons per operative brake.
  • Stand-alone cameras (not part of a cellphone or other electronic device) are permitted to document a safety hazard or a violation of a rail safety law, regulation order, or standard. The camera must be turned off immediately after use. Stand-alone cameras may not be used by the engineer for the above purposes when the train is in motion.
  • Crew members may use railroad-supplied multi-functional devices that include a camera for authorized business purposes as specified by the railroad in writing, and only after being approved by the FRA. An engineer is banned from using such a device when the train is in motion. The railroad-supplied device must be turned off immediately after use.
  • Deadheading crews may use personal electronic devices when not in the cab of the controlling locomotive and such use does not compromise the safety of any operating employee or the safety duties of another operating employee. But when in the cab of the controlling locomotive, deadheading employees are prohibited from using any electronic devices; and they must be turned off and the earpiece must be removed.
  • Personal medical devices such as hearing aids and blood sugar monitors may be used, but must be consistent with the railroad’s standards for medical fitness for duty.
  • A passenger train conductor or assistant conductor may use a railroad-supplied electronic or electrical device for an approved business purpose while on duty within the body of a passenger train or railroad business car. Use of the device shall not interfere with the responsibility to call or acknowledge any signal, inspect any passing train, or perform any other safety-sensitive duty assigned under the railroad’s operating rules and special instructions.
  • A passenger-train conductor or assistant conductor located inside the cab may use a GPS application or a railroad-supplied camera if the crew has held a safety briefing and all crewmembers have unanimously agreed that it is safe to use the device.
  • A passenger-train crewmember outside the cab of a locomotive may use a railroad-supplied camera to photograph a safety hazard if it is for an authorized business purpose and does not interfere with safety-related duties.
  • Railroads have the right to implement their own more stringent rules on the use of electronic devices; but railroads may not liberalize any provisions of the FRA permanent ban.
  • The ban does not subject engineers or conductors (when conductor certification is implemented) to revocation of their certification for a violation of the ban.
  • The FRA has authority under the law to subpoena cellphone records from a cellphone provider.

To read the FRA’s final 40-page rule, click on the following link:

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov:80/2010/2010-23916.htm

A ‘ring, ring’ may cost you your job

The Federal Railroad Administration has a stark message for rail workers with safety-related duties:

Only use your cell phone when allowed or you could lose your job.

Emergency Order No. 26, which went into effect in October 2008, restricts the use by train crews and others in safety-sensitive positions of cell phones and other electronic devices.

The ban becomes permanent in March.

There is not an exception for personal emergencies.

How serious is the FRA about compliance?

The FRA warns that it can and will subpoena cell phone records, which show the date, time and location of cell-phone use.

In fact, when an accident occurs, the FRA routinely subpoenas the cell-phone records of all crew members involved, and sometimes of those employees on adjacent trains or yard crews.

If the FRA finds that a rail employee in a safety-sensitive position used their cell phone unlawfully during their tour of duty (even if it was hours before the accident) the FRA will notify the employer, who will then terminate the employee.

Workers found violating the ban also face being taken out of service by the FRA, and they face a $25,000 civil fine.

Be aware, also, that carriers may set up a sting to catch you in violation of the ban, such as by calling your cell phone number under the guise of testing compliance with the ban.

The simplest means of avoiding violation of the emergency order is to turn off all personal electronic devices when reporting for duty, stow them away from your person, and not retrieve or activate them until you are relieved from duty by the carrier.

The FRA issued the following statement:

“49 USC 20107(a)(1)-gives the Secretary of Transportation authority to conduct investigations and issue subpoenas in carrying out the railroad safety laws.

“49 USC 20902-grants the authority to investigate and issue subpoenas when railroad accidents [resulting] in serious bodily injury or damage to railroad property.

“18 USC 2703(c)(2)–The “Stored Communications Act”, permits FRA to issue subpoenas for certain basic stored electronic communications information, as we have subpoena authority granted via the two federal statutes listed above.

“The Secretary of Transportation has delegated his subpoena authority above to FRA at 49 CFR 1.49. FRA’s regulations also permit subpoenas to be issued, at 49 CFR 209.7(a) and at 49 CFR 225.31(b).”

Note, also, that if your phone is off and stowed and a rail official demands to see your phone, you can deny them on the grounds of personal privacy. However, do not put yourself in a position where you could be charged with insubordination.

If a confrontation occurs, report the incident to your local officers, general committee officers and/or state legislative director immediately as a violation of your personal privacy rights. As with all reports, it is important to write down the exact time and location, the name of the official, the names of witnesses and other information related to the matter.

The easiest way to avoid trouble? If in doubt, don’t.

For more information on the FRA’s cell-phone and electronic device ban, click on the following links:

https://smart-union.org/news/fra-to-make-cell-phone-ban-permanent-7/

https://static.smart-union.org/worksite/PDFs/Cell_phone_prohibition.pdf

Federal cellphone ban for bus drivers

WASHINGTON — A national ban on cell-phone use by bus drivers has been proposed by the U.S. DOT. It is expected to be put in place before March.

Bus drivers already are banned by federal regulation from texting while working.

“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cellphone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk,” said the DOT, noting that fatal bus crashes jumped from 20 to 38 in 2009.

FRA to make cell-phone ban permanent

WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration has announced it will make permanent its Emergency Order No. 26 restricting the use by on-duty train crews of cell phones and other electronic devices.

Some changes, as described below, are to be included in the permanent ban.

The emergency order was issued in October 2008, and the permanent ban will go into effect in late March 2011, following mandatory carrier instruction of train and engine workers covered under the ban.

During the interim, Emergency Order No. 26 will remain in effect.

The emergency order and the permanent ban prohibit the use of an electronic device — whether personal or railroad supplied — if it interferes with that employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties.

The permanent ban, going into effect in six months, contains some different provisions from the 2008 emergency order and/or the FRA’s May draft final of the permanent ban:

Engineer and conductor certification

The final rule will not immediately subject engineers or conductors (when conductor certification, required by the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008, is implemented) to revocation of their certification for a violation of the ban.

However, the FRA said it “may be appropriate” in the future to revoke such certification following a violation.

After the FRA unveiled its draft final rule in May, the UTU and other rail labor organizations filed written comments in June, strongly objecting to making such violations subject to revocation of certification.

Personal cellphone records

The final rule scraps an FRA suggestion in its draft final rule that train and engine workers provide railroads access to their personal cellphone records in the event of an accident. The FRA said it already has such authority under the law. The UTU and other rail labor organizations had argued that such a provision would “result in harassment of our members by accessing their personal phone records for any and every incident.”

Personal emergencies

The final rule will not create an exception for personal emergencies. The FRA said such an exception “would present significant obstacles,” as an operating employee “found with a cellphone turned on while on a moving train could easily say the phone was on because of a sick family member, whether true or not.”

The UTU and other rail labor organizations had urged adoption of a personal emergency exception. But as the rule is now written, an employee will be prohibited from contacting health care providers or sick family members in emergency situations no matter how serious the situation is and even if their railroad employer would have permitted them to do so.

GPS devices

In the final rule, the use of personal global positioning service (GPS) devices is not permitted. “Locomotive engineers,” said the FRA, “are required to be familiar with the physical characteristics of the routes over which they operate. Thus, engineers should already be aware of where sidings, road crossings, and other physical characteristics are located.”

Calculators

The FRA’s final rule does permit calculators to be used to determine formulas such as train stopping calculations or tons per operative brake.

Cameras

The final rule allows for stand-alone cameras (not part of a cellphone or other electronic device) to document a safety hazard or a violation of a rail safety law, regulation order, or standard. However, the FRA final rule will permit the use of railroad-supplied multi-functional devices that include a camera for “authorized business purposes as specified by the railroad in writing” and only after being approved by the FRA.

The UTU and other rail labor organizations had argued that it “is unnecessary to require employees to carry several separate electronic devices on a daily basis to effectively and safety perform their duties.” The labor organizations recommended — but the FRA rejected — that a cellphone camera be allowed to document a hazard or violation of a regulation and then be turned off immediately.

To read the FRA’s Sept. 27 final rule, which is more than 40 pages when printed out, click on the following link:

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov:80/2010/2010-23916.htm

To read the June 17 joint filing by the UTU and other rail labor organizations to the draft final rule, which is 17 pages when printed out, click here.

FRA: Rails can discipline camera disabling

The Federal Railroad Administration, following disciplinary action by Los Angeles Metrolink against two operating employees who disabled an inward facing camera in the locomotive cab, said that while the agency does not now regulate cab-installed inward facing cameras, it “does not condone the disabling of any devices.”

Moreover, said the FRA, “In instances where a camera has been tampered with, railroads retain the authority to discipline employees for violating railroad rules regardless of whether the rules have any parallel federal requirement.”

In May, one Metrolink locomotive engineer was removed from service and another placed under investigation for allegedly trying to block views of Metrolink-installed inward facing cameras intended to record crew activities.

The cameras were installed to monitor train and engine crews after the National Transportation Safety Board found that an engineer’s actions in texting and use of a cell phone contributed to the deadly 2008 Chatsworth, Calif., disaster.

The FRA’s assistant chief counsel for safety, Mark H. Tessler, said in a letter to Metrolink that such cameras are not “safety devices” as defined by FRA regulations. FRA regulations “prohibit the disabling of safety devices located in the cabs of locomotives,” Tessler said. Such FRA defined safety devices include alerters, dead man controls and various cab signal systems, he said.

“Although equipment to record data is mentioned,” said Tessler, inward facing cameras that record video of locomotive operation are not covered by FRA safety regulations.

Specifically excluded from the definition are, “locomotive performance monitoring devices, unless they record data such as train speed and air brake operations,” Tessler said.

“Inward facing locomotive video camera recorders,” he said, “fall into this category, as they are monitoring devices that do not provide the type of data listed. Further, video recorders are not safety critical devices that have an immediate impact on the safe operation of trains, such as the alerters and cab signal systems … whose functions are to ensure railroad employees appropriately respond to more restrictive signal indications, are not incapacitated and are alert to changing operating conditions.”

However, Tessler said that “cameras can be a valuable tool in conducting post-accident investigations. As such, FRA has instituted a regulation found at 49 CFR Section 229.135(e), which by its terms would apply to in-cab video cameras. That section addresses procedures for the preservation of accident data captured on event records and ‘any other locomotive-mounted recording device or devices designed to record information concerning the functioning of a locomotive or train,'” he said.

Click here to read the FRA letter to Metrolink.

FRA proposes permanent cell-phone ban

The Federal Railroad Administration is moving to make permanent an October 2008 emergency order restricting the use by on-duty train crews of cell phones and other electronic devices.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published Tuesday, May 18, in the Federal Register, indicating a final rule, supplanting FRA Emergency Order No. 26, is to go into effect not prior to a 30-day public comment period. The comments will be used by the FRA to make adjustments to the proposed final rule.

Until a final rule is in effect, the FRA’s Emergency Order No. 26 will remain in force.

The UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen intend to file joint comments to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The proposed rule would prohibit the use of an electronic device — whether personal or railroad-supplied — if it interferes with that employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties. 

Railroad operating employees would be permitted to use cell phones or similar electronic devices under highly limited circumstances. In fact, the UTU and BLET, in joint comments filed with the FRA following issuance of the October 2008 emergency order, sought that exemption.

The proposed rule also provides certain exceptions for watches, calculator use, medical devices, railroad radios, cameras used to document bona fide safety hazards or violations of rail safety laws and various emergency situations – other exemptions the UTU and the BLET suggested following issuance of the October 2008 emergency order. 

Also proposed for a final rule is a requirement that each railroad turn over to the FRA, for its review, the carrier’s training program on the use of electronic devices; and each railroad would be required to retain records documenting employees receiving recurrent training at specified intervals. 

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking specifically asks for comment on whether violation of the final rule should be used as a basis for revoking a locomotive engineer’s certification – or, for that matter, a conductor’s certification once those standards are established pursuant to the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

To view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, click here