Posts Tagged ‘RSIA’

FRA publishes final rule for state highway-rail grade crossing action plans

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule requiring 40 states and the District of Columbia to develop and implement highway-rail grade crossing action plans to improve public safety. In addition, the rule requires 10 states that have already developed grade crossing action plans, as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) and FRA’s implementing regulation, to update their plans and submit reports describing the actions they have taken to implement them.

“Grade crossing accidents and incidents are the second-leading cause of rail-related deaths in the United States, but nearly every one of them is preventable,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “The action plans give states a tool to engage with federal and local partners, railroads, and rail safety advocates to identify high-risk crossings and develop strategies to save lives.”

“Safety is imperative to FHWA, especially where roads and rails meet,” said Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Administrator Nicole R. Nason. “These action plans can help states make highway-rail grade crossings safer for the traveling public.”

The final rule responds to a Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act mandate requiring states to develop and implement (or update, if applicable) action plans. Each plan must identify crossings that have experienced at least one accident or incident in the previous three years, multiple accidents or incidents in the previous five years, or that are determined by the state to be at high-risk for accidents or incidents. Furthermore, each action plan must identify specific strategies for improving safety at crossings, including crossing closures or re-aligning roadways over or under railways.

Under RSIA, FRA identified 10 states as having the most highway-rail grade crossing collisions, on average, over the three-year period from 2006 through 2008. In June 2010, FRA issued a final rule requiring these states to develop action plans and submit them to FRA for approval. The states are Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas. The FAST Act now requires each of them to submit an updated action plan and a report to FRA describing what it did to implement its previous action plan and how it will continue to reduce crossing safety risks.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia are required to submit individual highway-rail grade crossing action plans to FRA for review and approval no later than 14 months after the final rule’s publication date of December 14, 2020. FRA will provide technical assistance to help them develop (or update) their action plans. The states may also use federal funds allocated through FHWA’s Railway-Highway Crossing (Section 130) Program to develop and update their action plans.

Further information on the final rule for State Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Action Plans is published in the Federal Register here.

UTU to Congress: Eliminate fatigue, boost safety

WASHINGTON — The single most important action Congress and the Federal Railroad Administration can take to improve rail safety — especially in the movement of hazardous materials — is to eliminate train-crew fatigue and provide predictable start times for train crews.

That was the message delivered April 7 to the House Railroad Subcommittee by UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. The subcommittee met to learn more about rail hazmat safety.

“The unpredictable work schedules of safety critical operating employees in the railroad industry has and continues to be the root cause of the fatigue problems that have placed many releases of hazardous materials on the front pages of our newspapers,” Stem told the subcommittee.

Although the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) provides for 10 hours of undisturbed rest between work assignments, “the application is misplaced because it does nothing to improve the predictability of reporting times nor does it allow employees the opportunity to plan their rest before reporting for duty,” Stem said.

“One small improvement that will make a tremendous difference in the safety for all train operations is simply to move the required 10 hours of undisturbed rest from immediately following service to immediately preceding service,” Stem said.

“The minimum of 10 hours of notification before reporting for 12 hours or more of safety critical service will allow operating employees to get their proper rest prior to reporting for duty so they can safety and alertly operate their train while on duty.

“An even greater safety enhancement would be to assign regular start times for each crew, or at a minimum require that crews be notified before going off duty of the time they must report back for service,” he said.

Stem told the subcommittee that many railroads “have worked hard since RSIA was passed to develop new software programs to enable their operations to deny the required rest days for employees. Many employees are required to observe their only day off while laying over in a one-star hotel at the away from home terminal.

“The itemized six-and-two and seven-and-three work-rest schedules in the RSIA remain a dream for 95 percent of our freight operating employees,” Stem said.

The UTU’s national legislative director also stressed a need for more frequent track inspections. “Timely track inspections by qualified track inspectors should be conducted with a frequency directly proportional to the amount of traffic passing over a track segment,” Stem told the subcommittee.

Stem provided the subcommittee, on behalf of the UTU and its members, a list of 24 specific recommendations to reduce crew fatigue:

  1. Railroad employees covered by the hours of service law shall be provided a predictable and defined work/rest period.
  2. A 10-hour call for all unassigned road service. This provision would require the 10 hours of undisturbed rest be provided immediately prior to performing covered service instead of immediately following service.
  3. All yard service assignments with defined start times will be covered by the same provisions that now apply to passenger and commuter rail.
  4. All yardmaster assignments will be HOS-covered service under the freight employees’ rule.
  5. The FRA shall issue regulations within 12 months to require all deadhead transportation in excess of a certain number of hours to be counted as time on duty and a job start.
  6. No amount of time off-duty at the away from home terminal will reset the calendar clock of job starts, and the employee shall not be required to take mandatory rest days at the away from home terminal.
  7. 24 hours off duty at the home terminal which does not include a full calendar day will reset the calendar clock.
  8. Interim release periods require notification to the crew before going off duty. If the crew is not notified, the 10 hours uninterrupted rest will prohibit changing the service to include an interim release.
  9. There shall be a two-hour limit on limbo time per each tour of duty.
  10. There shall be assigned a minimum of 24 hours off duty at the designated home terminal in each seven-day period during which time the employee shall be unavailable for any service for the railroad. The off-duty period shall encompass a minimum of one full calendar day and the employee shall be notified not less than seven calendar days prior to the assigned off duty period.
  11. A railroad shall provide hot nutritious food 24 hours a day at the sleeping quarters when the crew is at the designated away from home terminal, and at an interim release location. If such food is not provided on a railroad’s premises, a restaurant that provides such food shall not be located more than five minutes normal walking distance from the employee’s sleeping quarters or other rest facility. Fast food establishments shall not satisfy the requirements of this subsection.
  12. A railroad shall be prohibited from providing sleeping quarters in areas where switching or humping operations are performed.
  13. Not later than 12 months after the date of enactment of this act, the FRA shall promulgate a regulation requiring whistle-board signs allocated at least 1/4 mile in advance of public highway-rail grade crossings. Provided, however, such regulation shall not apply to such crossings that are subject to a whistle ban.
  14. Under the railroad whistle-blower law, the secretary of labor shall have subpoena power to require the production of documents and/or the attendance of witnesses to give testimony.
  15. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation or order, whenever Congress enacts legislation mandating that the FRA promulgate a railroad safety regulation, there shall be no requirement for a cost/benefit analysis by the FRA.
  16. During an accident/incident investigation process, upon request, a railroad shall produce event recorder information to law enforcement personnel and to the designated employee representative(s) defined under the Railway Labor Act.
  17. In an engineer or conductor decertification proceeding, if the FRA issues a final order in favor of an employee, a railroad shall be prohibited from subsequently attempting to discipline such employee for any alleged acts which may have arisen from the incident involved in the decertification proceeding.
  18. In an engineer or conductor certification or decertification proceeding the FRA shall have the authority to require the retesting of the employee, to order the employee’s reinstatement with the same seniority status the employee would be entitled to but for decertification or refusal of certification, and to grant any other or further relief that the FRA deems appropriate.
  19. All federal railroad safety laws and regulations shall be subject only to the preemption requirements set forth in the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
  20. A railroad owned or operated by a state or other governmental entity shall, as a condition of being a recipient of federal funds, agree immediately thereafter the receipt of such funds to waive any defense of sovereign immunity in a cause of action for damages brought against such railroad alleging a violation of a federal railroad safety law or regulation pursuant to title 28, 45, or 49, United States Code.
  21. No state law or regulation covering walkways for railroad employees shall be preempted or precluded until such time as the FRA promulgates a regulation which substantially subsumes the subject matter.
  22. In any claim alleging a violation of a federal railroad safety law, a settlement of such claim cannot release a cause of action, injury or death which did not exist at the time of settlement of such claim.
  23. An employee of the NTSB or the FRA who previously worked as a railroad employee has the right to return to railroad employment with all seniority retained.
  24. Amtrak shall not be liable for damages or liability, in a claim arising out of an accident or incident unless the said Corporation is negligent in causing the accident or incident.

Worker input crucial to reducing rail risks

If a congressionally ordered railroad risk reduction program is to be effective, the Federal Railroad Administration must include railroad employees and their labor unions in the process of evaluating and managing the program.

That is the message seven rail labor organizations sent to the FRA Feb. 8 in response to an earlier FRA notice of proposed rulemaking implementing a risk reduction program.

The program was ordered by Congress in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA). Its purpose is to reduce the consequences and rates of railroad accidents, incidents, injuries and fatalities.

The UTU was joined by the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and Transport Workers Union in commenting to the FRA.

Congress specifically concluded that having railroads “unilaterally decide issues of safety would not be in the public interest,” the UTU and the other labor organizations told the FRA. Yet, the notice of proposed rulemaking “undermines” that congressional intent.

To ensure an effective risk reduction program, the FRA must solicit rail labor input and participation, said the labor organizations. Specific to train and engine workers, such participation must include:

  • Technology implementation.
  • Fatigue management.
  • Risks posed by joint operations, including passenger and commuter trains.
  • Security risks.
  • National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.
  • Disclosure of all carrier bonus, incentive and compensation systems that reward management employees for meeting or exceeding safety related goals, targets, benchmarks or milestones.
  • Disclosure of policies and data related to waiver and discipline practices that in any way discourage accurate reporting of accidents, incidents, injuries or close calls.

The labor organizations also asked the FRA to develop historical data on the following:

  • Number of disciplinary charges filed for rule violations.
  • Number of whistle-blower cases filed by employees.
  • Number of employee dismissals.
  • Number of FRA reportable injuries.
  • Number of meet and confer sessions related to safety.
  • Safety records of regional and shortline railroads.
  • Retaliation, intimidation and overall culture, attitude and policy toward safety reporting by employees.
  • Safety incentive programs and policies that create peer pressure within work groups not to report injuries in order to preserve incentive prizes.
  • A carrier’s past response to risk, hazards, defects, near misses and safety complaints reported by employees.
  • The effectiveness of operating rules and practices in risk reduction.
  • The effectiveness of safety and training programs.

Additionally, the labor organizations asked the FRA to “pay particular attention to railroads that regularly intimidate employees to cut corners [and] hold formal hearings and discipline employees whenever accidents or injuries are reported.”

The process for evaluating and managing a risk reduction program must also include direct employee input, said the labor organizations. “There is no substitute for interviewing employees actually doing the work,” and such interviews should mask the identity of employees to ensure “they may speak freely.”

Of special importance to train and engine workers is the implementation of a fatigue management plan. “A human being cannot possibly be rested to work safely unless that human being knows when they must report for service,” said the labor organizations. “Often, safety critical employees are forced to report for service even when fatigued, or [they] face disciplinary hearings and loss of employment.

“We encourage the FRA to take immediate action to require 10 hours of advance notification for all operating employees not otherwise on assignments with defined start times,” said the labor organizations.

To read the comments of the seven labor organizations, click here.

To read the FRA’s earlier notice of proposed rulemaking, click on the following link:

www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2010-12-08/pdf/2010-30836.pdf

We’ll keep pressing to improve, protect

James Stem

By James Stem
UTU National Legislative Director

January brings a new session of Congress and the start of state legislative sessions across the country. Our UTU legislative team in Washington and our state legislative directors will be on guard protecting the interests of our members.

Two old UTU friends are in charge of key transportation committees in the House and Senate. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) now chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee; and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) continues as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Among UTU legislative priorities:

  • Growing passenger and freight rail transportation, including Amtrak, public transit and commuter airline service. America has become too dependent on foreign oil and expanded railroad and public transit service can help reduce that dependency and provide not just jobs, but excellent careers.
  • Growing funding for transit. While demand is growing, many transit systems have buses and commuter rail cars stored because of a shortage of operating funds. We will work to secure more flexible funding so service can be maintained and expanded.
  • Work to prevent the weakening or privatization of Social Security and Railroad Retirement.
  • Work with our aviation partners for reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration to include new safety provisions.
  • Work to pass improvements to the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Our members know the solution to fatigue: “Just tell me when I must report for work and I will show up rested.”

Among improvements sought will be: A 10-hour call for all unassigned road service; a provision to allow regular yard jobs only eight hours off-duty between shifts; require yardmaster assignments to be covered by hours-of-service provisions; require advance notice of interim release periods; and, a limitation on limbo time to a maximum of two hours for each tour of duty.

While the UTU has many friends on both sides of the aisle, we expect very few major policy issues to pass Congress the next two years given the divided government (Republicans in charge of the House; Democrats controlling the Senate).

While that may be disappointing, we also expect there to be less opportunity for bad things to happen.

That said, we will keep pressing on and do our very best to protect the interest of our members.

UTU working to improve Rail Safety Act

By James Stem, UTU National Legislative Director

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) was not all that rail labor wanted in a safety bill, but it was a good start, and contains much of what we have long sought. Work still needs to be done, including an end to limbo time, advance notice of start times, and an end to arbitrary discipline tied to unreasonable availability policies.

We said after passage of the bill that we would work with our friends in Congress to refine and improve the bill.

The process has begun.

In his final days in Congress, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) introduced H.R. 6519, the Railroad Hours of Service Act.

Rail labor and Mr. Oberstar, one of the best friends rail labor has ever had in Congress, knew there was not time in the lame-duck session of Congress for the bill — which includes improvements to hours-of-service provisions of the RSIA — to pass.

Thus, H.R. 6519 was intended as a place-setter — a bill whose provisions already are winning support among UTU lawmaker friends and which will be re-introduced by other friends of the UTU in the new Congress in 2011.

The UTU, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen will be working closely on a new bill with our congressional friends of labor come January and the start of the new Congress.

Provisions of the bill include:

  • An affirmative statement that railroad workers subject to hours-of-service “shall be provided predictable and defined work and rest periods.”
  • A required 10 hours of undisturbed rest be taken immediately prior to going on duty rather than immediately after going off duty. This provision is intended to end the common practice of so-called “paper deadheads” and “dropped turns” with a 10-hour call.
  • All yardmaster — as well as co-mingled service as yardmasters and dispatchers — are to be subject to hours-of-service regulations.
  • Deadheads in excess of a time period shall count will count as job starts.
  • All interim release periods are to require prior notification before going off duty.
  • Limbo time will be restricted to two hours per each tour of duty.

Although some provisions we also want were not included in H.R. 6519, we will be working to have them included in the new bill this next session of Congress.

They include:

  • A provision to cover regular yard assignments with defined start times under provisions that now apply to passenger and commuter rail assignments.
  • A provision that no amount of time at an away-from-home terminal will reset the calendar day clock.
  • A provision requiring that hot, nutritious food be available 24 hours per day at the sleeping quarters.

The UTU also will support additional provisions specific to railroad signalmen as sought by their organization.

The new Congress will include 100 new members, and many were elected with the support of rail labor organizations. We have already begun discussions with those new members and are continuing discussions with our other friends in Congress toward early introduction of the Oberstar place-setter, with the additional provisions included.

UTU, BLET challenge HOS interpretations

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 made the first significant amendments to hours-of-service laws in nearly 40 years.

In response, the FRA issued an interim statement of agency policy and interpretation, which poses significant problems for train- and engine-service employees with regard to employee safety and earnings.

The UTU and the BLET now have jointly asked the FRA to reconsider portions of their interim statement of agency policy and interpretation. The new rules would impact more than 85,000 train- and engine-service employees who are members of the UTU and BLET.

Significantly, the UTU and BLET are asking the FRA to revisit its interpretation of how to determine whether an employee has received the statutorily required amount of off-duty time as prescribed by the Rail Service Improvement Act (RSIA).

The RSIA amended the statutory off-duty period by eliminating the option of eight consecutive off-duty hours, and required that the minimum statutory off-duty period be 10 consecutive hours in all cases (except in intercity passenger and commuter service).

The UTU and BLET assert that, “on its face, this change did nothing to force FRA to change its longstanding interpretation of how sufficient off-duty time is determined.”

Under the existing FRA method, a railroad is required to look back 24 hours at the employee’s on-duty time and determine if the employee had 10 hours of undisturbed rest in that window. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then the employee can work a full 12 hours. That approach is called the “fresh start look back” analysis.

But the FRA, in its interim statement of agency policy and interpretation, proposes to scrap the “fresh start look back” analysis and substitute what is called a “continuous look back” analysis.

A “continuous look back” analysis would require the railroads to look back at every moment during a duty tour to determine if the employee has had 10 consecutive hours of undisturbed rest in the 24 hours prior to that particular moment.

This new “continuous look back” approach would prohibit an employee from working the full 12 hours that are permitted by the law if they were to have more than a two-hour call.

The FRA’s proposed “continuous look back” approach not only adversely impacts an employee’s earnings, but interferes with a railroad’s need to maximize employee productivity.

In fact, the “continuous look back” approach also could result in more employees being forced to remain at away-terminal locations rather than returning home, which adversely impacts family life and imposes greater costs on a railroad.

For example, if an employee has a three-hour call — and this is generally of necessity in large metropolitan areas where commute times are long — the employee could only work 11 hours, because when the first minute of the 12th hour arrives, the railroad could not look back 24 hours and find 10 consecutive hours undisturbed hours off duty. (11 work + 3 hour call + 10 hours rest = 24 hours) Thus, the longer the call time, the less work the employee can legally perform.

For assignments with an interim period of rest, the most an employee could ever work is 10 hours. For an unassigned (extra board) employee who is working on call, the call time further reduces the amount of work time proportionally. If they get the typical two-hour call, the interim period of release is rendered moot.

10-hour call is best

The better solution would be to require a 10-hour call, which would permit 12-hour on-duty shifts, the UTU and BLET told the FRA. “It is obvious that an employee who is aware that they will be required to report for work in 10 hours is best able to schedule their rest so that they arrive at work in the most alert condition possible.

“The best medical evidence available establishes what the labor organizations have known for years: that employees will be most alert just after they wake up,” the UTU and BLET told the FRA. “We contend that an employee who sleeps or naps as close to their reporting time as possible, within reason, is the best rested employee and therefore the safest.”

In the joint statement signed by UTU International President Mike Futhey and BLET Acting National President Paul Sorrow, the FRA is asked to “reaffirm the long-standing ‘look back fresh start’ interpretation, which has served both safety and the industry well, and decline to adopt the proposed ‘continuous look back.'”

Click here to read the joint UTU/BLET submission to the FRA.

We are a union on the move

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

We are a union on the move, growing stronger financially and adding new members through aggressive organizing.

In addition to organizing 300 pilots and flight attendants at Great Lakes Airlines recently, we have authorization cards from a majority of the 110 pilots at Lynx Aviation. We are talking with pilots and flight attendants at other airlines, as well as bus operators on unorganized properties and employees of short line railroads.

Indeed, we are a union on the move — in organizing, defending existing agreements, and having our voice heard in Washington and state capitols.

While the Rail Safety Improvement Act is not everything we sought, we were able to achieve conductor certification, a deadline for implementation of positive train control, and a provision for general chairpersons to negotiate a better balance between new hours-of-service limitations and earnings.

I have appointed a UTU team to work with the FRA, other labor organizations and carriers in drafting conductor certification standards.

I have created a UTU Rail Transportation Safety Team to deal directly with the FRA in the face of an unacceptable spike in on-duty employee fatalities and career-ending injuries. Jointly with the BLET, we filed a petition with the FRA seeking an emergency order prohibiting the use of one-person crews in conventional and remote-control operations.

We are working with others in transportation labor to gain legislation eliminating flight-crew fatigue and to bring flight attendants under protections of OSHA.

Through the AFL-CIO, we are pushing for changes in commercial driver’s license regulations that subject bus operators to loss of their jobs if they receive citations while operating personal automobiles. We also are working to gain legislation requiring improved crash-resistance buses, uniform driver-training standards, and required training in dealing with abusive and threatening passengers.

The UTU is growing financially stronger owing to new cost containment controls and conservative investment policies, with our general fund balance up 90 percent since January 2008. UTUIA earnings have been growing each quarter, and the UTUIA has a $23 million surplus. And our DIPP claims no longer exceed premiums.

Officers at every level are benefitting from iLink features, and the UTU University is providing members with online educational opportunities that will continue to be expanded.

This administration remains true to its pledge of two-way communication. We invite your comments and suggestions and we will continue to provide leadership messages posted at www.utu.org.

UTU, BLE comment to FRA on HOS

In a joint submission aimed at improving safety and the security of member paychecks, the UTU and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to clarify and simplify its interim policies relating to, and interpretations of, the Rail Safety Improvement Act’s changes to hours-of-service limitations that went into effect July 16.

The sought-after clarifications and simplifications fall into three categories:

  1. The Rail Safety Improvement Act’s (RSIA) prohibition of communication with employees during statutory off-duty periods;
  2. The RSIA’s provisions pertaining to mandatory off-duty time following the initiation of an on-duty period for a specified number of consecutive days; and,
  3. The maximum number of hours that may be worked in a calendar month.

The joint UTU/BLET comments observe that the hours-of-service provisions in the safety act “produced the most far-reaching effects on hours-of-service of safety-critical railroad workers since enactment of the original Hours-of-Service Act in 1908.” In fact, the FRA, itself, observes that the hours-of-service amendments “are extraordinarily complex and comprehensive.”

Because of the complexity, said the UTU and the BLET, “the statute itself fails to adequately address a number of important issues that will almost certainly have a substantial effect on our members. Moreover, FRA has been forced to provide interpretations that must address goals that sometimes are in conflict. It is our sincere hope that these [joint UTU/BLET] comments will provide a basis for improvement of FRA’s policies and interpretations in a way that is faithful to the intent of Congress.”

The UTU and the BLET also asked the FRA “to further clarify their stated interpretations in plain language to the maximum extent possible, so there is no room for debate concerning the application of those interpretations.”

The UTU and the BLET noted also that they were not commenting on each policy and interpretation “because we do not want to unnecessarily burden the record. However, FRA should not conclude that we concur with each of the policies and interpretations with which we strongly disagree, but we are withholding comment concerning them because FRA’s position has been dictated by the statute itself, and FRA cannot depart from statutory requirements; therefore, comments concerning these subjects would be futile.

“The comments are intended to provide greater clarity to the sometimes confusing provisions of the law, and to assist UTU and BLET general committees in their efforts to negotiate a better balance between maintaining earnings and the new requirements,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey and BLET National President Ed Rodzwicz in a joint statement.

To read the joint UTU and BLET submission to the FRA, click here.

We must make rail safety act work

By International President Mike Futhey

Compromise is the art of successful negotiations. But when one party goes to the negotiating table unwilling to compromise, the results can be unpleasant for both, and produce a result that might not be the best choice.

Such was the case with the Rail Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress last fall.

Repeatedly, rail labor told the carriers that if we don’t jointly reach a negotiated agreement on employee fatigue, limbo time, availability policies and arbitrary discipline, that a major rail accident would force Congress to write legislation that neither the carriers nor labor would like.

The UTU and the other rail unions, whose members are subject to hours-of-service regulations, had three objectives:

  1. An end to limbo time, with a short phase-out period.
  2. Advance notice of start times, or a minimum of a 10-hour call.
  3. An end to arbitrary discipline tied to unreasonable availability policies.

The carriers refused to accept rail labor’s objectives. So, when a series of severe and headline-grabbing rail accidents occurred, it became clear that Congress was going to act on its own.

The fatigue mitigation piece of the Rail Safety Improvement Act had been on Congress’s agenda for 15 years. The fatal accident in Chatsworth, Calif., involving a commuter train, was the ice breaker.

Rail labor’s position was consistent throughout the process.

The result was not all that rail labor or the carriers wanted in a rail safety bill. The 10-hour call principle was included only as a pilot project, and 10 hours of rest between each shift was mandated.

Had the carriers negotiated with us in good faith, the result could have been a joint recommendation to Congress that maximum flexibility be afforded carriers and rail labor to craft solutions based on the reality of local situations.

The best legislation always starts with an agreement in principle with the involved parties, but the railroads would not agree to any change in the application of unlimited limbo time, to accurate lineups, or an absenteeism policy that would force safety-critical employees to work when they were fatigued.

Instead, lawmakers took the one-size-fits-all approach because of the railroads’ refusal to discuss fatigue solutions.

We are now working to find local flexibility options to fine-tune the principles contained in the Rail Safety Improvement Act.

We are not optimistic that this can be achieved in so short a time frame, even though the carriers similarly want more flexibility in the law.

What we may be able to achieve is permission from the FRA for an FRA-monitored pilot project that permits flexible approaches instead of one-size-fits-all regulations.

The UTU and other rail operating unions are committed to do everything in their power to achieve more flexible regulations that recognize that situations are not equivalent across all railroads, all operating districts or all rail yards.

We will keep you informed.