WASHINGTON – A final rule on improved locomotive cab safety and comfort has been published by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The final rule, affecting all new and remanufactured locomotives in road and yard service, follows collaboration among the FRA, rail labor and carriers through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) process and becomes effective June 8.
Significant in the final rule is a requirement that new and remanufactured locomotives be equipped with a secure cab lock to prevent unauthorized intrusions. While many locomotives do have cab locks, not all are “secure.”
As secure cabs create intolerable conditions during hot weather, the new rule also requires climate control – air cooling inside the cab in hot weather as well as a cab environment ensuring a low temperature of no less than 60 degrees in cold weather – for all new and remanufactured locomotives.
“Fatigue management and security concerns require climate controlled locomotive cabs,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. He observed that “CSX is doing a good job of consist management to move the newer and air-conditioned locomotives to the lead.”
Stem also observed that 22 months ago, a crew member was fatally shot inside a locomotive cab in Louisiana during a robbery attempt. And while that locomotive did have locking devices for the cab door and windows, the locomotive was not air-conditioned, which caused the crew not to secure the cab.
The new rule also affects use and operation of remote control locomotives, and revised standards for locomotive brake maintenance, headlight replacement and locomotive electronics.
WASHINGTON – It’s now official. Conductor certification, mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, became effective Jan. 1.
In a final rule, published by the Federal Railroad Administration Nov. 9, railroads were ordered to implement, by Jan. 1, a formal training program for certifying conductors and a formal process for training prospective conductors, thus ensuring job competency.
The FRA’s final rule on conductor certification follows many of the provisions of locomotive engineer certification, with a number of improvements the UTU, joined by the BLET, was able to obtain.
Following are highlights of the final rule, which ran almost 300 pages in the Nov. 9 Federal Register.
* While the railroad and its employees must comply with the final rule, there is no limitation on any rights the employee may have under a collective bargaining agreement
* Conductors currently employed will be grandfathered for from one to three years, with one-third of those conductors required to be tested for certification in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Beginning in 2015, one-third of the total conductor workforce will be recertified each year.
* Each railroad, in submitting its proposed certification program to the FRA for approval, must simultaneously submit it to the presidents of the UTU and BLET, which will have 45 days to comment. The intent is to encourage coordination by carriers with local union officers in formulating the certification program, and to gain a supporting statement from the general committee of jurisdiction.
* A conductor losing certification may work as an assistant conductor, brakeman, yard helper, switchman or utility employee, but cannot work as a locomotive engineer. If that individual holds both conductor and engineer certification, and the engineer certification is revoked, they may not work as a conductor.
* If the conductor certificate is revoked because of failing to control a train, violation of train speed, violation of brake test requirement, occupying main track without proper authority, tampering with safety devices, or an alcohol or drug violation, the decertified conductor may not work as a locomotive engineer. However, if the decertification is for violation of a rule covering shoving or pushing movements, or equipment left out to foul track, switches and derails, the decertified conductor may work as a locomotive engineer.
* The conductor must be trained by a qualified person on the territory over which that conductor will operate. If the certified conductor lacks territorial qualification, and has never been qualified on main track physical characteristics, that conductor shall be assisted by a person who is a certified conductor qualified on the territory, and NOT a member of the crew.
* If the conductor has been previously qualified over the main track territory, and the time limits have expired on their qualification, the conductor may be assisted by any knowledgeable person, including a member of the crew, other than the locomotive engineer on the crew, so as not to conflict with other safety sensitive duties.
* If the conductor lacks territorial qualification on other than main track, the conductor, where practical, shall be assisted by a certified conductor meeting the territorial qualifications. Where this is not practical, the conductor shall be provided an appropriate job aid, which includes maps, charts or other visual aids of the territory. This applies to all tracks on each territory.
* Territorial qualification is not required for short movements of one mile or less where track speed is 20-mph or less and movement is required to be at restricted speed, and the track grade is less than 1 percent.
Prior to revoking conductor certification, a railroad must:
* Provide notice of the reason for suspension, and an opportunity for a hearing before a person other than the investigating officer. Written confirmation of the notification shall be in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, the hearing shall be in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, but shall be convened within 10 days after the certificate is suspended, unless the conductor asks for a delay.
* Provide, no later than convening the hearing and notwithstanding any collective bargaining agreement, a copy of the written information and a list of the witnesses the railroad intends to present at the hearing. The railroad shall grant a recess if the information is provided just before the hearing. If the information is provided through written statements of an employee, the railroad shall make that employee available for examination during the hearing.
* Not revoke certification or recertification if there is sufficient evidence that an intervening cause prevented or materially impaired the conductor’s ability to comply with requirements.
Additionally, with regard to conductor certification:
* The appeal procedures largely mirror engineer certification regulations.
* The training requirements for new conductors are significantly improved from current requirements. In addition to improved initial training, this rule requires recurrent training for all conductors every three years during the recertification process. The recurrent training must be identified in the certification plan filed with FRA, including changes in operating rules, operating practices, new federal regulations and new equipment in service.
“The implementation of conductor certification enhances the skills and safety performance of freight and passenger conductors, provides a federal license ensuring proper training of conductors, and establishes a new basis for resisting management pressure to violate operating rules and federal regulations,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey.
The final rule is a result of input from all affected parties, including labor, through the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).
The UTU was represented on this RSAC Conductor Certification Working Group by Local 645 Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore, Local 1470 Chairperson David Brooks, General Chairperson (GO 049) John Lesniewski, Local 528 Legislative Representative Ron Parsons, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch, National Legislative Director James Stem, and UTU Rail Safety Coordinator for Designated Legal Counsel Larry Mann.
Click here to read the 278-page final rule on conductor certification.
Click here for more information on conductor certification.
Viewers of the cable television sitcom, Fawlty Towers, may recall an episode in which Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese) beat his broken-down car with a branch, blaming the car rather than his own failure to maintain it.
Being too negatively focused on a problem rather than identifying and pursuing a workable solution can be a costly error in the workplace.
Remote control operations come to mind. For sure, remote control cost jobs, but beating up on new technology has never preserved jobs in the long run, and diverts our productive energies from crafting a positive strategy to ensure new technology is safe and that those using the new technology are properly trained and compensated for their improved skills.
An example of positive problem solving through the identification of workable solutions is a recent joint petition filed with the FRA by the UTU and the BLET seeking a safety rule requiring a qualified conductor be aboard every freight train.
Indeed, a priority of the UTU International is finding positive solutions to problems affecting our membership.
Consider other recent initiatives:
In the face of an unacceptable increase in rail-employee fatalities and career-ending injuries, a rail safety task force was appointed by UTU International President Mike Futhey to gather information and make recommendations regarding employee safety. The task force has an interactive Web page accessible from the UTU home page at www.utu.org.
Within the next couple of weeks, the task force will post a member survey on its Web page, seeking information on workplace distractions, carrier-enforced work practices, instances of worker fatigue, and other workplace safety problems.
The Web page also encourages direct communication with task force members, intended to help the task force gather detailed facts required to back-up recommendations the task force will be making to the carriers for remedial action; and, if necessary, by the UTU International to the FRA and Congress.
Moreover, the International leadership is meeting with other rail labor organizations to build a coalition aimed at convincing the carriers that intimidation, harassment and excessive discipline are jeopardizing the ability of workers to do their jobs efficiently and safely.
President Futhey’s column in the September issue of the UTU News, which will reach your mailboxes within the next 10 days, speaks more to that problem; and the column will be posted at www.utu.org next week.
President Futhey encourages members to contact local chairpersons and general chairpersons to alert them to workplace situations where members unnecessarily are forced to look over their shoulder rather than focus on doing their jobs efficiently and safely. State legislative directors should always be made aware of safety problems on the job.
A listing of contact information for International vice presidents and other senior International officers also will accompany that column. This is an open-door administration and we want to hear from you.
While the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 does not contain all we wanted — and contains some provisions we didn’t want — we are working with other rail labor organizations toward a fine-tuning of that law. The law did give us conductor certification, and President Futhey has appointed a UTU team to an FRA Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to work toward a carrier/labor/FRA consensus on certifying conductors.
Also, in a joint submission aimed at improving safety and the security of member paychecks, the UTU and the BLET have asked the FRA to clarify and simplify its interim policies and interpretations relating to hours of service provisions of the Rail Safety Improvement Act.
Additionally, in conjunction with the BLET, we are working closely with the FRA to ensure that the FRA’s rules on Positive Train Control — whose implementation is mandated no later than 2015 by the Rail Safety Improvement Act — include provisions to ensure the technology is properly tested and monitored, that operating crews are properly trained, and that employee and public safety be the number one priority over all other considerations.
With regard to our airline members, the UTU is working with others in transportation labor to gain legislation eliminating flight-crew fatigue and to bring flight attendants under protections of OSHA.
As for our bus members, the UTU is working through the AFL-CIO 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-resistant buses, uniform driver-training standards, and required training in dealing with abusive and threatening passengers.
Finally, member suggestions as to what the UTU should propose in Railway Labor Act Section 6 notices (the first step in revising the national rail contract), have been catalogued and the District 1 Association of General Chairpersons will soon be finalizing them prior to our Section 6 notices being served on the carriers in November.
To keep current on what the UTU is doing on your behalf to protect jobs and improve wages, benefits and working conditions, sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on the link below: