The U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) enacted a final rule on August 12, 2011, limiting the number of consecutive hours passenger train crews may work. This new FRA regulation aims to improve overall railroad industry safety and protect passenger train crews from what the FRA considers preventable risks.

The Department of Transportation used scientific data when issuing its most recent regulation, applying “fatigue science” to determine proper employee work schedules comprised of maximum on-duty periods and minimum off-duty periods. Secretary LaHood stated, “[s]afety is job one, and by focusing our attention on proactive risk reduction strategies like these, we will be able to reduce the number of accidents on our railways.” This new program will let us recognize and prevent fatigue problems for passenger train crews before they arise.”

The FRA’s use of “fatigue science” included examining fatigue modeling tools and data on human alertness to cut down on fatigue-related hazards, such as train accidents/derailments that passenger train crews may face. For example, the new regulation takes into consideration the difference between working a day shift compared to a night shift when employee fatigue is most likely to occur.

The FRA’s Risk Reduction Program is focusing on scientific and predictive data as a cornerstone of its initiative to prevent accidents and improve overall railroad industry safety. The FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, which includes railroad industry and labor representatives, helped to develop this final rule aimed at protecting railroad worker’s safety. The final rule will become effective on October 15, 2011.

The law imposes certain legal obligations on common carriers such as railroads, including this new FRA regulation. These obligations can vary from state to state and therefore choosing legal counsel experienced in railroad litigation is critical. If you would like more information, please call us at 1-800-374-2144 or contact us through email.

Source: Federal Railroad Administration, Press Room, U. S. Department of Transportation Launches Initiative to Prevent Employee Fatigue and Increase Safety on America’s Railways, August 12, 2011