Federal Government Will Regulate Railroad Hours of Service and Increase Focus on Safety Risk Reduction, Under the Administration’s Proposed Rail Safety Legislation

WASHINGTON — For the first time ever the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will have authority to regulate railroad worker hours of service and will provide greater focus on risk reduction to improve safety in the railroad industry under a rail safety reauthorization bill submitted to the Congress today, FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman announced.

“We must embrace new methods and strategies to further reduce the number of accidents in the rail industry,” Boardman said. “Railroads must be more accountable for the safety of their operations and rail employees need work schedules that reduce fatigue and promote safety,” he added, noting that the bill will reauthorize the federal rail safety program through 2011.

Boardman said the FRA proposal will replace railroad hours of service laws, first enacted in 1907, with comprehensive, scientifically based regulations to address the serious issue of worker fatigue. The laws, which set the maximum on-duty or minimum off-duty hours for train crews, dispatchers, and signal maintainers would now be set by the FRA, much like hours of services standards are set for airline pilots and truck drivers.

Under the proposal, the FRA Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, made up of railroad management, labor representatives and other key stakeholders, will review the issue and develop recommendations on new hours of service limits based on current, sound science before any changes are made.

To achieve additional safety improvements, the proposal also will supplement traditional safety efforts with the establishment of risk reduction programs, Boardman explained.

FRA will place increased emphasis on developing methods to systematically evaluate safety risks in order to hold railroads more accountable for improving the safety of their own operations, including risk management strategies and implementing plans to eliminate or minimize the opportunity for workers to make errors which can result in accidents.

Other provisions in the proposal include requiring states and railroads to update the National Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Inventory on a regular basis to ensure current information is available for hazard analysis in determining where federal safety improvement funding is directed.

In addition, the proposed legislation would expand the authority of the FRA to disqualify any individual as unfit for safety-sensitive service for violation of federal regulations related to transporting hazardous materials, among other items.

— Special to Railfanning.org News Wire