The Rail Safety Improvement Act
of 2008 was signed into law on Oct. 16, 2008.
Of significance to train and engine service employees are
changes to the maximum hours of service, which the new law
Following is what the law says and means with regard to some of
the most significant sections relating to UTU members.
I. HOURS OF SERVICE:
The hours of service changes went into effect July 16, 2009,
which is nine months following enactment of the law.
TIME ON DUTY:
●A railroad may NOT require
or allow a train & engine service (T&ES) employee to remain or
go on duty in any month where the employee had spent a total of
276 hours in any one or a combination of the following
activities: on duty, waiting for transportation, in deadhead
transportation to a place of final release, or in any other
mandatory service for the carrier.
This means the combination of on-duty time, limbo time, waiting
for deadhead transportation, deadhead time, and any other time
spent in mandatory service (which may include rules training
time, medical examinations).
Once you serve 276 hours in any month, the carrier may not
require or allow you to go on duty, remain on duty, wait for
deadhead transportation, be in deadhead transportation or in any
other mandatory service for the remainder of the month.
If the carrier does not take you out of service prior to
exceeding the 276 hour monthly cap, or if the carrier attempts
to put you in service where you would violate the 276 hour cap,
you must take yourself out of service under the law.
Once the 276 hour cap is met in any month, you may not report
for duty again prior to 12:01 a.m. of the first day of the next
A call to report for duty, followed by a release, whereby the
employee does not go on duty, is not counted against hours of
service. However, the time spent travelling to a point of duty
assignment other than a regular reporting point constitutes
deadheading to duty and counts as time on duty.
The FRA is required to revise its rules in advance of July 2009
to require the carrier to keep paper or electronic records
detailing each T&ES employee’s hours per month.
●A T&ES employee may NOT remain or go on duty for a period in
excess of 12 consecutive hours.
If a combination of on-duty time and limbo time exceeds 12
hours, the employee must receive 10 hours of undisturbed rest,
PLUS the number of hours of limbo time that exceeded the 12
hours on duty. Thus, a 12 hour shift and two hours of limbo time
would require 12 hours of undisturbed rest before again
reporting for duty.
●A T&ES employee may NOT remain or go on duty UNLESS the
employee has had at least 10 consecutive hours undisturbed rest
off duty during the prior 24 hours.
Undisturbed rest means just what is says. The carrier may not
telephone the employee, page the employee, knock on the door of
the employee, or otherwise disturb the employee for 10 hours.
The carrier may, however, send an e-mail message to the employee
during this time period. But the carrier may not disturb the
employee with a return-to-duty call until after the 10 hour
As noted above, if the on-duty time plus limbo time exceeded 12
hours, the 10-hour undisturbed rest time is increased by the
number of hours of limbo time.
There is an exception during emergencies, and, also, the U.S.
Secretary of Transportation may waive this section for intercity
and commuter service if it is consistent with safety.
If the collective bargaining agreement requires the employee
have 90 minutes to report for duty following the call, then the
employee would have at least 11 ½ hours off duty, as the call
could not be made before the 10 hours of undisturbed rest has
●A T&ES employee may NOT remain on duty or go on duty AFTER
that employee has initiated an on-duty period each day for six
consecutive days, unless that employee has had at least 48
consecutive hours off duty at the employee's home terminal,
during which time the employee is unavailable for any service.
This means when you complete the sixth consecutive start day,
you must be given at least 48 consecutive hours (not calendar
days, but 48 consecutive hours) off duty at your home terminal
before you are again required to report for work. This includes
However, if you are released from duty at the away from home
terminal at the end of the sixth consecutive start day, you may
work a seventh consecutive start day to return to your home
terminal. Then, however, you must be given at least 72
consecutive hours (not three calendar days, but 72 consecutive
hours) off duty at your home terminal before you are again
required to report for work.
If the 276 hour cap occurs on the last day of the month, and you
have not completed your mandatory 48 (or 72) consecutive hours
off duty at your home terminal, you MUST complete that mandatory
time off before again reporting for duty.
If the 276 hour cap occurs at an away from home terminal, the
railroad may NOT deadhead you back to your home terminal, as
that would violate the law. The FRA must yet determine the
manner in which you are returned to your home terminal.
The trigger is initiating an on-duty start for six consecutive
days. Even if you work just one hour, the fact that you have
initiated an on-duty start that day counts toward the six
However, the count begins anew on any calendar day in which you
do NOT initiate an on-duty period. Thus, if you are called for
duty Monday-Friday (five start days), and do not work on
Saturday, but are called back to work on Sunday, then the
six-day clock begins anew on Sunday.
The clock covers all T&ES jobs, meaning it does not matter if
you ebb and flow between engineer and conductor jobs, or between
extra board and pool jobs. The only trigger is initiating an
on-duty period as a T&ES employee.
Note that the six- and seven-day clocks are not applicable to
intercity passenger carriers, short haul passenger carriers, and
commuter operators at this time.
General chairpersons may negotiate local collective bargaining
agreements providing a better balance between time off and
earnings, while preserving guaranteed time off.
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation may also waive the “6&2”
and “7&3” requirements if the collective bargaining agreement
provides for a different arrangement AND the secretary deems it
consistent with safety. In no case may a local agreement exceed
the 276 hours monthly cap.
The UTU International will provide assistance in these
negotiations at the request of general chairpersons. The FRA has
indicated that it, also, will provide assistance to general
chairpersons for the purpose of assisting in interpreting the
law and new regulations pursuant to the law.
●A railroad may not require an employee to spend more than 40
hours per month in limbo time.
This 40-hour rule begins July 17, 2009, and continues through
July 16, 2010. Beginning after July 16, 2010, the carrier may not
require an employee to spend more than 30 hours per month in
limbo time. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation may adjust that
time period beginning July 17, 2011.
II. ON DUTY INJURIES:
Transportation to Hospital:
●If the employee is injured on the job, the employer must
provide the injured employee with transportation to the nearest
The injured employee may not demand to be taken to a more
distant hospital, but the destination must be the nearest
hospital and not an emergency center.
The employer is not required to transport the injured employee
via an ambulance. They may be transported via a company vehicle.
A railroad is prohibited from disciplining, or threatening to
discipline, an employee seeking medical treatment, or for
following orders or a treatment plan of a treating physician.
Employees may bring an action against the railroad, under
whistleblower provisions, for any violation; and, in addition to
recovering back pay and reinstatement, they may recover,
separate from a FELA action, compensatory damages, attorney’s
fees and punitive damages up to $250,000.
Only the injured employee’s physician can certify when the
injured employee is fit to return to work, but the railroad can
then order an examination by its own physician to determine if
the employee is fit, under railroad policies, to return to work,
or should be kept off duty for a longer period.
If you are involved in a critical incident, such as a
highway-rail grade-crossing accident or a train striking another
employee or pedestrian, you may demand to be relieved from duty
for the purpose of receiving counseling. In addition, you may
receive immediate relief of service for the balance of the duty
III. CONDUCTOR CERTIFICATION:
●No later than April 2010, the FRA must conduct a rulemaking
to determine the parameters for conductor certification.
The UTU will participate in that rulemaking, which will be
announced in advance through publication in the Federal Register
and via the UTU Web site.
Collective bargaining will determine whether a certified
conductor receives additional pay.
If a certified conductor is de-certified, and barred from
working as a conductor, the conductor probably will be permitted
to bump to a non-certified brakeman or yardman position, unless
the FRA also designates that employee to be unsafe to perform a
The FRA will have to determine if a decertified engineer may
work as a certified conductor.
Railroads are required to provide training in all aspects of FRA
regulations, which includes hazmat training.
V. ALCOHOL & DRUG TESTING:
●Any non-federal alcohol and drug testing by a railroad shall
be conducted using a scientifically recognized method of
The employee can challenge whether the railroad has used a
scientifically recognized method of testing.
The railroad must provide a redress process for an employee to
petition for, and receive, a hearing to review the specimen
results, and a dispute or grievance shall be resolved under the
provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
VI. POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL:
●Class I railroads, as well as intercity passenger and
commuter railroads, must install PTC on main line tracks by Dec.
The requirement to install PTC does not affect existing
VII. MECHANICAL & BRAKE INSPECTIONS IN MEXICO:
No mechanical or brake inspection may be performed in Mexico
unless the FRA certifies the inspection is equivalent to those
performed in the U.S.; that the inspectors are receiving what
the FRA considers appropriate training; that the FRA is
permitted to perform on-site inspections; and that inspection
reports are available.
Any questions should be directed toward your state
legislative director or your general chairperson, who received
from the International and the International's rail safety
consultant an extensive briefing on provisions of the new law.
Questions should not be sent to the UTU International.
Where SLDs and GCs are not able to answer a question, they will
work directly with the International, which has opened a line of
communication with the FRA.
As provisions regarding hours of service do not go into effect
until July 2009, and will require rulemakings or further
interpretation by the FRA, some questions may not be able to be
answered with finality for some time.
Any new information will be posted at
www.utu.org and available by
clicking on the "2008 Rail Safety Act" box on the home page.
Members should visit that Web page regularly to check for