FRA Administrator, Joseph H. Boardman, claims the proposed legislation will replace existing railroad hours of service laws enacted in 1907 with comprehensive, scientifically based regulations that address issues of worker fatigue. Present rules permit train crews to work 12 hours with 10 hours of rest. If they work less than 12 hours they are required only 8 hours of sleep.
“We must embrace new methods and strategies to further reduce the number of accidents in the rail industry,” says Boardman. “Railroads must be more accountable for the safety of their operations and rail employees need work schedules that reduce fatigue and promote safety.”
The FRA would set new regulations for train crews, dispatchers and signal maintainers. A FRA Railroad Safety Advisory Committee would be established to review the issue and develop recommendations on new hours of service limits based on current, sound science before changes are made. In addition to the FRA, members of the Committee would include railroad management, labor representatives and other key stakeholders.
Among other proposals in the bill, the FRA will developing methods to systematically evaluate safety risks in order to hold railroads more accountable for improving the safety of their own operations. The authority of the FRA would be widened to permit it to disqualify any individual unfit for safety-sensitive service. The bill would reauthorize the federal rail safety program through 2011.