California Bars On-Duty Use of Cellular Devices by Train Personnel

The California Public Utilities Commission yesterday banned personal use of commercial mobile radio services and devices by on-duty railroad engineers, brakemen, conductors, and rail transit vehicle operators. CPUC, which regulates telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies, enacted a temporary ban pending a rulemaking, acting partly in response to the Sept. 12 Metrolink collision in Chatsworth, Calif., that killed the engineer and 24 other people. The ban allows personal communications that take place when the train or transit vehicle is stopped and are allowed by appropriate management personnel.

"Because of the possible danger to passengers, the general public, and the railroad workers themselves, prohibiting the personal use of cellular devices is necessary and reasonable," said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey. He said no existing federal or state laws, rules, or regulations prohibit such use of cellular devices.

CPUC's Consumer Protection and Safety Division will prepare a proceeding to determine whether the ban should be adopted permanently. To read the adopted resolution, visit http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/COMMENT_RESOLUTION/91003.htm.

The state's Public Utilities Code 216.8 defines commercial mobile services as spelled out by the Federal Communications Commission in Parts 20, 22, 24, and 25 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which says they include mobile data service, mobile paging service, mobile satellite telephone service, and mobile telephony service, as well as any other service included by the FCC in its annual CMRS Reports.

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