Hours of Service Changing for Passenger Rail Workers

The principal change in the Federal Railroad Administration's new proposed rule is specific limits for nighttime operations -- that is, work between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

The Federal Railroad Administration's new hours of service rule applying to locomotive engineers, conductors, and other commuter and intercity passenger railroad employees involved in train movements is focused on nighttime operations, on the theory they present a higher risk of fatigue.

The rule categorizes any assignment with any period of time before 4 a.m. or after 8 p.m. as a "Type 2 assignment," and the proposed rule would require railroads to analyze such assignments' fatigue risk. If the analysis indicates a risk level for fatigue exceeds the threshold, the railroad would have to "mitigate" the fatigue; they also would have to submit any schedule with a risk exceeding the fatigue threshold and the mitigation tools the railroad applied to mitigate the risk in those schedules to FRA for approval. "In addition, any schedule, the fatigue risk of which could not be sufficiently mitigated to within the fatigue threshold, but which the railroad deems operationally necessary, must also be submitted for FRA approval, along with a declaration of operational necessity," it states.

Railroads covered by the rule would be required to consult with affected employees and applicable labor organizations on the analysis of work schedules, fatigue mitigation tools, and submissions to FRA. The rule would require initial fatigue training and refresher training every three years. The training could be combined with other training the railroads are providing to their employees, the rule states.

As for the analysis, FRA says railroads should analyze their schedules "using a validated and calibrated biomathematical model of human performance and fatigue," and the rule discusses two models that could be used because they have been validated and calibrated using data from freight railroads:

  • FRA's Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling ToolTM (FAST)
  • Fatigue Audit InterDyneTM (FAID)

Railroads would be free to develop new models. Sources of information about the two models are Dean II, D.A., Fletcher, A., Hursh, S.R. and Klerman, E.B., "Developing Models of Neurobehavioral Performance for the 'Real World,' " J. Biol Rhythms 2007; 22; 246 and Tabak, B., and Raslear, T.G. (2010). Procedures for Validation and Calibration of Human Fatigue Models: The Fatigue Audit InterDyne (FAID) Tool, Report No. DOT/FRA/ORD-10/14. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.

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