LaHood Hails Railroad Fatigue Rule

DOT is broadly bringing fatigue science to bear on its regulated industries and says this FRA rule is the first rule in that effort to be completed.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the Federal Railroad Administration's new final rule limiting the number of consecutive hours passenger railroad workers can work will make passenger train travel proactively safer. For the first time, the rule differentiate between freight and passenger rail service; FRA published it Aug. 12, and it will take effect Oct. 15.

It applies "fatigue science" to employee work schedules to determine maximum on-duty periods and minimum off-duty periods. DOT is broadly bringing fatigue science to bear on its regulated industries and says this FRA rule is the first rule in that effort to be completed.

"Safety is job one, and by focusing our attention on proactive risk reduction strategies like these, we will be able to reduce the number of accidents on our railways," LaHood said. "This new program will let us recognize and prevent fatigue problems for passenger train crews before they arise."

The rule recognizes the difference between work during daylight hours and work during nighttime hours when fatigue is most likely to occur. It includes:

  • Maximum on-duty periods and minimum off-duty periods for passenger train employees, including locomotive engineers and conductors.
  • Requirements for railroads to identify schedule-specific risks of fatigue using an approved, scientifically validated, and calibrated bio-mathematical model of human performance and fatigue.
  • Requirements for railroads to develop and carry out plans to mitigate fatigue risks before safety may be compromised.

Railroads will have to submit certain work schedules of their passenger train employees and fatigue mitigation plans to FRA for approval and also provide fatigue training. The rule was authorized by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which gave FRA the authority to replace the existing hours of service requirements (originally enacted in 1907) with new ones governing train employees providing passenger rail transportation.

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