Posts Tagged ‘FRA rules waiver’

FRA Gives Unions Added Time to File Appeals

February 17, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have received additional time from the Federal Railroad Administration to file petitions for review by the Operating Crew Review Board.

FRA rules governing certification of locomotive engineers and conductors require that petitions to review a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification must be filed with the OCRB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s final decision.

The FRA’s latest action extends the 120-day limit to 180 days.

The agency said it agreed to extend the time to file appeals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extension is a waiver that will expire on Feb. 11, 2022, unless extended by the agency.

The unions that sought the extension were the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division.

FRA Grants Rule Exemptions to Commuter Railroads

May 27, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has renewed for 60 days relief to commuter railroads as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FRA officials said the exemptions, with certain exceptions, was made as a result of commuter railroads facing workforce shortages and other constraints related to the pandemic that

prevent them from completing federally mandated railroad safety tests, inspections and other requirements in a timely manner.

The relief was granted at the request of the American Public Transportation Association.

The FRA said its action was “in the public interest, is necessary to address the COVID-19 public health emergency and is not inconsistent with railroad safety.”

In seeking the exemption, APTA said some commuter railroads are operating with a much-reduced workforce, as over 2,500 employees have tested positive or self-quarantined over the past 45 days.

Railroad Unions Seek Recall of Furloughed Workers Before FRA Issues Safety Rules Waivers

April 15, 2020

Railroad labor unions are trying to prod the Federal Railroad Administration into mandating that railroads recall furloughed workers before receiving waivers from from federal safety regulations.

The unions said in a letter to FRA Administrator Ronald Batory that there “must be a strong burden of proof for rail carriers to demonstrate that there is a true labor shortage.”

The letter noted that railroads might seek waivers from certain regulations due to a COVID-19-pandemic induced worker staffing shortage.

The FRA last month activated an emergency relief docket that allows it to waive certain regulations.

The unions said they are monitoring railroad requests for relief and may comment on existing or future petitions.

In the many requests submitted so far, railroads have cited worker shortages as the reason for seeking relief.

“If a carrier finds itself short on active employees, its first option must be found in the abundant supply of out-of-work railroaders, not in administrative intervention to be exempted from safety-critical regulations,” the letter from the unions said.

If furloughed employees cannot return to work because they need retraining, the unions asked that the FRA offer them a temporary waiver from certain training requirements, provided that the workers meet those requirements within 60 days.

The unions also want the FRA to require railroads to report weekly on each individual regulatory waiver used, where and when it was used and a list of manpower shortages or other conditions that make the waiver necessary.

Rail unions signing the letter include the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division.

FRA Waives Certain Federal Rules for 60 Days

March 26, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a 60-day waiver of certain rail safety regulations to help railroads weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency acted after being asked to do so by the Association of American Railroads, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, and American Public Transportation Association.

In waiting the regulations effective March 28 the FRA said its relief is generally conditioned on the existence of workforce shortages and other constraints as a direct result of the effects of the pandemic.

Those effects could preventing individual railroads from making a timely completion of all federally mandated railroad safety tests and inspections, or other requirements.

The FRA order did not waive compliance with all federal safety regulations and some waived rules can only be ignored if a carrier can document a direct workforce shortage or constraint as a result of the pandemic.

The petition to the FRA seeking the waivers said railroads “expect their staffing levels to be significantly reduced as fewer railroad employees and contractors will be available to perform necessary duties due to illness and the need to quarantine.”

In granting the waivers the FRA said it determined granting the relief, subject to certain conditions, “is in the public interest, necessary to address the current nationwide emergency situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic, and is not inconsistent with railroad safety.”

FRA granted temporary relief from:

  • Certain track inspection time-interval-dependent requirements in applicable federal law.
  • Operational tests and inspections of employees, which “would allow railroad managers more time to ensure railroads remain operational while addressing anticipated challenges in terms of potential workforce shortages or other constraints.”
  • Current restrictions imposed on utility employees.
  • Requirements related to the 36-month certification period for locomotive engineers and conductors.
  • The 60-day deadline for responding to petitions submitted to the Locomotive Engineer Review Board and the Operating Crew Review Board.
  • Requirements for locomotive engineers unfamiliar with physical characteristics in other than joint operation and requirements for territorial qualifications, respectively. The railroad must first determine that no territorial-qualified engineer or conductor is available. Those who were qualified on the territory but whose qualifications have lapsed must be assigned over an engineer or conductor that was not initially qualified. An engineer certified with “the most demanding service” should be assigned ahead of those engineers with a less demanding service as documented in their individual records. If the locomotive engineer is qualified on the portion of track to be operated over and the conductor is not qualified or whose previous qualification on the portion of track has expired, the train may be operated without restriction. If neither is qualified but the train is PTC active/engaged, the train must operate at a speed not to exceed 40 mph. Without PTC active, the crew must operate at restricted speed with an up-to-date track chart.

The waiver allows railroad employees to conduct “verbal quick tie-ups” at the end of any duty tour to increase social distancing and reduce the use of “common high-touch surfaces” such as computer terminal keyboards.

The waiver also permits locomotive movements between facilities at which locomotives have not had inspections and tests within the time periods specified in existing regulations.

“Because the limitation on the movement of defective equipment to the ‘nearest available location where necessary repairs can be performed’ is based on a statutory requirement, FRA does not have the authority to waive this requirement [but] it will not take exception to any railroad moving defective equipment to the next forward location where necessary repairs can be performed, where there is adequate staffing and resources available to make the required repairs in a safe manner. Railroads must endeavor to repair defective equipment at locations where qualified mechanical inspectors are present.”

FRA is not waiving the 100 percent operative-brakes requirement, but “will not take exception to a railroad operating a train from its initial terminal with 95 percent operative brakes.

Railroads must, however, comply with the remainder of the requirements [for] trains to have at least 85 percent operable brakes en route

FRA said felief is granted to allow trains to travel up to 1,200 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake inspection; [and] to travel up to 2,000 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake test.

That relief is only granted for those trains, locations or geographic areas where such extended mileage is necessary due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency also granted relief from “the limits on single block pick-ups and single block set-offs  . . . such that railroads may add or remove more than a single block of cars to a train and those cars may be added to any location within a train consist or set-out from any location within a train consist, consistent with the railroad’s train make up requirements.

“Relief is provided from the requirements governing pre-departure inspections when combining two existing trains (two separate consists including one or more cars and one or more locomotives) that have been properly inspected and tested in compliance with all applicable regulations … without additional inspections, other than a Class III brake test.”
The waiver will apply to all railroads operating within the United States.