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New Safety Rules Deadline Approaches

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  • New Safety Rules Deadline Approaches

    Railroads prepare for new safety rule0

    July 14, 2009 - 3:56 PM
    David Hidreath


    BARSTOW • Local railroad employees are among the thousands affected as railroads across the nation are preparing to implement new safety rules by a Thursday deadline.
    Former President George W. Bush signed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 into law last October. The act included measures meant to reduce fatigue-related and other collisions, according to Holly Arthur, the Assistant Vice President of Media and Public Affairs for the Association of American Railroads.
    The new safety measures state that after railroad employees, that work in track, yard and engine jobs, have six days in a row with any time on-duty they must have at least 48 consecutive hours off-duty.
    BNSF Railway spokeswoman Lena Kent said the company employs 4,000 people in California, including many in Barstow, but that she was unsure how many of those employees would be affected by the new hours of service rules.
    “It’s almost impossible to put a number on how many people work in a given location,” Kent said. “Many employees work on the road between two cities and can [log time] in different locations.”
    The act keeps the current 12-hour-long shift restriction for railroad employees, but extends the minimum time off from eight hours to 10 hours after a 12-hour shift according to Arthur.
    Arthur said the act limits railroad employees to a maximum of 276 hours on duty and waiting for or in transportation per month. If an employee reaches the 276-hour cap before the end of a month, they cannot return to work until the next calendar month, according to Arthur. The new measures also state that an employee cannot spend more than 40 hours a month waiting for or in transportation per month. There was no limit set on the number of hours worked or in transportation per month before the act was passed, according to Arthur.
    Union Pacific Director of Communications Tom Lange and Kent both said that less than one percent of all employees from their companies exceed 276 hours a month on average.
    Kent and Lange said BNSF and Union Pacific should not need additional employees due to the reduction in hours employees can work, but the railroads plan on calling furloughed workers back into service if they are needed. Kent said BNSF has around 3,000 workers currently on furlough in the country.
    Kent said the railroad has been working to educate employees about upcoming rules in order to reduce confusion when the rules go into effect. BNSF has posted notices, sent letters and is showing a DVD about the new safety rules to employees according to Kent.
    “Union Pacific has been communicating regularly with our employees regarding the Rail Safety Improvement Act,” Lange said. “We are working with the affectedly unions to implement plans for areas of the RSIA that are inconsistent with collective bargaining agreements and will fully comply with all components of the new federal law.”


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