217.370.8505 cory@bletislb.org

Federal hearing scheduled for next week to review SEPTA’s safety waiver


PHILADELPHIA, February 6 – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will
hold a public hearing next week to review SEPTA’s waiver of federally
mandated safety rules.

The hearing was triggered by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and
Trainmen’s opposition to a safety waiver that allows SEPTA to stretch
workdays at the expense of rest time for locomotive engineers. The BLET
has called on the FRA to reject the waiver. Testimony by employees and
union representatives at the hearing will document practices that force
engineers to work on-call, with unpredictable schedules and phone calls
from the railroad during periods designated for sleep. Interrupted sleep
has a direct and negative effect on fatigue and thus safety. Currently
many SEPTA engineers work 14-hour days and 6-day workweeks. Most other
regional commuter railroads work engineers on 5-day a week schedule with
shorter workdays.

The hearing on SEPTA’s request to continue reduced rest and recuperation
time for locomotive engineers – who are the most critical safety employees
on every train SEPTA operates – will take place on Tuesday, February 10th.

Who: Federal Railroad Administration
What: Hearing on SEPTA’s request for extended safety waiver
When: 10:00 a.m., Tues. February. 10, 2015
Where: First floor conference room, Baldwin Tower, 1510 Chester Pike, Crum
Lynne, Pennsylvania, 19022

“Public safety is at risk; the tragedies at Metro-North should cause SEPTA
and other transit agencies to review safety practices,” said BLET National
Secretary-Treasurer Steve Bruno. “We’re glad the FRA listened to our
request for a hearing and that it will take place in Pennsylvania. The FRA
has reprimanded Metro-North for placing its rail schedule over safety
considerations. We believe the February 10 hearing will show SEPTA also,
is making unsafe choices.”

Last March, the FRA issued a sharply worded report on Metro-North, saying
the New York commuter railroad had weakened safety standards while pushing
to keep trains running on time. The report followed a fatal accident
involving an engineer falling asleep on a Metro-North train that derailed
in the Bronx.

“We’re going to testify next week that safety has to come first,” said
Bruno. “There’s no margin of error when it comes to running a railroad
the right way. We’ve seen terrible accidents due to sleep deprivation on
Metro-North and other railroads, and we want to do everything possible to
make sure that doesn’t happen here.”

In a recent letter to the FRA, BLET National President Dennis Pierce
stated that since receiving a safety waiver in October, 2012, SEPTA has
systematically reduced “the number of locomotive engineer assignments
while simultaneously increasing the number of trains and route miles in
the public schedule.”

“The FRA publishes minimum safety standards. The waiver allows SEPTA to
conduct its operation below those minimum standards,” Bruno said. “Forcing
engineers to operate trains with insufficient rest creates a known – and
preventable – risk to passengers and crews members. When the FRA examines
the record, we believe they’ll agree with us that SEPTA needs more
compliance – not less – with federal safety rules.”

* * *
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents 53,500
professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United
States, including 220 hardworking members at SEPTA. The BLET is the
founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of