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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

UP revises locomotive engineer work-rest policy


Union Pacific Railroad recently ended work-rest programs for locomotive engineers, citing program costs and a larger engineer pool, enabling workers to receive more time off between train trips.
UP in summer 1999 implemented most if its work-rest agreements — designed to help alleviate engineer fatigue — with Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Federal Railroad Administration in 1997 investigated UP's practices following 11 fatigue-related fatal train accidents.
UP Jan. 1 eliminated work-rest programs at some hubs, including North Platte, Neb., and Cheyenne, Wyo. The railroad expects the cancellation of remaining programs to affect less than 300 of its 8,200 engineers.
UP officials claim the BLE agreements include an option enabling the railroad to end the work-rest programs.
Under the program, some substitute engineers were on call seven days followed by three guaranteed days off — and were paid for the entire month regardless of work hours, which UP officials claim became too expensive. The railroad now plans to have substitute engineers on call 24/7, filling in for regular engineers, who also could be placed on call but tend to work more predictable schedules.
The railroad has moved beyond the service crisis following its 1996 Southern Pacific Railroad merger, and has hired more engineers, creating more time off, said Dave Harbet, UP director of safety, in a statement.
But BLE engineers believe eliminating the work-rest programs could compromise safety, said Mike Young, BLE general chairman in Cheyenne.
Burlington Northern Sante Fe also in late June ended guaranteed off days for substitute engineers on some routes, claiming the work-rest program was too expensive, said Merle Geiger, BLE general chairman in Fort Worth, Texas. BLE and BNSF agreed to have engineers on certain routes work seven days with an option of taking off three unpaid days, rather than requiring the engineers to take time off.

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More News from 7/18/2001