SEPTA engineers’ safety concerns to be heard at federal hearing

SEPTA engineers’ safety concerns to be heard at federal hearing
Metro file photo

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced today that it will hold a February hearing to review the SEPTA safety waiver that allows regional rail engineers and trainmen to work more hours than usual.

“Public safety is at risk, so a public hearing is absolutely necessary,” said Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) Vice President Steve Bruno in a statement.

“We’re glad the FRA listened to our request for a hearing — and we believe it’s important that it will take place in Pennsylvania, so that the panel members can listen to both engineers and passengers.”

The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10 at the Federal Railroad Administration’s offices in Crum Lynne, Pa., according to the Dec. 16 issue of theFederal Register.

The BLET called on the FRA to hold such a hearing back in November. They sent the FRA, which supervises the nation’s railroads, a letter saying that 14-hour days and 6-day work weeks for SEPTA Regional Rail engineers, which are permitted under a federal safety waiver, should end.

“The employees affected by this waiver work on-call, have unpredictable schedules and often have their sleep interrupted by calls from the railroad. Interrupted sleep has a direct and negative effect on fatigue and thus safety,” the BLET said in an email.

In November, SEPTA released a statement defending their practices.

“SEPTA employs a fatigue analysis model that governs our actions regarding Regional Rail crew assignments,” SEPTA said in the statement. “Additionally, there are no indications that fatigue has played a role in engineer decertification incidents – or incidents in which engineers violated safety rules – since the waiver was granted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).”

The statement continued, “SEPTA has made a commitment to bolstering its engineer staff to reduce the number of scheduled six-day runs. Thirteen railroad employees are currently in engineer training, 10 more will start in January, and an additional 10 will begin training later in spring 2015.”

The FRA hearing on the SEPTA safety waiver is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 10, and will be held in the first floor conference room at Baldwin Tower, 1510 Chester Pike, Crum Lynne, Pennsylvania, 19022.