Agency petitions FRA on dispatcher hours

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The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has made an atypical request of the Federal Railroad Administration. The transit agency is asking the Federal Railroad Administration to waive its hours-of-service rules for dispatchers. The authority’s request has the support of the American Association of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

The agency and union want to launch a pilot program in which controllers (dispatchers) work four days a week, 10 hours a day. The program would put the authority's 14 controllers on the same work schedule as their co-workers, something the agency says will improve rail safety and employee morale. FRA rules say dispatchers are limited to nine hours within a 24-hour period.

The FRA rule applies to transit employees only because the authority’s tracks parallel a Union Pacific freight line in the Vasona Corridor between San Jose, Calif., and a park-and-ride lot known as Vasona Junction, a distance of seven miles. The two lines share grade crossing signals, which puts the transit agency under limited FRA jurisdiction, according the petition

Operating rules require UP to notify the authority one hour in advance of any freight train movements. Controllers order a track worker to remove a derailer, and reduce light rail speeds while a UP train is running. According to the petition, the UP operates two trains a week in each direction.

The situation is unique and no other agency has made a similar request, according to an FRA official who spoke on background.

The petition may be found at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FRA-2018-0048-0001 Comments may be received until July 23.

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