Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Safety Crack Down On Rail Carriers As Well As Freight Truck Drivers

La Hood Pursues Train Crews Over Distractions
Shipping News Feature

US - Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has expanded his campaign to eliminate distracted driving to include those responsible for freight and passenger trains. The campaigning executive has proposed a rule to prohibit the improper use of distracting electronic devices by on-duty railroad operating employees.

If adopted, the rules would explicitly restrict and in some cases prohibit the use of cell phones and other hand held devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) by safety critical employees, including locomotive engineers, conductors, switchmen, and other train employees. The proposed rule announced today is the latest in a series of actions taken by the Department to combat distracted driving.

During a seminal September 2009 Distracted Driving Summit, Secretary LaHood announced the Department’s plans to vigorously pursue regulatory and other steps to reduce the risks posed by distracted driving. The rule would prohibit the use of an electronic device--whether personal or railroad-supplied-- if it interferes with that employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties. Railroad operating employees would be permitted to use cell phones or similar electronic devices under highly limited circumstances.

The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) provides certain exceptions for watches, calculator use, medical devices, railroad radios, cameras used to document bona fide safety hazards or violations of rail safety laws and various emergency situations. The regulations would also authorize the Federal Railroad Administration to review a railroad’s training program on the use of electronic devices and require that records be kept documenting employees receiving recurrent training at specified intervals. The NPRM seeks comment on whether violations of the rule should be used as a basis for revoking a locomotive engineer’s certification to operate a locomotive under other FRA regulations.

“Operating a passenger or freight train demands the full and undivided attention of crewmembers at all times. Lives depend on it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to make sure that railroad employees know not to use hand held devices on the job because doing so jeopardizes safety.”

The Government have launched a website dedicated to eliminating driver distractions including an informative ‘ Video Challenge’ to explain what is currently legal in individual states.