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FRA Issues Final Rule on Hours of Service for Railroad Employees

Employee fatigue is an issue Congress sought to address through an overhaul of statutes and regulations governing employee work hours in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.  The hours of service provisions issued in this final rule apply to freight railroads as of July 16, 2009, and generally shorten the permissible on-duty time of an employee, and specify minimum breaks and rest periods.  Passenger rail employees remain subject to hours of service regulations as they existed prior to the statute’s October 16, 2008, enactment, pending the issuance of passenger-specific regulations by the Federal Railroad Administration.  Because of significant differences in scheduling practices, duties and operating conditions between commuter and freight operations, requiring commuter systems to comply with the new rules adopted for freight railroads could unnecessarily increase costs, disrupt collectively bargained work practices and create the potential for disruption of service on commuter systems with no attendant benefit in reducing employee fatigue.