R.J. Corman Railroad Services, Cranemasters Inc. and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) have asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to exempt railroad workers responding to emergencies from certain hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truck drivers.
The companies filed a petition requesting a five-year exemption from HOS rules regarding maximum driving time for drivers of property-carrying vehicles, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on March 8.
The exemption, if granted, would apply to railroad employees normally subject to HOS rules who are responding to unplanned occurrences that exceed normal work hours, including workers who haul equipment used to clear derailed or disabled trains or debris blocking railroad tracks. The occurrences could include a rail break, signal system malfunctions, a bridge strike or a disabled motor vehicle on a grade crossing.
The exemption would pertain only to the time workers spend driving to the work site.
At issue is that the nature of railroad emergencies — often occurring in remote areas — are such that existing procedures used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are such that “many unplanned events occur outside of normal business hours and in many instances the situation is locally contained. In that case, while a local government official could declare an emergency that would exempt the and its drivers from the HOS regulations, local government officials have not done so and it would not be practical for them to do so in the future,” the petitioners claim.
The petitioners argue that railroad emergencies are similar to utility emergencies and should be treated accordingly by the Federal government. Utility service vehicles are exempt from the HOS regulations.
The comments by the petitioners can be read in full on the Federal Register.