United Transportation Union
State Legislative Board AZ
WASHINGTON – It's now official. Conductor certification, mandated by the Rail
Safety Improvement Act of 2008, has a clear track for Jan. 1 implementation.
In a final rule, published by the Federal Railroad Administration Nov. 9,
railroads must implement, by Jan. 1, a formal training program for certifying
conductors and a formal process for training prospective conductors, thus
ensuring job competency.
The FRA's final rule on conductor certification follows many of the provisions
of locomotive engineer certification, with a number of improvements the UTU,
joined by the BLET, was able to obtain.
Following are highlights of the final rule, which runs almost 300 pages in the
Nov. 9 Federal Register.
* While the railroad and its employees must comply with the final rule, there is
no limitation on any rights the employee may have under a collective bargaining
* Conductors currently employed will be grandfathered for from one to three
years, with one-third of those conductors required to be tested for
certification in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Beginning in 2015, one-third of the total
conductor workforce will be recertified each year.
* Each railroad, in submitting its proposed certification program to the FRA for
approval, must simultaneously submit it to the presidents of the UTU and BLET,
which will have 45 days to comment. The intent is to encourage coordination by
carriers with local union officers in formulating the certification program, and
to gain a supporting statement from the general committee of jurisdiction.
* A conductor losing certification may work as an assistant conductor, brakeman,
yard helper, switchman or utility employee, but cannot work as a locomotive
engineer. If that individual holds both conductor and engineer certification,
and the engineer certification is revoked, they may not work as a conductor.
* If the conductor certificate is revoked because of failing to control a train,
violation of train speed, violation of brake test requirement, occupying main
track without proper authority, tampering with safety devices, or an alcohol or
drug violation, the decertified conductor may not work as a locomotive engineer.
However, if the decertification is for violation of a rule covering shoving or
pushing movements, or equipment left out to foul track, switches and derails,
the decertified conductor may work as a locomotive engineer.
* The conductor must be trained by a qualified person on the territory over
which that conductor will operate. If the certified conductor lacks territorial
qualification, and has never been qualified on main track physical
characteristics, that conductor shall be assisted by a person who is a certified
conductor qualified on the territory, and NOT a member of the crew.
* If the conductor has been previously qualified over the main track territory,
and the time limits have expired on their qualification, the conductor may be
assisted by any knowledgeable person, including a member of the crew, other than
the locomotive engineer on the crew, so as not to conflict with other safety
* If the conductor lacks territorial qualification on other than main track, the
conductor, where practical, shall be assisted by a certified conductor meeting
the territorial qualifications. Where this is not practical, the conductor shall
be provided an appropriate job aid, which includes maps, charts or other visual
aids of the territory. This applies to all tracks on each territory.
* Territorial qualification is not required for short movements of one mile or
less where track speed is 20-mph or less and movement is required to be at
restricted speed, and the track grade is less than 1 percent.
Prior to revoking conductor certification, a railroad must:
* Provide notice of the reason for suspension, and an opportunity for a hearing
before a person other than the investigating officer. Written confirmation of
the notification shall be in accordance with the collective bargaining
agreement. Additionally, the hearing shall be in accordance with the collective
bargaining agreement, but shall be convened within 10 days after the certificate
is suspended, unless the conductor asks for a delay.
* Provide, no later than convening the hearing and notwithstanding any
collective bargaining agreement, a copy of the written information and a list of
the witnesses the railroad intends to present at the hearing. The railroad shall
grant a recess if the information is provided just before the hearing. If the
information is provided through written statements of an employee, the railroad
shall make that employee available for examination during the hearing.
* Not revoke certification or recertification if there is sufficient evidence
that an intervening cause prevented or materially impaired the conductor’s
ability to comply with requirements.
Additionally, with regard to conductor certification:
* The appeal procedures largely mirror engineer certification regulations.
* The training requirements for new conductors are significantly improved from
current requirements. In addition to improved initial training, this rule
requires recurrent training for all conductors every three years during the
recertification process. The recurrent training must be identified in the
certification plan filed with FRA, including changes in operating rules,
operating practices, new federal regulations and new equipment in service.
"The implementation of conductor certification enhances the skills and safety
performance of freight and passenger conductors, provides a federal license
ensuring proper training of conductors, and establishes a new basis for
resisting management pressure to violate operating rules and federal
regulations," said UTU International President Mike Futhey.
The final rule is a result of input from all affected parties, including labor,
through the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC).
The UTU was represented on this RSAC Conductor Certification Working Group by
Local 645 Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore, Local 1470 Chairperson David Brooks,
General Chairperson (GO 049) John Lesniewski, Local 528 Legislative
Representative Ron Parsons, Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch,
National Legislative Director James Stem, and UTU Rail Safety Coordinator for
Designated Legal Counsel Larry Mann.
A link to the 278-page final rule will be available on the UTU website at
www.utu.org by midday Nov. 9.