49 CFR Appendix A to Part 228, Requirements of the Hours of Service Act: Statement of Agency Policy and Interpretation
First enacted in 1907, the Hours of Service Act was substantially revised in 1969 by Public Law 91-169. Further amendments were enacted as part of the Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1976, Public Law 94-348 and by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 1988, Public Law 100-342. The purpose of the law is “to promote the safety of employees and travelers upon railroads by limiting the hours of service of employees * * *.” This appendix is designed to explain the effect of the law in commonly-encountered situations.
The Act governs the maximum work hours of employees engaged in one or more of the basic categories of covered service treated below. If an individual performs more than one kind of covered service during a tour of duty, then the most restrictive of the applicable limitations control.
The act applies to any railroad, as that term is defined in 45 U.S.C. 431(e). It governs the carrier's operations over its own railroad and all lines of road which it uses.
Covered Service. Train or engine service refers to the actual assembling or operation of trains. Employees who perform this type of service commonly include locomotive engineers, firemen, conductors, trainmen, switchmen, switchtenders (unless their duties come under the provisions of section 3) and hostlers. With the passage of the 1976 amendments, both inside and outside hostlers are considered to be connected with the movement of trains. Previously, only outside hostlers were covered. Any other employee who is actually engaged in or connected with the movement of any train is also covered, regardless of his job title.
Limitations on Hours. The Act establishes two limitations on hours of service. First, no employee engaged in train or engine service may be required or permitted to work in excess of twelve consecutive hours. After working a full twelve consecutive hours, an employee must be given at least ten consecutive hours off duty before being permitted to return to work.
Second, no employee engaged in train or engine service may be required or permitted to continue on duty or go on duty unless he has had at least eight consecutive hours off duty within the preceding twenty-four hours. This latter limitation, when read in conjunction with the requirements with respect to computation of duty time (discussed below) results in several conclusions:
(1) When an employee's work tour is broken or interrupted by a valid period of interim release (4 hours or more at a designated terminal), he may return to duty for the balance of the total 12-hour work tour during a 24-hour period.
(2) After completing the 12 hours of broken duty, or at the end of the 24-hour period, whichever occurs first, the employee may not be required or permitted to continue on duty or to go on duty until he has had at least 8 consecutive hours off duty.
(3) The 24-hour period referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 above shall begin upon the commencement of a work tour by the employee immediately after his having received a statutory off-duty period of 8 or 10 hours as appropriate.
Duty time and effective periods of release. On-duty time commences when an employee reports at the time and place specified by the railroad and terminates when the employee is finally released of all responsibilities. (Time spent in deadhead transportation to a duty assignment is also counted as time on duty. See discussion below.) Any period available for rest that is of four or more hours and is at a designated terminal is off-duty time. All other periods available for rest must be counted as time on duty under the law, regardless of their duration.
The term “designated terminal” means a terminal (1) which is designated in or under a collective bargaining agreement as the “home” or “away-from-home” terminal for a particular crew assignment and (2) which has suitable facilities for food and lodging. Carrier and union representatives may agree to establish additional designated terminals having such facilities as points of effective release under the Act. Agreements to designate additional terminals for purposes of release under the Act should be reduced to writing and should make reference to the particular assignments affected and to the Hours of Service Act. The following are common situations illustrating the designated terminal concept:
(1) A freight or passenger road crew operates a train from home terminal “A” to away-from-home terminal “B” (or the reverse). Terminals “A” and “B” would normally be the designated terminals for this specific crew assignment. However, carrier and employee representatives may agree to designate additional terminals having suitable facilities for food and lodging as appropriate points of release under the Hours of Service Act.
(2) A road crew operates a train in turn-around service from home terminal “A” to turn-around point “B” and back to “A”. Terminal “A” is the only designated terminal for this specific crew assignment, unless carrier and employee representatives have agreed to designate additional terminals having suitable facilities for food and lodging.
(3) A crew is assigned to operate a maintenance-of-way work train from home terminal “A”, work on line of road and tie up for rest along the line of road at point “B”. Home terminal “A” and tie-up point “B” both qualify as designated terminals for this specific work train crew assignment. Of course, suitable facilities for food and lodging must be available at tie-up point “B”.
Deadheading. Under the Act time spent in deadhead transportation receives special treatment. Time spent in deadhead transportation to a duty assignment by a train or engine service employee is considered on-duty time. Time spent in deadhead transportation from the final duty assignment of the work tour to the point of final release is not computed as either time on duty or time off duty. Thus, the period of deadhead transportation to point of final release may not be included in the required 8- or 10-hour off-duty period. Time spent in deadhead transportation to a duty assignment is calculated from the time the employee reports for deadhead until he reaches his duty assignment.
All time spent awaiting the arrival of a deadhead vehicle for transportation from the final duty assignment of the work tour to the point of final release is considered limbo time, i.e., neither time on duty nor time off duty, provided that the employee is given no specific responsibilities to perform during this time. However, if an employee is required to perform service of any kind during that period (e.g., protecting the train against vandalism, observing passing trains for any defects or unsafe conditions, flagging, shutting down locomotives, checking fluid levels, or communicating train consist information via radio), he or she will be considered as on duty until all such service is completed. Of course, where a railroad carrier's operating rules clearly relieve the employee of all duties during the waiting period and no duties are specifically assigned, the waiting time is not computed as either time on duty or time off duty.
Transit time from the employee's residence to his regular reporting point is not considered deadhead time.
If an employee utilizes personal automobile transportation to a point of duty assignment other than the regular reporting point in lieu of deadhead transportation provided by the carrier, such actual travel time is considered as deadheading time. However, if the actual travel time from his home to the point of duty assignment exceeds a reasonable travel time from the regular reporting point to the point of duty assignment, then only the latter period is counted. Of course, actual travel time must be reasonable and must not include diversions for personal reasons.
Employee A performs local switching service at the outlying point. When the employee returns from the outlying point that evening, and receives an “arbitrary” payment for his making the return trip by private automobile, 40 minutes of his time in transportation home is considered deadheading to point of final release and is not counted as either time on duty or time off duty.
Wreck and relief trains. Prior to the 1976 amendments, crews of wreck and relief trains were exempted entirely from the limitations on hours of service. Under present law that is no longer the case. The crew of a wreck or relief train may be permitted to be on duty for not to exceed 4 additional hours in any period of 24 consecutive hours whenever an actual emergency exists and the work of the crew is related to that emergency. Thus, a crew could work up to 16 hours, rather than 12. The Act specifies that an emergency ceases to exist for purposes of this provision when the track is cleared and the line is open for traffic. An “emergency” for purposes of wreck or relief service may be a less extraordinary or catastrophic event than an “unavoidable accident or Act of God” under section 5(d) of the Act.
Emergencies. The Act contains no general exception using the term “emergency” with respect to train or engine service or related work. See “casualties,” etc., under “General Provisions”.
Covered Service. The handling of orders governing the movement of trains is the second type of covered service. This provision of the Act applies to any operator, train dispatcher or other employee who by the use of the telegraph, telephone, radio, or any other electical or mechanical device dispatches, reports, transmits, receives, or delivers orders pertaining to or affecting train movements.
The approach of the law is functional. Thus, though a yardmaster normally is not covered by this provision, a yardmaster or other employee who performs any of the specified service during a duty tour is subject to the limitations on service for that entire tour.
Limitations on hours. No employee who performs covered service involving communication of train orders may be required or permitted to remain on duty for more than nine hours, whether consecutive or in the aggregate, in any 24-hour period in any office, tower, station or place where two or more shifts are employed. Where only one shift is employed, the employee is restricted to 12 hours consecutively or in the aggregate during any 24-hour period.
The provision on emergencies, discussed below, may extend the permissible hours of employees performing this type of service.
Shifts. The term “shift” is not defined by the Act, but the legislative history of the 1969 amendments indicates that it means a tour of duty constituting a day's work for one or more employee performing the same class of work at the same station who are scheduled to begin and end work at the same time. The following are examples of this principle:
|7 a.m. to 3 p.m||1 shift.|
|7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Schedule for one employee including one hour lunch period)||Do.|
|7 a.m. to 3 p.m. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Two employees scheduled)||Do.|
|7 a.m. to 3 p.m. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Two employees scheduled)||2 shifts.|
Duty time and effective periods of release. If, after reporting to his place of duty, an employee is required to perform duties at other places during this same tour of duty, the time spent traveling between such places is considered as time on duty. Under the traditional administrative interpretation of section 3, other periods of transportation are viewed as personal commuting and, thus, off-duty time.
A release period is considered off-duty time if it provides a meaningful period of relaxation and if the employee is free of all responsibilities to the carrier. One hour is the minimum acceptable release period for this type of covered service.
Emergencies. The section of the Act dealing with dispatchers, operators, and others who transmit or receive train orders contains its own emergency provision. In case of emergency, an employee subject to the 9 or 12-hour limitation is permitted to work an additional four hours in any 24-hour period, but only for a maximum of three days in any period of seven consecutive days. However, even in an emergency situation the carrier must make reasonable efforts to relieve the employee.
Commingled Service. All duty time for a railroad even though not otherwise subject to the Act must be included when computing total on-duty time of an individual who performs one or more of the type of service covered by the Act. This is known as the principle of “commingled service”.
For example, if an employee performs duty for 8 hours as a trainman and then is used as a trackman (not covered by the law) in the same 24-hour period, total on-duty time is determined by adding the duty time as trackman to that as trainman. The law does not distinguish treatment of situations in which non-covered service follows, rather than precedes, covered service. The limitations on total hours apply on both cases. It should be remembered that attendance at required rules classes is duty time subject to the provisions on “commingling”. Similarly, where a carrier compels attendance at a disciplinary proceeding, time spent in attendance is subject to the provisions on commingling.
When an employee performs service covered by more than one restrictive provision, the most restrictive provision determines the total lawful on-duty time. Thus, when an employee performs duty in train or engine service and also as an operator, the provisions of the law applicable to operators apply to all on-duty and off-duty periods during such aggregate time. However, an employee subject to the 12 hour provision of section 2 of the law does not become subject to the 9 or 12-hour provisions of section 3 merely because he receives, transmits or delivers orders pertaining to or affecting the movement of his train in the course of his duties as a trainman.
Casualties, Unavoidable Accidents, Acts of God. Section 5(d) of the Act states the following: “The provisions of this Act shall not apply in any case of casualty or unavoidable accident or the Act of God; nor where the delay was the result of a cause not known to the carrier or its officer or agent in charge of the employee at the time said employee left a terminal, and which could not have been foreseen.” This passage is commonly referred to as the “emergency provision”. Judicial construction of this sentence has limited the relief which it grants to situations which are truly unusual and exceptional. The courts have recognized that delays and operational difficulties are common in the industry and must be regarded as entirely foreseeable; otherwise, the Act will provide no protection whatsoever. Common operational difficulties which do not provide relief from the Act include, but are not limited to, broken draw bars, locomotive malfunctions, equipment failures, brake system failures, hot boxes, unexpected switching, doubling hills and meeting trains. Nor does the need to clear a main line or cut a crossing justify disregard of the limitations of the Act. Such contingencies must normally be anticipated and met within the 12 hours. Even where an extraordinary event or combination of events occurs which, by itself, would be sufficient to permit excess service, the carrier must still employ due diligence to avoid or limit such excess service. The burden of proof rests with the carrier to establish that excess service could not have been avoided.
Sleeping Quarters. Under the 1976 amendments to the Act it is unlawful for any common carrier to provide sleeping quarters for persons covered by the Hours of Service Act which do not afford such persons an opportunity for rest, free from interruptions caused by noise under the control of the railroad, in clean, safe, and sanitary quarters. Such sleeping quarters include crew quarters, camp or bunk cars, and trailers.
Sleeping quarters are not considered to be “free from interruptions caused by noise under the control of the railroad” if noise levels attributable to noise sources under the control of the railroad exceed an Leq(8) value of 55dB(A).
Collective Bargaining. The Hours of Service Act prescribes the maximum permissible hours of service consistent with safety. However, the Act does not prohibit collective bargaining for shorter hours of service and time on duty.
Penalty. As amended by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 1988 and the Rail Safety Enforcement and Review Act of 1992, the penalty provisions of the law apply to any person (an entity of any type covered under 1 U.S.C. 1, including but not limited to the following: a railroad; a manager, supervisor, official, or other employee or agent of a railroad; any owner, manufacturer, lessor, or lessee of railroad equipment, track, or facilities; any independent contractor providing goods or services to a railroad; and any employee of such owner, manufacturer, lessor, lessee, or independent contractor), except that a penalty may be assessed against an individual only for a willful violation. See appendix A to 49 CFR part 209. For violations that occurred on September 3, 1992, a person who violates the Act is liable for a civil penalty, as the Secretary of Transportation deems reasonable, in an amount not less than $500 nor more than $11,000, except that where a grossly negligent violation or a pattern of repeated violations has created an imminent hazard of death or injury to persons, or has caused death or injury, a penalty not to exceed $22,000 may be assessed. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 required agencies to increase the maximum civil monetary penalty for inflation. The amounts increased from $10,000 to $11,000 and from $20,000 to $22,000 respectively. According to the same law, in 2004, the minimum penalty of $500 was raised to $550, and the maximum penalty for a grossly negligent violation or a pattern of repeated violations that has caused an imminent hazard of death or injury to individuals or has caused death or injury, was increased from $22,000 to $27,000. The $11,000 maximum penalty was not adjusted. Effective October 9, 2007, the ordinary maximum penalty of $11,000 was raised to $16,000 as required under law. Effective March 2, 2009, the minimum penalty, ordinary maximum penalty and aggravated maximum penalty were raised again. The minimum penalty was increased from $550 to $650 pursuant to the law's requirement. Meanwhile, the ordinary maximum penalty was increased from $16,000 to $25,000 and the aggravated maximum was increased from $27,000 to $100,000 in accordance with the authority provided under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Meanwhile, the ordinary maximum penalty was increased from $16,000 to $25,000 and the aggravated maximum was increased from $27,000 to $100,000 in accordance with the authority provided under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. See sec. 302, Div. A, Public Law 110-432, 122 Stat. 4848, 4878, Oct. 16, 2008; 49 U.S.C. 21301- 21303. Effective June 25, 2012, the aggravated maximum penalty was raised from $100,000 to $105,000 pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990. Public Law 101-410, 104 Stat. 890, 28 U.S.C. 2461, note, as amended by Sec. 31001(s)(1) of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, Public Law 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321-373, Apr. 16, 1996. Pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, effective August 1, 2016, the minimum penalty was raised from $650 to $839, the ordinary maximum penalty was raised from $25,000 to $27,455, and the aggravated maximum penalty was raised from $105,000 to $109,819. See Public Law 114-74, Sec. 701, November 2, 2015. Under the 2015 Inflation Act, effective April 3, 2017, the minimum civil monetary penalty was raised from $839 to $853, the ordinary maximum civil monetary penalty was raised from $27,455 to $27,904, and the aggravated maximum civil monetary penalty was raised from $109,819 to $111,616.
Each employee who is required or permitted to be on duty for a longer period than prescribed by law or who does not receive a required period of rest represents a separate and distinct violation and subjects the railroad to a separate civil penalty. In the case of a violation of section 2(a)(3) or (a)(4) of the Act, each day a facility is in noncompliance constitutes a separate offense and subjects the railroad to a separate civil penalty.
In compromising a civil penalty assessed under the Act, FRA takes into account the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation committed, and, with respect to the person found to have committed such violation, the degree of culpability, any history of prior or subsequent offenses, ability to pay, effect on ability to continue to do business and such other matters as justice may require.
Statute of limitations. No suit may be brought after the expiration of two years from the date of violation unless administrative notification of the violation has been provided to the person to be charged within that two year period. In no event may a suit be brought after expiration of the period specified in 28 U.S.C. 2462.
Exemptions. A railroad which employs not more than 15 persons covered by the Hours of Service Act (including signalmen and hostlers) may be exempted from the law's requirements by the FRA after hearing and for good cause shown. The exemption must be supported by a finding that it is in the public interest and will not adversely affect safety. The exemption need not relate to all carrier employees. In no event may any employee of an exempt railroad be required or permitted to work beyond 16 hours continuously or in the aggregate within any 24-hour period. Any exemption is subject to review at least annually.