(a) In General.—In order to improve safety and reduce employee fatigue, the Secretary may prescribe regulations—
to reduce the maximum hours an employee may be required or allowed to go or remain on duty to a level less than the level established under this chapter;
to increase the minimum hours an employee may be required or allowed to rest to a level greater than the level established under this chapter;
to limit or eliminate the amount of time an employee spends waiting for deadhead transportation or in deadhead transportation from a duty assignment to the place of final release that is considered neither on duty nor off duty under this chapter;
(4) for signal employees—
to limit or eliminate the amount of time that is considered to be neither on duty nor off duty under this chapter that an employee spends returning from an outlying worksite after scheduled duty hours or returning from a trouble call to the employee’s headquarters or directly to the employee’s residence; and
(b) Regulations Governing the Hours of Service of Train Employees of Commuter and Intercity Passenger Railroad Carriers.—
Within 3 years after the date of enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Secretary shall prescribe regulations and issue orders to establish hours of service requirements for train employees engaged in commuter rail passenger transportation and intercity rail passenger transportation (as defined in section 24102 of this title) that may differ from the requirements of this chapter. Such regulations and orders may address railroad operating and scheduling practices, including unscheduled duty calls, communications during time off duty, and time spent waiting for deadhead transportation or in deadhead transportation from a duty assignment to the place of final release, that could affect employee fatigue and railroad safety.
In issuing regulations under subsection (a) the Secretary shall consider scientific and medical research related to fatigue and fatigue abatement, railroad scheduling and operating practices that improve safety or reduce employee fatigue, a railroad’s use of new or novel technology intended to reduce or eliminate human error, the variations in freight and passenger railroad scheduling practices and operating conditions, the variations in duties and operating conditions for employees subject to this chapter, a railroad’s required or voluntary use of fatigue management plans covering employees subject to this chapter, and any other relevant factors.
(d) Time Limits.—
If the Secretary determines that regulations are necessary under subsection (a), the Secretary shall first request that the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee develop proposed regulations and, if the Committee accepts the task, provide the Committee with a reasonable time period in which to complete the task.
If the Secretary requests that the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee accept the task of developing regulations under subsection (b) and the Committee accepts the task, the Committee shall reach consensus on the rulemaking within 18 months after accepting the task. If the Committee does not reach consensus within 18 months after the Secretary makes the request, the Secretary shall prescribe appropriate regulations within 18 months.
If the Secretary does not request that the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee accept the task of developing regulations under subsection (b), the Secretary shall prescribe regulations within 3 years after the date of enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
(e) Pilot Projects.—
(1) In general.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Secretary shall conduct at least 2 pilot projects of sufficient size and scope to analyze specific practices which may be used to reduce fatigue for train and engine and other railroad employees as follows:
A pilot project at a railroad or railroad facility to evaluate the efficacy of requiring railroads who use employee scheduling practices that subject employees to periods of unscheduled duty calls to assign employees to defined or specific unscheduled call shifts that are followed by shifts not subject to call, as a method for reducing employee fatigue.
(f) Duty Call Defined.—