Progress Through Unity

New Jersey Transit faces a widening examination of its safety practices

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-25/n-j-transit-rail-crew-hours-over-safety-limits-draw-scrutiny

New Jersey Transit faces a widening examination of its safety practices after federal regulators discovered hundreds of potential work-hour violations, including altered duty logs and shifts longer than permitted.

Federal Railroad Administration inspectors recommended penalties in September after they found timekeeping irregularities by a small sample of engineers and other on-board crew, according to material obtained by Bloomberg in response to a public-records request.

The lapses, the inspectors wrote, allowed employees “to work longer or more preferred jobs” at the nation’s third-largest mass-transit operator, a crucial link to New York City. The broadening review comes as lawmakers question safety and finances at the agency, which in the 1990s was a model for innovation and service, only to suffer increased breakdowns and more crowded rush hours as the state provided less budget aid.

“Hours-of-service laws are not foolish,” Martin Robins, New Jersey Transit’s deputy executive director when the agency was founded in 1979, said in an interview. “They’re set up for a reason: to protect the public.”

State Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat from West Orange who is co-leading public hearings on the agency, requested details Wednesday afternoon of New Jersey Transit’s scheduling practices and any documents authorizing excess hours.

The reports are crucial to combating fatigue, a factor in deadly train wrecks in recent years in Connecticut, Arkansas and Iowa. In response to a fatal New Jersey Transit crash and a Long Island Rail Road wreck in Brooklyn that injured more than 100 people, five U.S. senators this month urged the National Transportation Safety Board to review railroads’ testing procedures among engineers for sleep disorders.

In the matter of New Jersey Transit’s duty logs, inspectors reviewed two days of handwritten records in June, and alleged 246 instances of improper documentation, including alterations to 42 signed records and 34 instances of insufficient rest time between shifts.

Nancy Snyder, an agency spokeswoman, said most lapses were “record-keeping clerical issues,” and that the agency is considering switching to an electronic system to avoid such errors.

“New Jersey Transit routinely reviews employees’ hours of service to ensure they are in compliance with federal regulations,” Snyder wrote in an e-mail. “Trains are not routinely staffed by individuals working hours beyond what regulations allow.”

Handwritten System

Still, disciplinary action has been taken against one employee and proceedings are pending against 35 others, Snyder said. Now, while regulators consider whether to seek penalties against the railroad, federal examiners are looking for widespread discrepancies among handwritten logs submitted daily by New Jersey Transit’s 1,600 engineers and other on-board crew.

McKeon, in a letter to Steve Santoro, the agency’s executive director, requested two years of conductors’ and engineers’ work schedules and all approvals for hours beyond what the law allows. He also asked for names of employees overseeing staffing hours, storage locations for handwritten records and results of any internal audits to ensure timekeeping protocol are followed.

“What actions has NJ Transit taken to ensure that it can manage employee hours, specifically concerning employees with fatigue risks?” McKeon wrote.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s “audit and our enforcement actions remain ongoing,” Matthew Lehner, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Department, said in an e-mail. No hours-of-service violation notices have been issued.

The New Jersey Transit workers whose duty logs raised red flags are among the train personnel nationwide at greatest risk of fatigue and most likely to exceed monthly work-hour limits, according to a 2013 report by the Federal Railroad Administration. Sleep disorders, including apnea, also appear to occur at a higher rate among railroad employees than other U.S. workers, the report found.

Earlier research by the federal agency found that crew fatigue had a role in about 25 percent of train accidents attributed to so-called human factors, such as inattentiveness and poor judgment.

Commuter Headaches

New Jersey Transit, with 90 million passengers annually, has been beset in recent years by crowding, more frequent breakdowns and unreliable service. Rail service Tuesday was returning to normal a day after a wind-driven storm took down electrical wires along tracks in Linden, suspending New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains for hours along the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest line.

Snyder said the railroad is cooperating with the expanded railroad administration inquiry, which began in June.

A separate review of operations and finances is under way by New Jersey lawmakers in response to a September wreck in Hoboken that killed a woman on a platform and injured more than 100 passengers. The train’s engineer had undiagnosed sleep apnea, his lawyer has said.

Cash Crunch

At a hearing in Trenton in November, Santoro said lack of funding is at the root of many of New Jersey Transit’s troubles.

From 1990 through fiscal 2017, New Jersey Transit used $7.1 billion intended for capital improvements to cover day-to-day expenses. Forty-two percent of those diversions took place under Republican Governor Chris Christie, more than any other governor.

From January 2011 through July 2016, New Jersey Transit logged the most train accidents and the highest safety-violation fines of any U.S. commuter railroad, federal data show.

At the November hearing, Santoro disclosed instances of forbidden mobile-phone use, locomotives left unattended and missing emergency equipment, all documented by federal inspectors. In response, he said, the railroad was stepping up enforcement and expanding training. He also committed to fully staffing a safety office that was operating without a deputy chief and about a dozen others.

In some cases, the records were missing documented days off or such details as travel time to assignments, which counts toward maximum hours. Each penalty carries a fine of as much as $25,000, though those amounts typically are negotiated down.

McKeon said the Railroad Administration’s findings on duty logs, if proven, are “intolerable to the thousands of people who rely on New Jersey Transit every day.”

“Whether mismanagement or lack of personnel or outright violating of federal safety rules, the FRA being involved, with all its heft, can only help,” he said in an interview.

Member Notice 01/06/2017

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Payroll Shortage Submissions

In order to address and document payroll shortages we are asking for members to enter information via the local 60 page. http://utulocal60.com/payroll-shortage-form-2/

Shortages of less than a days pay will be processed normally by Debbie Krake, shortages in excess of a days pay, received before 9:00am on Friday, will be expedited to insure an off cycle check is made available or corrected in time to be included in next pay cycle.

Debbie is still point person and will contact members when resolved/more information is needed, submitted either through the web page or communicated directly to her.

Logging information through the website will be easier for her to create the document she relays to payroll weekly. It will also enable the office to track payroll problems and be better prepared to make recommendations to the carrier.

This is a tool to help us track and submit payroll issues and is not a “payroll fix”. Verification has been moved to the ROC and the acting director is trying to remedy many of the issues we are having, and the union has agreed to work with them to find a fix.

 

HOS Q Forms

Please be aware the Carrier is approaching members about HOS Q forms. There are certain things that you must remember about filling out missing or corrected Q forms.

1) These forms can ONLY  be filled out while you are at work and on duty, they are considered ” Covered Service”

2) If you have no break in your job they may be filled out at the conclusion of your assignment.

3) If you fill them out on your swing you must  have the required time “Off Duty” to comply with HOS.

4) Please contact me if anyone was threatened with a fine from the FRA, this is FALSE, unless the contents are purposely fraudulent.

5) Any time that you spent correcting the forms, fill out a time card that must be signed by NJT manager. If they refuse to sign, email me.

6) You are responsible for the information on this form, nobody can change the info but you. You are signing it, the info must be your own.

Please email me if you have concerns, have already filled them out without a time card, or were not comfortable with the information that was provided to you concerning this issue.

Fraternally,

Stephen J. Burkert

General Chairman

sburkert@utulocal60.com

Penn Hotel Info

In order to facilitate a more effective cleaning schedule in the Men’s Quarters at the Hotel Pennsylvania, all employees will be required to vacate the rooms between the hours of 4:00 am and 6:00 am daily beginning Tuesday, January 17th ,2017. During this time hotel personnel will perform daily cleaning and prepare the rooms for the new day’s occupants. This new cleaning schedule will provide our crews with clean accommodations each morning to start off the day. Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Sheldon L. Booker

Assistant Superintendent

New Jersey Transit Rail Operations

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Election Results

LCA 610-A:

LOCAL CHAIRMAN

*Albertson 77

Morgan 62

*Winner

VICE LOCAL CHAIRMAN

*Doyle 48

Gaskin 38

*Milan 54

*Run off needed

LCA 610 B

Dunn 36

* Jenkins 99

*Winner

 

 

 

 

 

Payroll Update

Due to Holiday weeks and vacations  payroll has asked that time cards be  submitted ASAP in boxes no later than Thursday afternoon or at the ROC by 11am Friday this week and next!

 

 

New Years Eve Update

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New Years Eve

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Election Information

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