Freight Railroad Safety: Results of Rail Industry Survey about Hours of Service Issues (GAO-11-894SP, September 2011), an E-supplement to GAO-11-853

Read the Full Report: Freight Railroad Safety: Hours of Service Changes Have Increased Rest Time, but More Can Be Done to Address Fatigue Risks (GAO-11-853).

Background

This e-supplement presents the results of GAO's web-based survey of 254 freight railroads about the operational and administrative impacts on the railroads of changes to hours of service requirements made by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA). RSIA, passed by Congress in October 2008, extensively overhauled railroad safety requirements, including those for how much time freight railroad workers can spend on the job (called "hours of service"), and how much minimum rest time they must take. RSIA's changes became effective for freight railroads in July 2009.

Of the 254 railroads surveyed, we received responses from all 7 class I railroads, 14 of 15 class II railroads, and 163 of 232 class III railroads. (For economic regulatory purposes, the railroad industry is divided into three classes based primarily on annual operating revenues.) The class III railroads included all those with five or more full-time-equivalent employees in 2009 covered by RSIA hours of service requirements as reported to the Federal Railroad Administration. This e-supplement includes the questions we asked and a summary of the responses by class of railroad. For those questions to which there were no responses by a class of railroad, that railroad class is excluded from the results. Responses to open-ended questions requiring a narrative response are not included in this document.

A more detailed discussion of our objectives, scope, and methodology is contained in our report, Freight Railroad Safety: Hours of Service Changes Have Increased Rest Time, but More Can Be Done to Address Fatigue Risks, GAO-11-853. We administered the survey from January 2011 to April 2011 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation

We provided a draft of this e-supplement to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for review and comment. FRA officials raised concerns about the wording of some definitions used in our survey of the rail industry about hours of service issues. FRA questioned whether the rail industry was familiar enough with requirements of the law so that the definitions we used would not have resulted in inaccurate responses. In particular, FRA stated that the term "10-Hour Undisturbed Rest Period" indicates that a statutory minimum off-duty period is required before an employee next performs service for a railroad carrier (or contractor or subcontractor to a railroad carrier); such a rest period is not required immediately following an employee s final release. Regarding the term "Monthly Cap on Limbo or Deadhead Time," FRA indicated that employees are permitted to spend indefinite amounts of time in a status that is neither on duty nor off duty under the limbo time limitation and only when the sum of this time and time on duty exceeds 12 hours does the time begin to count toward the limitation of 30 hours per calendar month. FRA further noted that this cap applies only to the specific subset of limbo time that is time spent waiting for deadhead transportation, or in deadhead transportation from a duty assignment to the place of final release. Finally, FRA stated that railroads are not required to develop safety risk reduction programs in the absence of an FRA rulemaking on this program.

We did not change the wording of the definitions contained in the survey presented in this e-supplement as a result of FRA s comments. The e-supplement is meant to present the survey as it was made available to respondents and we believe the information provided by the survey is accurate and respondents understood our survey and RSIA requirements sufficiently to provide appropriate responses. To this end, we fully pretested the survey prior to administering it; pretest participants raised no substantive concerns about the terms defined in the survey.

Contents

Page Name Questionnaire Results
Purpose View View
RSIA Hours of Service Requirement Definitions View View
Changes Resulting from RSIA Hours of Service Requirements View View
Federal Role in RSIA Hours of Service Requirements View View

Contact

Susan A. Fleming at (202) 512-2834 or flemings@gao.gov

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