By Larry Mann,
UTU Rail Safety Coordinator -
The FRA amended its conductor certification rules in February, delaying the time for testing conductors, extending the time for formulating training programs and amending the territorial qualification requirements.
By Sept. 1, 2012, each railroad shall have grandfathered as “certified conductors” all persons who were performing conductor duties as of Jan. 1, 2012. This includes conductors on Class I, Class II, Amtrak and commuter railroads, and means they must have issued “certified conductor” certificates to those conductors.
After Sept. 1, Class I and Class II railroads, as well as Amtrak and commuter railroads, must designate and issue certificates to all persons authorized to perform as conductors between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 1, 2012.
Class III railroads, after Sept. 1, must designate and issue certificates to all persons authorized to perform as conductors between Jan. 1, 2012, and April 1, 2013.
After Dec. 1, 2012, Class I and Class II railroads, as well as Amtrak and commuter railroads, may not initially certify or recertify a person as conductor unless that person has been tested and evaluated in accordance with FRA conductor certification rules.
For Class III railroads, that date is after April 1, 2013.
In all cases, testing and evaluation must be conducted under FRA-approved carrier certification programs. Class I and Class II railroads, as well as Amtrak and commuter railroads, have until Sept. 30 to submit to FRA for approval their programs for training, testing and evaluation of conductors. The programs must be approved by the FRA no later than Dec. 1. For Class III railroads, the submission date is Jan. 31, and the approval date is April 1.
General chairpersons have 45 days to file comments, objections, and alternative plans with the FRA.
The railroads are required to conduct annual reviews of their programs and respond to detected instances of poor safety conduct by certified conductors.
If a conductor lacks territorial qualification on mainline track physical characteristics, that conductor shall be assisted by a person who meets the territorial qualification requirements.
For a conductor who has never been qualified over the particular territory, the assistant shall be a certified conductor who is not an assigned crew member.
If the conductor was previously qualified, but such qualification has expired for one year or less, and who has not regularly traveled over the territory prior to the expiration, the assistant may be any person, including an assigned crew member who meets the territorial qualification requirements.
If the qualification expired more than one year, the assistant may also be any person, so long as the duties of the assistant do not conflict with his safety duties and he is qualified for the main track physical characteristics and that person is not the assigned locomotive engineer.