EO 26 Compliance

Posted by admin on June 11, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As you may know the FRA has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Restrictions on Railroad Operating Employees’ Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices”. When finalized, the proposed rules will supplant FRA Emergency Order 26.

A copy of the NPRM has been provided under separate cover. 

This letter is intended to reiterate the critical nature of EO26 and to reinforce the importance of compliance with EO26 and with the regulation when it is finalized.

In the NPRM, in justification for the rulemaking, FRA cited six railroad accidents in which the use of electronic devices has been identified as a contributing factor in the cause of the accident.

The worst of these was the head-on collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a UP freight train in Chatsworth, California. This collision resulted in 25 deaths, numerous injuries and more than $7 million in damages.

We must all be aware that all five of the other accidents cited in the NPRM occurred in Texas. These tragic accidents resulted in four fatalities, numerous critical injuries and over $11 million in damages.

In response to the accidents mention above, as everyone knows, FRA issued Emergency Order 26 to “Restrict On-Duty Railroad Operating Employees’ Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Distracting Electronic and Electrical Devices.”

EO26 became effective on October 27, 2008 and remains in full force until the regulations proposed in the NPRM are finalized.

From the period from the effective date of EO26, through December, 2009, FRA inspectors found about 200 instances in which EO26 may have been violated. FRA recommended enforcement action against the employee or the railroad in 36 of these instances. Every one of the 36 enforcement actions was based on a railroad employee using an electronic device while on duty.

About half of the actions were based on an employee using a cell phone during a potentially hazardous situation. That means about half of the actions were based on some other type of electronic device. EO26 emphatically states “Use of a personal electronic or electrical device to perform any function other than voice communication while on duty is prohibited.” This means no texting, DVD’s, radio, television or using any other electronic device is allowed at any time while on duty, period.

From the information mentioned above and from stories I have heard while talking to numerous Division Officers and members right here in Texas, over the past several months, it is glaringly clear that some of our co-workers still do not understand or have chosen to ignore EO26. 

It cannot be overstated how serious the consequences are for violating EO26 or any federal regulation for that matter. The FRA minimum civil penalty is $650 and the ordinary maximum civil penalty is $25,000. FRA conducts operational tests which include checking for the illegal use of cell phones and other electronic devices.

Additionally, FRA has the authority to and will subpoena cell phone records or other personal information related to an accident investigation. Even worse, a rail employee could face criminal prosecution if they are found to have been using an electronic device at the time of an accident that results in a fatality or critical injury or even a large amount of damage.

We all know that railroads perform operational tests. However, not everyone knows that FRA mandates these tests. Every railroad is required by the FRA to put operating rules in place to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Also, these rules can be even more restrictive than the regulation itself. If an employee is caught in violation of EO26 during a test, or any other time for that matter, he/she will face discipline and possibly be fired.

Use an electronic device? Brothers and Sisters as you can see it’s just not worth it. 

Before You Start Your Trip, Put It In Your Grip!  

Please help get this message out so that everyone arrives safely back home.


Terry D. Briggs, Chairman

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen

Texas State Legislative Board

7083 Baker Blvd

Richland Hills, Tx 76118

(817) 285-7668

Last modified on June 11, 2010

Categories: National, State
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