Thursday, May 23, 2013

Engineer shortage hampers SEPTA operations

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A shortage of qualified engineers is causing annulments of SEPTA regional rail service trains, with some SEPTA employees predicting the problem will become more acute.

Overtime work for both engineers and conductors has helped SEPTA deal with the manpower shortage in years past. But revised federal work rules have reduced the number of hours crews can work in a week or a month, and SEPTA budgetary constraints have strained the agency's overtime flexibility.

Last Saturday, eight regional rail trains were canceled because of crew shortages, local media reported.

SEPTA has 194 locomotive engineers, along with 396 conductors and assistant conductors. It needs 213 engineers to be fully staffed, SEPTA spokeswoman Jerria Williams says.

Roughly two-thirds of SEPTA engineers are not available for weekend work because they already have worked all the hours that federal rules allow, Williams said.

Engineers and conductors have been working without new labor contracts since 2009. But both labor and management say that has not prompted work slowdowns or stoppages that might contribute to the shortage.