I have this recurring nightmare …

Written by David Schanoes, Contributing Editor

The Federal Railroad Administration’s new Hours of Service (HOS) app is now available via the iPhone App Store:

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has now made its Hours of Service (HOS) app available for download in the iPhone app store. Those wishing to download the app should search for “FRA HOS Manual.” The HOS app was developed to provide users with clarification on HOS requirements found at 49 CFR Part 228, Hours of Service Recordkeeping, and FRA hours of service interpretations and policies. This tool allows users to navigate through FRA guidance that exists addressing the complexity hours of service requirements. Along with the diversity of railroad operations, it assists to provide comprehensive guidance and consolidates this information into one manual to ensure standardized application and compliance. Users can select from multiple railroad user groups: freight, passenger, dispatching or signal employees.

I have this recurring nightmare: A locomotive engineer falls asleep, after accelerating his train in the fourth notch to 20 mph, attempting to “get in” under the six-minute-late rule. Just before falling asleep, according to the archive of the inward facing video camera, the engineer can be observed looking at his iPhone Hours of Service app in order to ascertain if he can make himself available on his days off for a 6th and 7th start.

The railroad has installed PTC, but because the railroad has applied for and received a Main Line Track Exemption in the terminal, there is no positive stop function to enforce zero velocity at the end of track.

Turns out, the locomotive engineer had been feeling fatigued for some time, but since FRA withdrew from the rulemaking process for testing and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, the engineer has been waiting for the railroad and the labor organizations to agree on a voluntary testing and treatment program, while working as much as possible … just in case.

During the time the locomotive engineer is asleep, the inward-facing video camera records him moving his hands while unconscious to satisfy the on-board alertness device, with a timing interval of once every 30 seconds.

The train accelerates to 21 mph, not triggering the overspeed alarm, which is set to allow a 3 mph overspeed from the speed associated with any signal indicated by the cab signal apparatus. The train strikes the bumping block after 52 seconds, just short of the initiation of a second audible alertness warning cycle.

The bumping block is of new and improved construction, but because the passengers are aware that the train is in its final terminal, they are all up and standing in the vestibules. The impact throws them first forward, and then as the bumping block returns the absorbed energy, backward against each other. Four hundred and fifty two passengers suffer whiplash injuries.

The conductor and assistant conductor suffer bruises after being thrown against the sinks in the two washrooms on the train, where they both claim they were at the time of the overspeed and collision. Neither train crew employee took any exception to the speed of the train. “You don’t expect us to know where we are at all times, do you?” announce both with one voice and with sincere incredulity.

As the injured are being transported to nearby hospitals, a trainmaster attempts to make his/her way to the event recorder to download the data, but is stopped by a police officer who says, “Sorry, off limits except to NTSB personnel, who should be here in 8 to 10 hours to take charge of the investigation.”

The locomotive engineer awakens after the accident, and while claiming no memory of the 50-55 seconds leading up to the crash, files a close-call confidential report indicating that he’s not sure, but he might have been using a personal electronic device, perhaps a cellphone, or an electronic tablet, which he thinks was in his backpack but now appears to be missing. You never know.

My nightmare is that I’m superintendent of this Texas Daisy Chainsaw Little House on Elm Street Prairie Thank God It’s Friday the 13th Railroad, and I have to explain how this could happen. No, actually I don’t have to explain it, because nobody really gives a rat’s ass, and that’s so much scarier.

Every time I have this dream, I thrash and flail, looking, I think, for a phone to throw against, if not through, a wall. Every time, my wife wakes me up and kicks me out of bed.

I wander out to the couch, wondering how I ever gave up smoking. Drinking I understand, since I was tested for drinking, but how did I ever give up smoking? And every time, I wind up saying, and out loud, “I’m glad I don’t have to work there anymore.”













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