April 4, 2014

CTA fires operator who derailed train, launches new scheduling rules

CHICAGO — A Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) spokeswoman told Reuters that on Friday the agency fired the train operator who fell asleep while operating the train that jumped the track and scaled the escalator and stairs at the O’Hare International Airport station on March 24.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the operator, who has not been identified, had been on the job for 60 days and admitted to dozing off before the crash, as well as overrunning a station in February.

The CTA spokeswoman added that the transit authority may terminate an operator for two serious safety violations under its contract with the union for those workers. For the full story, click here.

The CTA also announced on Friday changes in the scheduling of rail operators, the result of a comprehensive internal agency review of scheduling procedures following the incident.

The CTA has historically followed well-established scheduling principles and practices that are very similar to those of every other transit agency in the country, according to the agency. However, it voluntarily and immediately began conducting an internal analysis of those policies to determine if improvements could be made.

“Safety is our highest priority at the CTA,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “Any time an incident like this occurs, we take very seriously the responsibility of thoroughly reviewing all aspects of what happened — including longstanding policies and practices. In this instance, there were changes we could make that are appropriate and that further maximize safety for our customers and for our employees.”

The proposed changes include:

•    Setting a maximum of 12 hours of actual train-operations duty (including layover times at terminals and other non-driving rail duties) for rail operations employees in a 14-hour time period. Currently, there is no maximum.

•    Increasing the minimum time of rest between shifts to 10 hours from eight hours.

•    Require all rail operations employees to take at least one day off in any seven-day period. Currently, there is no limit.

•    For new operators in the first year of operating a train, limit weekly hours operating a train to 32 hours. As they do now, these employees will work other rail-related duties besides operating trains in their other work hours. Currently, there is no limit.

These changes will make CTA scheduling guidelines as stringent, and in most cases more stringent, than its peer transit agencies nationwide, agency officials said.

The CTA has already implemented two other changes at the O’Hare Blue Line station: reducing the speed limit of approaching trains to 15 mph from 25 mph, and moving “trip arms,” devices that will stop a train traveling above the speed limit, further back from the end of the platform.

Additionally, the CTA will repeat its fatigue awareness training for all rail operators.

The CTA is continuing to work with the NTSB in its investigation into the incident.

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