Railroad carriers' toxic brew

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published 29 questions and answers concerning Emergency Order No. 24 (EO 24), which will take effect on November 22. You can view or download the questions and answers from the BLET website (link below).

EO 24 is intended to address ongoing problems with hand-operated main track switches in dark territory. Misaligned switches have caused a number of serious accidents in recent years, the most recent of which claimed the life of Division 62 Local Chairman G. Y. Bailey.

Violations of EO 24 are punishable by civil fines up to $27,000. Therefore, it is imperative that all BLET members become familiar with its requirements and comply strictly with them.

The following information is not intended to be a complete listing of requirements for operating rules associated with EO 24. It is to serve only as a preliminary review of YOUR responsibilities for compliance with the FRA's and railroad's instructions on EO 24.

1. Each employee must receive initial instructions on EO 24 covering these subjects:

2. These instructions are expected to be face-to-face and must include examples or real time applications of the EO and you must be given an opportunity to ask questions.

3. Additionally, railroads are to provide periodic instruction on the EO as part of their usual rules instruction.

4. You must receive a PAPER copy of EO 24 from the railroad and you must provide a written receipt or acknowledgement (electronic record is acceptable) indicating you have received it, which must be retained by the railroad.

5. You cannot operate a hand operated main track switch in non-signaled territory unless you are qualified on the operating rules relating to their operation. Most likely you are already qualified.

6. You are individually responsible for the proper operation of these switches, including restoration to their normal position after use.

7. Both the Engineer and the Conductor must initial the SPAF as required and are individually responsible for its proper completion.

8. The Engineer's initials must appear for each entry as soon as practicable after the switch is reversed and restored to its normal position.

9. The Conductor's signature must appear on the form when it is completed.

10. All information required on the SPAF must be entered before an employee reports clear of the limits of the main track authority.

11. SPAFs must be retained for a period of five days and made available to FRA for inspection and copying.

12. You must conduct job briefings in connection with operation of hand operated switches in non-signaled territory.

13. Radio communication ( or an alternate form of intra-crew communication that "afford[s] an equivalent level of communication integrity relevant to the prevailing operating conditions" is required to be used each time a switch is operated. That communication details much information relative to use of the switch.

14. Operational (efficiency) tests will be conducted on this EO.

15. FRA can impose a fine of up to $27,000.00 for your willful violation of EO 24.

16. The effective date is November 22, 2005.

A copy of the FRA's question and answer document is available on the BLET website at:



© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen