February 2011 in Freight Operations
Freight Drivers having to drive beyond the recommended safe limit of 11 hours because of the adverse weather conditions, concerns one reporter.
The Working Time Directive (2003) recommends that Drivers should not drive trains after 11 hours because of the risk of fatigue. The reporter is aware that several staff were still driving trains after 12 and even 15 hours. On a few occasions this was exceeded further still. This was the result of Drivers left stranded on trains or at terminals waiting for the lorries to bring the material for transport. In some instances Drivers had to bring the trains back themselves as there was no shift relief at the location.
The reporter appreciates that dealing with such adverse weather conditions is extremely difficult but planning was thought to be inadequate. The reporter felt that there were instances where trains should have been cancelled, because running them with Drivers who have been on duty for over 15 hours was placing the network at risk of an incident.
The reporter suggests the following actions if adverse weather conditions arise again:
Could Direct Rail Services comment on the feasibility of the suggestions made by the reporter?
Direct Rail Services, like most other Train Operators, were faced with operating services during a sustained period of severe winter weather during the month of November 2010. Throughout this period the safety, welfare and consideration of its employees, along with the provision of a satisfactory customer service delivery programme remained the company priority.
Where Train Crew working hours exceedances occurred, due to the severity of the weather and disruption on the network, such instances were monitored, recorded and managed in line with company procedures and working instructions (Working Times for DRS Operational Employees).
The company were also proactive during the period of severe weather by regularly replenishing equipment. Train Crew grades were also supplied with additional and more suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Certain locomotives were also stocked with emergency kit materials.
A company review is currently being carried out to assess what further improvements can be introduced in preparedness for future winter working, enhancing what arrangements already exist. Staff from the Train Crew grades have been involved in this review and have already contributed by their suggestions which the company welcome and will consider, some of which have been raised by the reporter.