On March 23, engineers on the Northeast corridor got new schedules that left them either with very short turnarounds between runs, or with very long breaks that extended the periods of time they spent away from home, according to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. The changes, which the union says Amtrak told them were necessary to achieve cost savings, also created more variability and unpredictability. That can be hard on an engineer's internal clock.Although further investigation has ruled out any evidence of a bullet strike on the windshield of motor 601, or of Mr Bostian reporting a rocking of his train, he was completing a turn out of New York that had already been stressful.
"We feel 100 percent confident that the issue of the new schedule, the reduced rest period and layover period for this young man, was an immediate and direct contribution to this incident," Fritz Edler, chair of the local committee of adjustment for the BLET's Division 482, said in an interview Friday. "Fatigue is a cumulative problem. So if you have a bad day yesterday, it’s going to be that much harder to do your job today. And that’s the kind of situation [engineer Brandon Bostian] was up against."
Mr. Bostian had been on this route only for several weeks, investigators said, working five days a week. The derailment culminated what had already been a difficult day for him.Because the Hours of Service Act applies to time elapsed since call time, train crews on short railroads or fast railroads often complete a round trip (or more) in a working day. It appears as though some of the duties are of the turn-on-a-wheel variety, and others are what I learned as a split, or two-piece run, and the two-piece runs can affect concentration more than the turn-on-a-wheel. Somewhere, though, the business fad of the day, doing more with less, is going to run afoul of the reason economists speak of the factor-minimal production frontier.
Tuesday afternoon, before the accident, Mr. Bostian was driving an Acela Express train from New York to Washington when the electronic signals malfunctioned, forcing him to carry out a long series of safety procedures, including slowing the train, said Karl Edler, the chairman of the Washington branch of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and a longtime operator on the Northeast Corridor. Mr. Sumwalt confirmed the problem on that trip.
Mr. Bostian was able to pull safely into Washington using the signals he could see on the trackside, but he was 30 minutes behind schedule.
Because of the delay, Mr. Bostian only had an hour of rest, most of which was probably taken up by switching trains, filling out paperwork and doing equipment checks, Mr. Edler said.