DFF Item #20

20. Dear Mr. Railroad President: 

We are all aware of the problems that exist under current hour of service (HOS) regulations regarding fatigue and crew rest periods. For example, a crewman's rest period begins when he/she goes off duty and extends at least 8 hours to 10 hours depending on how long he/she has been on duty. At the end of this 8 or 10 hour "rest" the crew member must be ready to assume duty once again if so called. For a crewman who lives 1 and 1/2 hours from work, this leaves only 5 to 7 hours (minus the three accumulated driving hours) to rest. In reality, this "rest" period is usually expended on household obligations (taking the kids to the doctor, attending school activities, eating, servicing his/her car/spouse, etc.). The crewman returns to work and, whether or not he/she is actually without fatigue, must sign in on a legal document certifying that he/she is "rested" and able to complete whatever assignment he/she is called for. In this case, (and in many more than I would care to mention) the crewman may begin duty already at his/her physical or mental limit and at the edge of fatigue. For an industry whose unwritten law used to be "Safety First", this is not acceptable. 
    

I have inquired about what is being done to address the very real problem of these totally inadequate rest periods and the dangers of fatigue. I cannot reveal my source, but I have heard that the Lackawanna Terminal Railway is implementing a new series of rules and procedures which will rectify this problem. 

What can you tell me about these upcoming improvements? 

Thanks, 
John Montenigro 
Concerned Citizen 

P.S. Please do not tell me about "naps". I understand that naps are allowed under certain conditions by certain railroads. I also understand that these conditions ignore whether the crewman is actually ready for the nap. Naps are a good concept, but are only implemented properly in day-care. The railroads have a lot of catching up to do in this area, so let's not even go there. 

Dear Concerned Citizen: 

The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity is always looking at ways to make the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's train service employees more productive and to put cease to their constant whimpering and whining about, what they claim to be, a lack of adequate rest between assignments. A concern about proper crew rest arose after several major train wrecks across the nation which were prematurely blamed on "crew fatigue". The Federal Government has since been forced by citizen unrest to take a pro-active stance with regard to the question of operating employee's unrealistic concerns about "sufficient" rest. Enormous governmental and labor pressure has been placed on the nation's financially strapped railroad industry to find costly solutions to this "problem". To relieve your concern in this matter you should know that the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity has conducted an intensive "in house" quest for the solution to what is considered by some industry experts to be an imagined concern. Other railroads were consulted to determine what techniques they were trying and what success they were having with solving this most difficult but necessary problem. 

The results of this search for the best manner in which to deal with "crew fatigue" follows: 

Solution #1: Napping 

One of the remedies a major railroad has come up with for dealing with crew fatigue is "Napping" in which a member of the train crew, with the Dispatcher's permission, is allowed to take a "nap" on the train. This can only be done while the train is not moving and only one crew member can take a "nap" at a time and only for a forty five minute period. There are several obvious problems with this "Romper Room Solution" as any one who has tried to put down a four year old for a nap will readily attest. The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity has rejected this "solution" as being unrealistic. 

It was also found that supplying the train crews with little bunny and ducky bedecked pillows and napping blankets was not only prohibitively expensive, the image of a grown man/woman lying on the locomotive cab floor sucking on his/her thumb while clutching his/her "security blanket" is not one which the Lackawanna Terminal Railway wishes to project to our customers. 

Solution #2: The Dark Room 

This response to the same problem, also proffered by a class one railroad, offered to set aside a

"quiet" area where crews could go to sleep while waiting for their next assignment. The pay back from the government and the employees was that the railroad wanted the crews to be able to work fourteen hours instead of twelve hours before the expiration of the crew's hours of service. The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity rejected this solution out of hand although they did recognize that certain answers to the problem of fatigue could be turned to the advantage of the company if the employees could be duped into thinking they were getting something for nothing. 

The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity then looked into the possibility of "sensory deprivation tanks", where the employee floats naked in an enclosed egg shaped tank filled to a depth of about 15" with heavily salted water. These tanks would be placed at all layover points where the time spent in the tank would float away all stress while the employee listened to soft, soothing New Age music spiked with subliminal messages from the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity urging all to work harder for the benefit of the company. This idea was quickly abandoned when the Department of Employee Productivity was told that these tanks were the exclusive providence of deepdarkdesires.com and were used to ease the stress of upper management and those government and industry officials who would visit the Lackawanna Terminal Railway on business trips. 

While no new or practical solutions to the problem of employee fatigue were discovered while talking to other railroads, the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity has promised to continue exploring the possibilities which may be found to dwell in this area of employee exploitation. 

Solution #3: Onboard Sleep Deterrents 

In a tremendous, but wholly uncharacteristic, burst of creative experimentation, the Lackawanna Terminal Department of Employee Productivity, in cooperation with the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Mechanical Department and the union representing the train crews, initiated a series of experiments involving a device containing a small mercury switch that is attached to a helmet worn by the employee. This device, which is sensitive to vertical head movement, is coupled to an electro-mechanical apparatus which, when placed on the head of the employee, senses the moment when the employee's head dips below a predetermined angle from the horizontal (such as when the employee starts to fall asleep while on the job). The device then energizes a relay which closes a contactor connected directly to an auxiliary generator coupled to the prime mover. This closed contactor completes a circuit which sends an electric current directly to electrodes imbedded in the seat upon which the employee sits. This electric current is just great enough to shock the employee into total wakefulness without damaging any vital body parts. 

Well, that was the theory anyway. . . After three failed attempts to get the voltage and amperage down to the level where the employee stayed awake and yet was not fused to the seat, the experimental use of an auxiliary generator voltage was abandoned. 

The next step in the experiment to use resources available on the locomotive was to tap the main reservoir pressure contained in the locomotive's air system. A huge air tank, called the main reservoir tank, is located under the frame of the engine and contains an enormous volume of air at 130-140 PSI. The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Mechanical Department, at the urging of the Lackawanna Terminal Department of Employee Productivity, piped the output of this main reservoir air tank through a set of nozzles attached to the seat frames in the engine cab and a magnet valve to control the air flow was attached to the device that measures horizontal deviation as in the experiment using the locomotive's electrical system. Unfortunately, the mechanical department not only failed to remember that the seats were not permanently fixed to the seat frames but also failed to provide a reduction fitting to the pipe from the main reservoir. 

When the device which detects the deviation from the horizontal activated the magnet valve, a tremendous blast of air at 140 Pounds per Square Inch launched the poor crewman head first through the ceiling of the locomotive cab. The force of the ejection was so severe that the employee completely, and quite unexpectedly, exited the locomotive. Since the subject employee was wearing a hard hat and safety glasses as required by the company Safety Department, no harm would normally have befallen him. Unfortunately, the experiment was being conducted inside the engine house and the employee, after leaving the confines of the cab, came into fatal contact with an overhead bridge crane. 

A second test was immediately scheduled and a reduction fitting was installed in the air line to reduce the force of the air arriving at the nozzles. Unfortunately for the second test subject, he was also vertically ejected from the locomotive cab due to the fact that the reduction fitting was, in reality a smaller nozzle which actually increased the pressure of the air reaching the seat on which the employee was sitting. Fortunately, his line of flight formed a parabolic curve which caused him to miss the overhead bridge crane. Unfortunately, the rapid exit form the locomotive caused said test subject to immediately loose consciousness, suffer six months in traction at a local hospital after striking a horizontal lathe at a speed of over seventy miles per hour , sliding across a fourteen foot long tool laden work bench (setting it on fire due to the friction from his clothing), and spend the rest of his life with a head and neck cocked at a permanent 45 degree angle to his shoulders and scars over twenty percent of his body when all the fire extinguishers in the shop proved to be empty. 

After initial experiments failed to find a solution to the problem of crew fatigue that did not roast or otherwise permanently cripple the employee, a member of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity, after reading an article in Peep Hole Magazine about movie stars who hire Hindu religious zealots to help them cope with stress in the pressure cooker atmosphere of Hollywood stardom, suggested the company turn to the mystical in search of the answer to the question of employee somnolence. 

Solution #4: Transcendental Meditation 

In cooperation with the Lackawanna County College of Culinary Arts and Transcendental Meditation, the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity contracted with Professor Maharishi Bengla Desh, professor emeritus, to develop a training program to instruct train service employees in the techniques of Transcendental Meditation (TM). It was thought, by the phenoms in the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity, that if the employee could reach a state of deep relaxation during the offered "on train" rest period, thus moving the employee's mind from a state of conscious awareness and wakefulness, past the Alpha State, and further on into the Zeta State, or Zoic Plane of Consciousness, then the employee would be well rested once he/she removed him/herself from the meditative state and thus be ready to finish the assignment alert and well rested. 

The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity is, at this time, unsure of the actual usefulness of the TM technique for achieving total restfulness, but early reports indicate that only 20 minutes in the Zoic State provide as much rest as 8 hours of normal sleep, but without the extra activity of REM sleep. Carried to it's obvious conclusion, this would allow an employee to be at work continually, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year and be totally rested at all times with just a twenty minute rest period three times a day. 

At first, the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity was beside themselves with giddiness. 

Unfortunately, problems began to appear which cast dispersions on the efficacy of the Transcendental Meditation path to Corporate glee. TM worked well until the employee reached what is called "the Alpha State". Without going into laborious detail, "the Alpha State" is what your four year old enters when he/she is watching Barney the Purple Dinosaur and does not respond to repeated attempts to get his/her attention. On the engine, it was nearly impossible for the employees who were not permitted to meditate to get the employees who were meditating to come out of their trance like state of deep relaxation. The non meditating employees would then have to finish the assignment by themselves leading to growing animosity between crew members, increased stress levels, and plummeting morale. 

Further testing of TM techniques also found that as the employees became more adept at TM they were moving past the Alpha State and entering the "Zoic Plane of Consciousness". Simply stated, if the Alpha State compares to "being in a dream", the Zoic State is more similar to being in someone else's dream. The Zoically adept employees have since learned to enter the thoughts as well as the dreams of other employees over great distances allowing to the meditating employees to enter the thoughts and daydreams of several of the better looking secretaries in the offices of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway and those secretaries were unexplainably subject to profuse sweating, blushing, suggestive hip movements accompanied by a certain huskiness of voice and, finally, a sudden urge to have a cigarette. 

The Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity has suspended all testing of the Transcendental Meditation solution for employee fatigue pending settlement of several sexual harassment lawsuits filed against the company by members of the secretarial pool. 

Solution #5: Chemically Enhanced Behavior Modification 

During the research involved in the attempt to cope with the problem of crew fatigue, the employees of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity uncovered a newspaper article speculating on the possibility that the Lackawanna Terminal Railway was modifying the drinking water placed on the company's locomotives to be used by train crews while in service to the company. While no tampering with the bottled water was ever proven, the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity contacted their good friends at the National Chemical and Refining Company's huge facility at Depew, New York to see if the bottled water which was distributed to the train crews could, in fact, be modified as to provide the sleep deterring qualities required to solve the fatigue problem once and for all. 

The fine chemists at the National Chemical and Refining Company immediately began to work on the problem, in the process creating several teams of chemists whose job it was to work on the problem from several different approaches in a complex and extremely expensive procedure to come up with an answer to the dilemma place before them by a much frustrated and extremely depressed railroad management team. 

After billing the Lackawanna Terminal Railway the equivalent of the National Chemical and Refining's total operating budget through the year 2005, one of the team of chemists discovered than an additive used in eye drops for infants, Hydro-chloro-flouro-neurotic Acid, contained certain hydrocarbons which, when isolated from the base solution, could form the basis for a chemical  formula which would cause the behavior modification required by the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity. In fact, anyone with a basic knowledge of organic chemistry, some charcoal, a little alcohol, household ammonia, water, an infinitesimal portion this byproduct, and some cherry extract could make, in his/her bathroom at home, a fairly cheap batch of a chemical that, once in the bloodstream, would cause a person to stay alert and productive for twelve to sixteen hours in a row simply by drinking six ounces of the solution. The fact that this formula was often used at National Chemical and Refining Christmas parties was never mentioned. Also not mentioned was the fact that this same formula had been modified with an extremely potent aphrodisiac which was well known among the chemists at the National Chemical and Refining Company to have turned many normally sedate office parties into festivals of debauchery. 

The resulting report, filed with the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity, reveals the perfect solution to the problem of on train employee fatigue. It was finally so very simple; a slug of this cherry elixir before work and the entire crew was good for the whole assignment. By slightly modifying and toning down the aphrodisiac the employee would not only stay awake and alert with no problem but would feel terrific to the end. Huge batches of the product, called Doctor Feelgood's Elixir of Alertness, were manufactured by the good folks at National Chemical and Refining and distributed to all sign up locations throughout the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's extensive rail system. 

All was well, the problem finally solved, until the operating employees went for their annual physicals as required by federal law. One by one each employee's urine sample come up positive for steroids as well as four different varieties of federally control substances. At one point it looked like every operating employee would have to be taken out of service. 

The collapse of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's extensive empire was saved, however, when it was discovered that the chemicals which displayed a false indication of chemical dependence in all of the on train personnel (and not a few of the office people) would dissipate within twenty four hours if the employee simply refrained from ingesting the "Elixir of Alertness". All remaining stocks of the product were destroyed immediately and the experiment was deemed a failure. All members of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway's Department of Employee Productivity have been summarily fired and immediately replaced by relatives of members of the Board of Directors of the Lackawanna Terminal Industries, Ltd. 

The problem of on train employee fatigue is still at issue but has been partially resolved by contracts with the unions which allow employees in safety sensitive positions sufficient time off between assignments to include travel time to and from their sign up points and get sufficient rest without suffering pay reductions or harassment by supervisors. In addition, employees were allowed to mark off "Personal Business" without complaint or retribution from the company. 

The Lackawanna Terminal Railway considers the matter closed at this time.

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