Crew calling in the information age

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Crew calling in the information age
Posted by Ulrich on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 5:43 PM

How does crew calling work? Someone from the railroad i.e. a crew caller, calls you and tells you to report to work at a certain time. Is that basically it? Or is that job automated now?... you go to the railroad's website, sign in, and pick the assignment you want given your seniority.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 6:08 PM

Different carriers have different systems - and virtually any system that can be devised by man and a computer is probably in play.

On my carrier some jobs are 'auto-called' by computer, with the individual receiving a phone call from the computer tell them when and what to report for.  In other circumstance individuals are called by a real person caller.  A number of other jobs are 'show up' jobs for the regular assigned individuals.

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Posted by Ulrich on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 6:32 PM

The ideal would be a more passive system that allows a crew member to pick and choose the assignment he/she wants.  You log onto your carrier's website, punch in your access code, and then see what's available. You might want to be home for your birthday so you pick an assignment that will ensure you're home by that date. The more seniority you rack up, the more assignments you have to pick from. The new recruits get the fewest choices and pretty much have to take what the senior people pass up. Such a system would also give you the opportunity to work as hard (or not hard) as you want, within limits. To me one of the biggest drawbacks of the current system is waiting to be called up. As I understand it, you have to be ready to go at all times, so that pretty much crimps what you can do even on your days off. You can't really go off to ski for a couple of days when you might be called up to go to work at any time. You might even be able to choose who you work with.. if you're a conductor and don't like Fred the engineer then you can pass up that assignment to work with another engineer... that really cool Ulrich engineer for example.

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Posted by zugmann on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 6:58 PM

Ulrich
To me one of the biggest drawbacks of the current system is waiting to be called up.

When I was on the lists, you never had to wait long to be called up.  Usually happened right off your rest, or shortly thereafter.  Your system would be fine if you had lots of people on the extra list, very few extra jobs being called, and very few last minute mark offs.  Unfortunately that isn't likely.

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 7:09 PM

That is what happens with regular assignment for those that have the seniority to hold them; however, even with assigned line of road trains, they don't always run when they are scheduled to run and the assigned call times may be set back until a time that the train actually arrives.

Pool turns are bid in in seniority order, with the Pool Turns being called first in, first out presuming that the crew has the rest that is required by law.  With the current HOS law, crews cannot be called by the company until they have had 10 hours undisturbed rest, the crews can call the company and offer to come on duty for a train on their 10 hours rested time, if they are called by the company it is the 10 hours undisturbed rest plus the 2 hours required as a normal call allowance to report - 12 hours total. 

Throw in positions being abolished for any of a variety of reasons and the employees from those positions having a contract specified amount of time exercise their rights and then throw in the 'sharpshooters' that play games with the system.  The current HOS law also limits that maximum number of 'starts' a crewman can have in a calendar month as well has the maximum number of hours and a maximum amount of 'Limbo Time' that a individual can accumulate.

The system is not simple - for the crews or the company.

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 7:21 PM

The fire service has several programs available for incident notification via texts, which could be considered analogous to crew calling.

One feature several of them have is the ability to respond, with several options.  When a call comes in I can respond that I'm headed for the station, the scene, I'll be delayed, or maybe I can't make it at all.  My phone number is registered in the system, and there's a default response (mine is going to the station), so when I call, the system recognizes the number as me.

While responding to the notification is usually done by phone, my smart phone has an app that gives me a net based response capability, and even will show who else has called in.

The basic texts tell me what the call is, and where.  Some will even port to a map program and help me find my way to the call (not usually necessary).

It wouldn't be a reach to come up with a similar program for crew calling, although it does require that the callees have a textable phone.  I would imagine that a hybrid system could be constructed that uses both texts and landlines for notification.

One of our firefighters doesn't have a cell phone, but does carry a voice pager (our primary notification method).  He still calls in from his home phone when appropriate. 

The system we use has the ability to send text messages to any or all of the folks in the system (for our department), so if applied to crew calling, the caller could notify just the appropriate crew members, or send out status messages (ie, train lineup for the next X hours).

The system also has a web presence, so I can log in and see what's up, as well as schedule myself, including those times when I won't be available to answer calls.

Or they may already be using something like that.


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Posted by dakotafred on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 7:54 PM

I do know from a rail friend that cell phones have revolutionized the whole "call" game. One of my least-favorite jobs 50 years ago, off the clerks' extra board, was crew caller. You'd have to wake up some rummy engineer or conductor, knocking on the door of his phoneless dive hotel room, and give him the bad news that he had drawn a coal drag instead of a manifest.

"Lay me off!" I remember one old soak roaring in my face, with breath. At the time, I thought uncharitable thoughts. With the passing of more time, I realize it was his wretched life that made him that way. (Although he took the money.) 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, January 9, 2014 4:01 PM

dakotafred

You'd have to wake up some rummy engineer or conductor, knocking on the door of his phoneless dive hotel room, and give him the bad news that he had drawn a coal drag instead of a manifest.

 

Now most would rather have the coal train.  The manifest means either you are going to work (often late at night or early in the morning) at one or both ends.  Or you have a train that although it meets the train make-up guidelines, is a long, heavy, spongy P.O.S., often with a few heavy cars behind empties and lots of long travel, cushioned draw bars in between.  

I hardly ever talk to a caller anymore.  Laying off or marking back up, moving a vacation week up or back can be done either on-line or over the phone on an automated system.  These systems have also allowed them to cut the number of callers on duty at any particular time, so sometimes when you do need to speak to one you might end up waiting 15 or 20 minutes.  

Jeff 

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Posted by caldreamer on Friday, January 10, 2014 8:51 AM

Accorlding to the law 49 USC21103 if you are on your 48 hours of time off., you can go skiing, etc, because the railroad can not call you if you have worked 6 consecutive days and you are at your homne terminal.

  Ira.

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Posted by Ulrich on Friday, January 10, 2014 10:12 AM

What if you don't work 6 consecutive days? Then you're back to being tethered to your house awaiting the call to work. Is it common to work  6 days so that you can be assured 48 hours of off time?...or is it more likely that you'll work four or five days,  and you're left waiting around for the phone to ring?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, January 10, 2014 1:29 PM

Ulrich

What if you don't work 6 consecutive days? Then you're back to being tethered to your house awaiting the call to work. Is it common to work  6 days so that you can be assured 48 hours of off time?...or is it more likely that you'll work four or five days,  and you're left waiting around for the phone to ring?

That 6 consecutive days does not mean calendar days it goes by crew starts.  You get called for 0005 hrs Monday at A and run a train to Z released at 0655, rested at 1655.  Called at Z for 1825 and run a train to A released at 0025 Tuesday.  You're rested at 1025 and get called for 1155 to run a train A to Z, released at 2300 (it was a really bad trip) Tuesday.  You have worked 3 consecutive days in 2 calendar days.

You're rested at 0900 Wednesday and called for 1200 to deadhead, separate and apart, Z to A released at 1500, rested at 0100 Thursday.  Called at A for 0600 to run a train A to Z released at 1400.  Upon arrival and release at Z, you have answered the phone and went to work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  How many consecutive days have you worked at this point?  1 day.  Remember that deadhead?  It's not considered performing service so does not count.  If you have 24 hours off between tours of duty of covered service you reset, the consecutive days count starts over.  The time from 2300 Tuesday to 0600 Thursday reset the count. 

Our extra boards are more likely to get Federal rest (what we call the 48 or 72 hours off) than the pools.  At times, pool guys can get it.  I came within 15 minutes of getting 72 hours (If the sixth consecutive start is at the home terminal sending you out to the away terminal, you can work the 7th start home but then are required to have 72 hours off.) off at Christmas.  On the 24th, there wasn't enough extra board to cover all the pool vacancies, so guys who stayed marked up went around vacant turns.  I would have had my 6th start going out, the 7th coming home, but an extra board guy became rested and filled a vacant turn ahead of me.  The next train that I was called for put me on duty 24 hrs 15 mins after my last tie up

It seems when you want Federal rest you don't get it.  When you don't want it, then you do get it.  When I get home I'll have 4 consecutive starts.  I wouldn't mind 2 days off right now, so I'll probably reset before what would be my 5th start.

Jeff   

Jeff.  

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Posted by AgentKid on Friday, January 10, 2014 5:47 PM

jeffhergert
It seems when you want Federal rest you don't get it.  When you don't want it, then you do get it.  When I get home I'll have 4 consecutive starts.  I wouldn't mind 2 days off right now, so I'll probably reset before what would be my 5th start.

Thanks Jeff, that was really interesting. Your post, and a Christmas story I read over on a Canadian RR forum, really reinforced something my Dad used to talk about. It may not have sounded glamorous, but back in the day, senior guys wanted to sign up for Mixed and Wayfreight trips. Their regularly scheduled start times were a really valuable perk. And it was the Engineers and Conductors who had the seniority, the Brakemen were the ones who did most of the switch throwing and pin-pulling.

Not too many opportunities like that anymore.

Bruce

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, January 10, 2014 11:23 PM

Our conductor extra lists get 2 rest days per 6-day cycle. And it's now a guaranteed list.  Not too shabby.  When I was on the list we had none of that stuff.  There were times you worked every day for weeks on end (including some doubling out - working 2 yard starts within 24 hours -  at 1.5x pay).  I made a buttload of money at times.  And had no time to spend it.  Win/win?

I'll still take my regular show-up job, though.  I haven't been tied to my phone in ages now.  Kind of a nice feeling.  I feel like I'm becoming an old head already.

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Posted by old_rail on Monday, January 13, 2014 9:08 PM

What you are talking about is pure fantasy! Something you play on your Game Boy. Suggest you stay doing whatever you are now, you will never make it as a railroader. 

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Posted by Railoffroader2 on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 1:43 AM

It's a wonder where some of you get your info from regarding Hours Of Service (HOS) Laws.

For instance this comment left by another poster is what I'm referring to....

"With the current HOS law, crews cannot be called by the company until they have had 10 hours undisturbed rest, the crews can call the company and offer to come on duty for a train on their 10 hours rested time, if they are called by the company it is the 10 hours undisturbed rest plus the 2 hours required as a normal call allowance to report - 12 hours total."

An Engineer or Conductor only gets 10 hours rest if they physically worked 12 hours (or more if ordered by Management in cases of a State of Emergency declaration). Deadheading back to a home terminal from the point where you get relieved is Limo Time and is not factored into Total Time On Duty.

8 hours off is the norm.

 

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Posted by Railoffroader2 on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 1:44 AM

;)

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 12:36 PM

old_rail

What you are talking about is pure fantasy! Something you play on your Game Boy. Suggest you stay doing whatever you are now, you will never make it as a railroader.

Can you be a little more specific?  Several of the posts here were made by railroaders.

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Posted by Ulrich on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 12:41 PM

He's referring to the OP (me), I think. Oh well.. I don't even own a Game Boy, and I'm quite happy running my trucking biz.

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Posted by Retired Trainman on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 8:41 PM

I went to work on the PRR in 1965 working the extra / extra board you were locked to your home phone waiting for a call to report, if there was a decent crew dispatcher on duty you could call and ask how you stood as in how many jobs are open and where am I on the list, if he was a decent man, he might answer 10 and you are 12th, that would be too close to call so you stood by, and no matter you would more then likely be on duty in the next 8 hours. The system allowed you two hours to get in to sign up.

The end results my wife hated the entire system and in 1969 it was good by to railroading and back to school on the GI Bill, 45.5 years later we are still together and as much as I liked railroading steady hours allow you to plan a life and enjoy it.

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Posted by dakotafred on Thursday, January 16, 2014 7:32 AM

old_rail

What you are talking about is pure fantasy! Something you play on your Game Boy. Suggest you stay doing whatever you are now, you will never make it as a railroader. 

Uh oh, he's not only old but cranky. Sounds like too many years of calls in the middle of the night.

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Posted by dakotafred on Thursday, January 16, 2014 7:34 AM

Railoffroader2
It's a wonder where some of you get your info from especially how inaccurate some of the HOS

Better if you give us some notion of WTF you're talking about!

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Posted by dakotafred on Thursday, January 16, 2014 7:35 AM

Railoffroader2
Sent accidental.
Where do some of you get your inaccurate HOS info from?

No help. Try writing with your brain as well as your fingers.

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, January 16, 2014 4:18 PM

Railoffroader2
Sent accidental.
Where do some of you get your inaccurate HOS info from?

Guess you need some updating on the current US HOS laws.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, January 16, 2014 9:36 PM

BaltACD
Railoffroader2
Where do some of you get your inaccurate HOS info from?
Guess you need some updating on the current US HOS laws.

My thought as well.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by Railoffroader2 on Friday, January 24, 2014 2:10 PM

My reply was directed at a few comments regarding what I stated, I know you don't understand, but those whom I was directing this to, do.

Carry On ;

;)

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Posted by Railoffroader2 on Friday, January 24, 2014 2:13 PM

I'm pretty sure I'm bound by them, LoL, I do work for a RR

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Posted by Railoffroader2 on Friday, January 24, 2014 2:16 PM

My comment was for specific persons who understood what I meant.

I you don't know what I'm talking about, thats fine. Keep the sarcastic remarks to yourself and find something else to read please.

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Posted by Railoffroader2 on Friday, January 24, 2014 2:46 PM

I live by them daily and am very familiar with them, thanks.

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Posted by dakotafred on Friday, January 24, 2014 8:14 PM

Railoffroader2

I live by them daily and am very familiar with them, thanks.

comment withdrawn

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, January 25, 2014 1:18 AM

Railoffroader2

I live by them daily and am very familiar with them, thanks.

Judging by your avatar, you work passenger?

Those HOS laws are a bit different than the the ones for the freight guys.   For example, the minimum 10 hour undisturbed rest which is what we have.  Passenger still has 8 (for now), I believe.

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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