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California PUC Adds State Cell Phone Ban to Federal Law Against Train Operator Cell Phones

(Los Angeles, California – October 6, 2011)

Due to gaps in authorities over rail and transit agencies between Federal and state jurisdictions, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved permanent status for an emergency regulation barring cell phone use by on-duty train and transit personnel, and requiring in-cab cameras to ensure operator compliance.

In the wake of the horrible 25-fatality collision in Chatsworth, CA in 2008 between a LA Metrolink passenger train and a stopped Union Pacific freight train when Metrolink locomotive engineer missed a red “stop” signal while he was texting on a cell phone. In 2008 a similar accident occurring between two light rail trains on San Francisco’s Municipal Railway.

Both the Federal Railroad Administration and the CPUC had issued orders covering the causes of the tragedies. Because the FRA has jurisdiction over Amtrak and Caltrain, but not over agencies like BART, Muni or Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the action by both agencies was deemed necessary to prevent recurrence of the 2008 accidents. CPUC took the final action Thursday at its meeting in Los Angeles.