Gas Engine Blogs > Field Notes

By Now Surely You've Caught Up

by Jeannine Snyder

Tags: daylight saving time, standard time, Standard Time Act, Uniform Time Act, Energy Policy Act, railroad,

Daylight saving time hits us every year, and 2009 is the third year where we'll spend more time "saving" than in standard time. 

Comparing time     
Jack Delano
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad conductor George E. Burton and engineer J.W. Edwards compare time before pulling out of Corwith railroad yard for Chillicothe, Ill., in March 1943.

Many technological advancements came about in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — barbed wire, the gas tractor, the automobile — and one that is easily overlooked: time standardization.

Railroads were the driving force in the U.S. (and Canada), establishing standard time zones in 1883 to ensure trains remained on schedule. On March 19, 1918, the "Standard Time Act" became U.S. law, which created daylight saving time as well as the nation's four time zones.

However, national daylight saving time was repealed the following year. Whether to participate in any sort of "daylight saving" returned to a local level for the next 20-plus years, until World War II. The U.S. government reinstated national daylight saving time, during certain months, from Feb. 9, 1942, to Sept. 30, 1945. Following WWII, once again the nation decided on a local level whether to conserve daylight.

More than two decades past until, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, daylight saving time become a national standard again. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed, which established daylight saving time (with local exemptions) from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, with the change occurring at 2 a.m. local time.

During the energy crisis in the mid-1970s, Congress enacted earlier starts to daylight saving: Jan. 6 in '74 and Feb. 23 in '75. 1976 saw the return to the last Sunday in April.

Ten years later, in 1986, the starting date was moved to April's first Sunday, effective the following year.

Through all the changes to the start day, the end of daylight saving remained rather constant. That is until October 2005: Enter the Energy Policy Act. The act changed the start to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November, beginning in 2007.

So now, as a nation, we spend 34 weeks — 65 percent of the year — saving daylight. Check out U.S. Code, Title 15, Chapter 6, Subchapter IX for the specifics. (And remember to "fall back" Nov. 1, 2009!)