Title

FATIGUE AND ALERTNESS IN THE UNITED STATES RAILROAD INDUSTRY PART I: THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

2000

Subject Area

operations - scheduling, operations - service span, planning - safety/accidents, planning - education, ridership - commuting, organisation - regulation, mode - rail

Keywords

Workload, Working hours, Work days, Vigilance, United States, Sleep deprivation, Sleep, Scheduling, Rest periods, Regulations, Railroad safety, Night shifts, Hours of service (Work hours), Hours of labor, Fatigue (Physiological condition), Fatigue (Biology), Education, Circadian rhythms, Alertness

Abstract

In the United States, fatigue and its impact on alertness in the railroad industry has been viewed with concern for many years. The railroad industry must actively manage employee fatigue and alertness problems to maintain an optimal level of operational safety and productivity. It is necessary to operate nights and irregular hours, as well as weekends and holidays under a wide range of physical conditions and service demands. Every reasonable avenue should be explored to ensure that employees are fit, alert, and well rested. Effective fatigue management programs must address train crew, dispatchers, signalmen, track workers, and others - both operating and non-operating personnel. Work scheduling is a particular problem in on-call operations because of start-time variability, "call" predictability, and the common use of "shorter-than 24 hour work/rest schedules". Extensive night operations are incompatible with normal circadian rhythms. Staffing limitations often require extensive overtime and reduce the effectiveness of any work schedule. These and other institutional factors significantly contribute to employee sleep deficit and overall fatigue. Lack of alertness and reduced vigilance are related not only to sleep disruption and resulting sleep deficits, but also to cognitive workload, workload transition, the physical working environment, and the design of advanced control systems. Ongoing research into fatigue mitigation and alertness enhancement strategies and into advance technologies such a s Positive Train control (PTC) can lead to improvements. These include better labor-management agreements, more effective fatigue-related educational programs, improved schedule regularity, and more practical and adaptable federal laws and regulations.

Comments

Transportation Research Part F Home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/13698478