Technical Reports

Fatigue Status of the U.S. Railroad Industry

  • 22
  • Feb
  • 2013
AUTHOR: Judith Gertler, Amanda DiFiore and Thomas Raslear
SUBJECT: Fatigue Management, Hours of Service, Human Factors, Sleep Disorders, Work Schedule & Sleep Patterns
KEYWORDS: Fatigue, work schedule, sleep pattern, sleep disorder, alertness, shiftwork, hours of service, split assignment, extra board
ABSTRACT: This report draws on the results of several prior studies, all conducted with similar methodology, to characterize the prevalence of employee fatigue in the U.S. railroad industry. Data from logbook surveys of signalmen, maintenance of way workers, dispatchers, and train and engine service employees were combined to examine the relationship between work schedules and sleep patterns. Railroaders make up for lack of sleep on workdays by sleeping longer on rest days. This strategy is used to a greater extent among by certain groups such as signalmen working four 10-hour days, first shift dispatchers, and train and engine service (T&E) workers on jobs with a fixed start time. T&E workers in passenger service with a split assignment have a shorter primary sleep period than those working straight through or working extra board assignments, but they have similar total daily sleep because they sleep during their interim release. Overall, U.S. railroad workers are more likely than U.S. working adults to get less than 7 hours of total sleep on workdays, but railroad workers average more total sleep when sleep on workdays and rest days are combined. According to the FAST software tool, the effectiveness (inverse of fatigue) for each group, based on logbook data for work and sleep, indicates that T&E workers and third shift dispatchers have the most fatigue exposure and passenger T&E workers have the least. Railroad workers in all groups had less fatigue exposure than those involved in human factors accidents.