Technical Reports

Work Schedules and Sleep Patterns of Railroad Train and Engine Service Workers

  • 01
  • Nov
  • 2009
AUTHOR: Judith Gertler and Amanda DiFiore
KEYWORDS: Train and engine service, locomotive engineer, conductor, trainman, switchman, fatigue, work
ABSTRACT: This report presents the results of a study designed to characterize the work/rest schedules and sleep patterns of U.S. railroad train and engine service (T&E) personnel and to examine the relationship between these schedules and alertness. The methodology was a survey of a random sample of U.S. railroad T&E personnel who completed a background survey and kept a daily log for 2 weeks. The majority of T&E workers are either locomotive engineers or conductors. One-third of T&E workers have fixed work start times with the remainder having variable start times with significant start time variability. The median length of a work period was similar for the two types of schedules; however, limbo time increases total work time for variable workers. Although T&E workers report longer daily sleep than U.S. adults, they report poor sleep quality and high stress levels, particularly those with variable start times. Variable workers engage in supplementary sleep on workdays because of scheduling issues preventing them from planning adequate rest. Variable workers report being less alert than fixed start workers. The Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, and Task Effectiveness (SAFTE) model predicted variable start workers work at a slightly lower effectiveness level than fixed start workers. Although total work time at low effectiveness is minimal, the total number of labor-h at low effectiveness exceeds 10M annually for the industry.