Technical Reports

Technology Implications of a Cognitive Task Analysis for Locomotive Engineers

  • 01
  • Sep
  • 2007
AUTHOR: Emilie Roth and Jordan Multer
OFFICE: RPD
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/FRA/ORD-09/03
KEYWORDS: Cognitive task analysis, communications, decision-making, human factors, locomotive engineer, positive train control (PTC), railroad operations, train handling, teamwork
ABSTRACT: This report documents the results of a cognitive task analysis (CTA) that examined the cognitive demands and activities of locomotive engineers in today’s environment and the changes in cognitive demands and activities that are likely to arise with the introduction of new train control technologies. The CTA combined structured interviews with experienced locomotive engineers, conductors, and trainers and direct observations made during head-end rides. Data were collected at seven sites, that included both passenger and freight railroads, including five locations where railroads were field testing advanced train control technologies. The results pointed to major cognitive challenges involved in operating a train, including the need for sustained monitoring and attention; maintaining an accurate situation model of the immediate environment (including the location, activities and intentions of other agents in the vicinity such as other trains and roadway workers); anticipating and taking action in preparation for upcoming situations; and planning and decision making, particularly in response to unanticipated conditions (e.g., person or object obstructing the track). Introduction of new train control technology reduces some cognitive demands while creating new ones. The report discusses implication of the results for design of in-cab displays and development of training, particularly for positive train control systems.
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