Preliminary Development of a Railroad Dispatcher Taskload Assessment Tool: Identification of Dispatcher Tasks and Data Collection Methods
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/FRA/ORD-07/13
SUBJECT: Human Factors
KEYWORDS: Railroad dispatching, train dispatching, taskload, workload, railroad safety
ABSTRACT: This report summarizes research conducted to identify and document dispatcher tasks and activities and determine how data on these tasks are currently collected. The researcher generated an initial set of dispatcher tasks based on past research and literature and subject matter expertise. The researcher developed two questionnaires to expand the list, identify other factors that affect dispatcher taskload, and determine how challenging it is to collect data on these tasks. Representatives from all eight Federal Railroad Administration regional offices, railroad officers, and railroad dispatchers received questionnaires. The researcher identified 67 dispatcher tasks and organized them into 6 top-level task categories. Non-task factors that either affect a dispatcher’s taskload or can be used to describe the circumstances in which taskload is measured were also identified. Respondents also identified how taskload data can be collected based on eight different data collection methods. One single, efficient mechanism to collect all of these data does not currently exist. In addition, taskload data collection would take time, involve effort, and would be obtrusive. Lastly, the researcher explored cognitive aspects of dispatching. Based on results from the taskload questionnaires, and an understanding of the cognitive aspect of dispatching, a model of railroad dispatching is generated.
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