Technical Reports

Work Schedules and Sleep Patterns of Railroad Maintenance of Way Workers

  • 01
  • Jun
  • 2006
AUTHOR: Judith Gertler and Alex Viale
OFFICE: RPD
REPORT NUMBER: DOT/FRA/ORD-06/25
KEYWORDS: Railroad maintenance of way worker, track maintenance, work schedule, fatigue, sleep pattern,
ABSTRACT: This report presents the results of a study designed to characterize the work/rest schedules and sleep patterns of U.S. railroad maintenance of way (MOW) employees and to examine the relationship between these schedules and levels of alertness of the individuals working the schedules. The study methodology was a survey of a random sample of currently working U.S. MOW employees who completed a background survey and kept a daily log for 2 weeks. MOW workers are a predominantly healthy middle-aged male population. They work either production (construction) or non-production (maintenance) jobs and focus on either track or bridge and building infrastructure. A majority of non-production jobs have a 5-day work week, but nearly half of production jobs work a 4-day week and 20 percent work 8-on 6-off. Overall, 24 percent of MOW workers traveled on their own time to an out-of-town worksite during the study’s 2-week period. Both groups get the same amount of sleep, but it is significantly less than U.S. adult norms. Several work schedule characteristics, including time without a break, total hours worked, weeknight emergency calls, and commute time, were related to daytime alertness, but their relationship was weak.

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