Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 50th Annual Meeting (2006).
REPORT NUMBER: 2042-2046.
KEYWORDS: human factors; dispatching
Railroad dispatchers shoulder more responsibilities today than ever before due to changes in technology,
operating practices and the economy. This paper reviews literature on the job of railroad dispatching and
summarizes research conducted to identify and document railroad dispatcher tasks and activities. An initial
set of dispatcher tasks was generated. Then two questionnaires were developed to expand the list, identify
other factors that affect dispatcher taskload, and determine how challenging it is to collect data on these
tasks. Questionnaires were sent to representatives from Federal Railroad Administration regional offices,
railroad officers, and railroad dispatchers. Sixty-seven different dispatcher tasks were identified and
organized into six top-level task categories. Questionnaire results suggest there is no single, efficient
mechanism to collect dispatcher taskload data. The literature review and questionnaire data highlight the
importance of the cognitive aspects of dispatching. Based on the results, a preliminary, but comprehensive,
model of railroad dispatching performance is proposed.