Posts Tagged ‘fatigue’

As holidays approach, a note from President Ferguson

Dear Brothers & Sisters:

We are approaching the close of another year, and my thoughts grow stronger about each of you during this forthcoming holiday period.

Your daily lifestyles, both personally and professionally, are demanding and sometimes conflictive. Giving them respect and balance can be a challenge.

In that regard, do not compromise the importance of adequate rest. Exercising sound judgment when it comes to rest will minimize the risk of failure when fulfilling your chosen responsibilities as a transportation worker.

I’ve walked in your shoes and understand the lifestyle of being a professional railroader. Fatigue can lead to a loss of situational awareness, and a loss of situational awareness can often lead to tragedy. The holidays are a dangerous time of year for our industry.

In that regard take care of yourself, be safe and do what is right.

Happy Thanksgiving!




Jeremy R. Ferguson,
President, Transportation Division

Canadian safety board addresses train crew fatigue

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), put train crew fatigue on its 2016 watch list. The list identifies key safety issues in Canadian transportation.

TSB Chairperson Kathy Fox told Reuters that the board would push for concrete action, including the creation of predictable scheduling for employees. Fox also said that fatigue has been a factor in numerous investigations of freight train accidents.

Read more from Yahoo!.

Fatigue at CP threatens rail safety

cp-logo-240The CBC News reported that Transport Canada recently ordered Canadian Pacific Railway to change its fatigue-management practices and freight train line-ups in British Columbia since they pose “an immediate threat to safe railway operations.” 

Read the entire article here.

Railroad workers say long shifts unsafe

fatigue_thumbSome BNSF Railway employees are sounding the alarm about what they say are unsafe working conditions as a result of long shifts that could lead to extreme fatigue while hauling hazardous materials.

According to one BNSF employee who contacted the Pilot, the company has imposed a new method of operation that has employees working 12-hour days, sometimes six to 10 days in a row.

“Such a safety sensitive job for engineers and conductors running trains that are up to 17,000 tons, hauling hazardous materials and such,” said the employee who declined to be publicly identified.

Read more from

FMCSA: commercial motor vehicle study concludes

FMCSA-LogoWASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that the Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Restart Study has concluded data collection for the congressionally-mandated naturalistic study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of two provisions of the hours-of-service (HOS) restart regulations.  
Following the study requirements set forth by Congress, the study team collected data to compare five-month work schedules of drivers to assess safety critical events (e.g., crashes, near-crashes, and crash-relevant conflicts), operator fatigue/alertness, and short-term health outcomes of drivers who operate under the HOS restart provisions in effect between July 1, 2013 and December 15, 2014, and those drivers who operate under the provisions as in effect prior to July 1, 2013.
Drivers from a wide variety of fleet sizes and operations provided a substantial amount of data throughout the course of the study period.  More than 220 participating drivers contributed data as they drove their normal, revenue-producing routes, including:

  • More than 3,000 driver duty cycles, as captured by electronic logging devices
  • More than 75,000 driver alertness tests
  • More than 22,000 days of driver sleep data

Data analysis has commenced, and the agency is working toward completing the final report by the end of the year.  The agency does not have preliminary study findings; however, FMCSA is pleased with the high volume of data collected from participating drivers and expects this data will help inform future activities by the agency as well as the current study.
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235), enacted December 16, 2014, suspended enforcement of sections 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) of the HOS regulations.  Section 395.3(c) requires a CMV driver who wants to restart his/her weekly driving window (of 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days) to take two consecutive periods off duty from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. as part of the 34-hour (or longer) restart.  Section 395.3(d) allows the voluntary 34-hour restart to be used only once every seven days.  These provisions were enacted following extensive research and public comment with the goal of reducing excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers.  Enforcement of these sections will remain suspended as required by Congress until the Secretary of Transportation submits the CMV Driver Restart Study final report to Congress.
For additional information and to view an updated list of Frequently Asked Questions, click here.

Canadian rails fight new rules to prevent crew fatigue

transport-canada-logoCanada’s major freight rail companies are fighting moves by the federal transportation regulator to curb “extreme fatigue” among railway engineers, a CBC News investigation has found.

CN Rail, CP and the Railway Association of Canada went on the attack two weeks ago at a “tense and heated” meeting of industry, union and government representatives, according to a number of people present.

The conflict was over research by Transport Canada that found high levels of exhaustion among workers driving freight trains, and proposals by the regulator to impose new limits on scheduling to help reduce their fatigue.

Read more from CBCNews.

Freight train drivers report falling asleep on the job

Train operators in Canada’s burgeoning freight rail industry report falling asleep at the controls and coming to work exhausted at an alarmingly high rate, according to an ongoing CBC News investigation into rail safety.

“I have had instances where I have just snapped back into reality, and kind of, for a few seconds, not really realized or recognized where I am,” one Ontario-based CN rail engineer told CBC News, recalling how he’d missed a signal at the controls of a three-kilometre-long train.

Read the complete story CBC News.

Start-time variability contributes to fatigue, accidents

FRA_logo_wordsStart time variability in work schedules is often assumed to be a cause of railroad employee fatigue because unpredictable work-start times prevent employees from planning sleep and personal activities.

A new report published by the Federal Railroad Administration examines work start time differences from three different databases previously published by the FRA. The studies conclude that high variability in shift start times is found to contribute to human fatigue, which is known to increase the probability of accidents. Thus, a potential way of increasing safety is to reduce shift start-time variability.

Discussions about employee fatigue in the U.S. railroad industry often focus on the predictability of work start times for employees engaged in train and engine (T&E) freight and passenger service.

According to the FRA, labor union representatives often argue that unpredictable work start times heavily prevent employees from planning sleep and personal activities, which then results in fatigue.

Train and engine employees who work in yards, local freight service, and passenger and commuter operations have jobs with regular start times and high work start time predictability. However, employees on the extra board, which sometimes offers employees additional compensation for volunteering to work additional hours within the statutory limit, have work schedules that may vary from day to day because they fill in for employees with regular assignments.

These jobs have lower work start time predictability. Jobs in passenger service often have a split assignment in which the employee works the morning rush, has time off in the middle of the day (referred to as “interim release”), and returns to work for the evening rush. Interim release is usually four hours or more. These jobs often have high work start time predictability.

Train and engine employees who work in road freight service often do not have a regular work schedule as far as the days that they work or the time that their work starts. These jobs have low start time predictability.

To view the FRA report, click here.

Train operator in Chicago crash had fallen asleep

CHICAGO – The operator of a Chicago commuter train that crashed at O’Hare International Airport acknowledged she dozed off before the accident and had also done so last month when she overshot a station platform, a federal investigator said Wednesday (March 26).

Before the crash, the operator had been running trains on the nation’s second-largest public transportation system for just two months. In Monday’s accident, which injured more than 30 people, she woke up only as the eight-car train jolted onto the platform and barreled up an escalator leading into the airport. The accident occurred around 3 a.m., as the driver was nearing the end of her shift. The woman had an erratic work schedule and investigators were looking to see if that played a role in her evident fatigue.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.

'Miracle' no deaths in Chicago airport train crash

CHICAGO – A Chicago train driven by an apparently sleepy operator, which jumped its tracks and screeched up an escalator at one of the world’s busiest airports, could have caused untold death and destruction had the crash occurred during the day when the station is usually packed with travelers, a transportation expert said.

More than 30 people were hurt when the Chicago Transit Authority train mounted a platform and crashed at O’Hare International Airport around 3 a.m. Monday. Federal investigators, who have released little information on what may have caused the accident, were expected back on the scene Tuesday.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.

Sleep loss may cause brain damage

Are you a truck driver or shift worker planning to catch up on some sleep this weekend?

Cramming in extra hours of shut-eye may not make up for those lost pulling all-nighters, new research indicates.

The damage may already be done – brain damage, that is, said neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey from the University of Pennsylvania.

Read the complete story at CNN.

Tired freight rail employees? You bet

railyardA short quiz for you. If you had anything to do with the safe movement of a 10,000 ton freight train, does it make sense for you to routinely show up to work tired? Hint: NO.

That’s the problem we have today in the freight rail industry. Too many tired employees are involved in operating trains and maintaining electric signal systems. But there are solutions: curb the unpredictable work schedules and hours worked and end the practice of gaming the rules on how railroads “count” the hours worked by their signal employees.

So here’s a quick glimpse into the tired lives of members of the two TTD affiliates that are leading the charge for common sense reforms – the SMART Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

Although current rules limit a work shift to 12 hours and mandate 10 hours of undisturbed rest after a shift, the boss can call an employee to work at any time after that 10-hour period of rest with two hours’ or less notice. Here’s a real world example. You are a rail worker, and you have just spent the day on yard work. You finally get cleaned up, sit down to eat a hot meal, start thinking about a nap when the phone rings and you find you have less than two hours to prepare yourself for a full shift. Sound fair?

Congress and the Obama Administration need to change what are referred to as “hours-of-service” laws by moving the required 10 hours of undisturbed rest from immediately after service to immediately before service. Effectively, these workers should be given 10 hours’ notice before being expected to report for work. This gives them the predictability they need to get the appropriate amount of rest before their shift starts rather than after they leave work. Or, as an alternative, they should be assigned predictable work schedules. Neither happens today.

Signal employees face a different problem with the same outcome. At issue are definitions of “covered work.” For example, when a signalman on duty is digging a ditch in order to install a railroad signal, the time spent digging the ditch does not count toward the hours-of-service limit. Only certain work is counted. Huh? Yes, somehow in the freight rail industry digging a ditch for a signal system installation is not considered work and apparently doesn’t lead to any fatigue. This must change too.

The freight rail industry is a place where men and women can secure middle-class careers. But too often their working lives are spent in a state of chronic fatigue. If our government closes the regulatory loopholes and stops employers from using technicalities to evade or game the rules, we will have a safer freight rail industry.

 (The preceding appeared on the website of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.)