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BLET, UTU to play role in FRA's worker fatigue study

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and United Transportation Union (UTU) later this month will begin working with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to better understand train and engine-service workers' schedule-related fatigue issues and sleep patterns.

As part of an independent FRA-sponsored study being conducted by Foster-Miller Inc., 800 randomly selected BLET and UTU members will fill out work/sleep diaries. Over the course of two weeks, participants will record when they sleep (including any naps), how easy it is to fall asleep and get up, and how well they slept. They also will keep track of when they report for work, how long they work each day, how they feel during the work day and if they feel sleepy after work. All participants will receive a $75 gift certificate.

"We believe effective safety programs must be based on facts," said Grady Cothen, FRA deputy associate administrator for safety, in a prepared statement. "This study will allow us a greater understanding of the impact fatigue has among operating crews and help point the way for future fatigue reduction strategies."

Lack of predictable reporting times and short notification before reporting for duty are work aspects that need to be studied, said UTU Alternative National Legislative Director James Stem.

"An analysis of the work schedules of our operating crews is a necessary component of resolving the safety issues associated with 24-hour, seven-day operations," he said.

The FRA and Foster-Miller expect to release study results sometime next year.

"Once we have data that allows us to identify fatigue-related problems specific to operating crafts, we will be able to work toward reducing the risk of fatigue-related accidents and incidents and improving the quality of life for our members," said BLET National President Don Hahs.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/7/2008