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FRA study shows variable start-time T&E workers are less alert, UTU says

A new Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) study released earlier this month shows train and engine-service (T&E) workers with variable start times report for duty less alert than those with fixed starting times, according to the United Transportation Union (UTU).

The study analyzed work/rest schedules and sleep patterns of U.S. T&E personnel, and the relationship between their schedules and alertness level. UTU and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen members assisted with the study by completing a daily log for two weeks. Two-thirds of the logs were filled out by T&E workers with variable start times and the other one-third by employees with fixed start times.

Although T&E workers logged longer sleep each day than most U.S. adults, they reported poor sleep quality and high stress levels, particularly those with variable start times, UTU officials said in a news item posted on the union’s Web site. About 8 percent of the workers said they suffer from sleep apnea, twice the rate of normal U.S. working adults, according to the study.

Variable start-time workers with erratic work schedules seek supplementary sleep on work days because of scheduling issues that prevent them from planning adequate rest, the study shows. So, they report for duty less alert than fixed start-time workers.

The FRA plans to use the study as a baseline for future work/rest analyses after new hours-of-service regulations are implemented.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/15/2009