RSS icon

Top Stories

TOOL Fatigue Management Programs

May 22, 2003
Related Topics: Stress Management, Time Management, Health and Wellness, Tools, Compensation
Throughout the transportation industry, efforts to address operator fatiguevary from education and training programs to comprehensive alertness managementprograms. These links below describe the range of activities, how they wereimplemented, and the lessons learned from each.

It was reprinted with permission from Transit Cooperative Research Program,TCRP Report 81: Toolbox for Transit Worker Fatigue, Transportation ResearchBoard, Washington, D.C., 2002. Copies of that report are available from the TCRP. 







U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Research and Development Center
    The USCG R&D Center initiated the Crew Endurance Program to focus on thedevelopment and implementation of techniques to maximize crew endurance. Theterm "crew endurance" refers to the ability to maintain performance withinsafe limits while enduring job related physiological and psychologicalchallenges. Crew endurance is a function of the complex interaction of severalfactors. These factors are mental state, body clock, sleep environment andphysical conditioning.

    The Coast Guard’s Crew Endurance Management System (CEMS) was derived fromthe Crew Endurance Management System originally developed for the Army SafetyCenter in the early 1990s. The CEMS coordinates a vast network of interrelatedfactors such as:

  • Company mission (e.g., provide transport for oil companies). 

  • Equipment limitations (e.g., type of vessel, onboard crew facilities). 

  • Environmental factors (e.g., voyage duration, noise and light levels). 

  • Crewmembers’ physiological and psychological limitations. 

  • Company’s crew rest and work hours policies.

    The CEMS is designed to produce work and rest management plans that optimizealertness and performance during duty hours.

    Implementation of a CEMS requires an initial evaluation of the current workpolicies on crew rest. The next step is the formation of a Crew EnduranceWorking Group with officers and licensed personnel from each department on thevessel. The Working Group meets to develop a crew endurance plan based oninformation from the initial evaluation and the unique circumstances for thatvessel. In addition, an education program instructs the crew and companymanagement on various aspects of sleep management, alertness and fatigue.

    The CEMS is a process that allows company and ship management to develop acrew endurance plan that meets their specific needs. This system does notprescribe specific schedules or techniques but rather it provides a process formaximizing endurance, preventing fatigue and enhancing the overall safety of theoperation. The Coast Guard has established partnerships with towing, shippingand ferryboat companies to develop and implement Crew Endurance ManagementSystems.

    The R&D Center is in the process of preparing a "how to" guide forthe implementation of a crew endurance management system for deep draft vessels.

    Two of the fatigue countermeasure programs described below were conducted inpartnership with the Coast Guard.

Ocean Shipholdings
    The West German Ministry for Technology and Research funded a study thatestablished the fatiguing effects of the traditional three-watch system of fourhours on watch and eight hours off. The same study also proposed an alternatewatch system that would give ships’ officers an extended period of off-time,thus allowing for a block of unbroken sleep each day. An officer of OceanShipholdings became aware of the study and wanted to experiment with thealternate watch schedule proposed by the German study. (OceanShipholdings is engaged in the worldwide carriage of liquid bulkcommodities.)

    Management at Ocean Shipholdings supported the concept and sent informationto the captains of all of their ships. One captain requested permission toexperiment with the new schedule for one month. At the end of that month thecrew opted to continue with the schedule because they felt more rested. Due tothe success of the trial, other ships wanted to try the new schedule.

    Ship crews consist of licensed and unlicensed crewmembers. The licensed crewincludes the Captain or Master, Radio Operator, Engineer and other skilledcrafts. The unlicensed crews are primarily those who work on deck and handlecargo. Initially Ocean Shipholdings instituted the alternate watch schedule foronly the licensed crews. By the end of 1998 all of the licensed crews in theirentire fleet were on the new schedule. After hearing about the favorableresponse to the new schedule, the unlicensed crews also requested a change tothe new schedule. By the end of 1999 all crews worked in accordance with themodified schedule consisting of a 2-hour work period, a 6-hour work period andtwo off-duty periods of four hours and 12 hours.

    The process of changing to the new schedule was not problem-free. The newschedule represented a cultural change for veteran mariners and many resistedthe change. Several ships went back to the old schedule after a trial period butthen reverted to the new schedule. Potential loss of overtime was an issue forthe crews. The ship’s officers were able to show that the new schedule was "overtimeneutral" thereby circumventing a potential roadblock.

    The masters and officers on each ship handled the entire process of changingto the new schedules. They talked amongst themselves and with their crews andthen requested permission to start standing the alternate watch system.Corporate management at Ocean Shipholdings feels that this was a key factor inthe success of the plan because the individuals who were affected were directlyinvolved in the decision to try the new watch schedule. Onboard crewsimplemented the change to the new watch schedule and as a result there was nocost to the company to make the change.

  • Ocean Shipholdings measures the success of this fatigue countermeasure interms of:

  • Positive feedback from crews in terms of how they feel.A decrease in observed errors and near miss incidents attributed tofatigue related issues.Ability to meet statutory work and rest requirements.

  • No formal evaluation study has been conducted.

Ingram Barge
    Ingram Barge Company is one of the largest fully integrated barge companies,operating 60 towboats principally on the Mississippi River system. Typically, acrew of nine to 10 shipmates works 28 days on duty followed by 28 days off duty.Each on duty day’s schedule consists of six hours on followed by six hoursoff. Recognizing the potentially fatiguing effects of this watch schedule andits associated safety risks, management at Ingram Barge sought a non-regulatoryapproach to managing crew fatigue and alertness.

    Through their involvement in industry working groups with the U.S. CoastGuard, Ingram entered into a cooperative partnership directly with the USCGResearch and Development Center. The purpose of this partnership is to studycrew endurance factors and to develop countermeasures to maximize endurance andalertness.

    One Ingram vessel participated in the first phase of the Crew EnduranceProject. With guidance from the USCG Research and Development Center, a one anda half day workshop was held with the crews to educate them on fatigue andalertness issues and to develop a crew-designed plan for the vessel. Informationpresented at the crew workshop included the nature of the biological clock,sleep/rest management strategies, stress management, management of environmentalfactors and diet. Considerable time was spent analyzing the crew’s work cycleand schedule. The crew opted to try a modified watch schedule of7-on/7-off/5-on/5-off. They chose this schedule because it offered minimaldisruption or change to their established work and meal routines. In addition,the 7-hour off duty period provided an opportunity for six hours ofuninterrupted sleep.

    Recognizing that the individual can take actions to minimize his/her level offatigue or alertness impairment, the participants in the workshop agreed on thefollowing personal alertness management issues:

  • Anticipate first watch on arrival and maximize rest accordingly beforearriving at the vessel. 

  • Limit alcohol intake before returning to the vessel. 

  • Avoid overeating or going to sleep on a full stomach. 

  • Manage caffeine intake so as to not impact sleep. 

  • Stay physically fit using exercise bike.

    To improve the overall living environment onboard, workshop participantsrequested:

  • Installing blackout curtains in sleeping areas. 

  • Increasing light in lounge and galley for crew working at night. 

  • Increasing recreational/leisure activities by installing satelliteTV and an exercise bike. 

  • Increasing cell phone minutes per crewmember for calls home.

    Soon after implementing the new work schedule the deck crew became uneasywith the change and reverted to the 6/6 watch schedule. However, the wheelhousecrew continued with the 7/5 system. The Coast Guard is in the process ofevaluating data collected to assess the effectiveness of this set of changes.From Ingram’s perspective the criterion for measuring the success of thealternative watch is the amount of consolidated rest that the crew is able toget. Preliminary results indicate that the crewmembers on the 7/5 schedule weretwo to three times more likely to get more than five hours of sleep in theprimary sleep period. Also the entertainment activities, such as the satelliteTV, were much more appreciated than the opportunity to exercise.

    There were pockets of both support and resistance within the vessel’s crew.A representative from Ingram Barge indicated that a key to making any change isto propose an alternative that has a "level of consistency" so that the crewknows what to expect. From his perspective, the ability to change is due 90percent to behavioral issues and 10 percent to management issues.

    The vessel that participated in the first phase trial has returned to the 6/6schedule but a second boat is currently trying the modified schedule. BecauseIngram’s management recognizes the importance of the fatigue issue, they arecurrently incorporating fatigue and alertness topics into their leadershiptraining with wheelhouse crews. They are also adding a module on crew enduranceand alertness to the company’s new hire orientationprogram.

Keystone Shipping
    Keystone operates a fleet of oceangoing tanker ships. After learning aboutalternatives to the traditional 6-on/6-off watch schedule from a trade magazine,Keystone Shipping explored the possibility of adopting an alternative schedulefor their vessels. Corporate management circulated information on the alternateschedule to the officers on their vessels and gave them the option to try thealternative arrangement.

    For three months one of their vessels adopted an alternative schedule.Initially there was some resistance from labor because of the perception thatovertime would be lost, but once the "overtime neutral" nature of thealternative was explained, the crew supported the new schedule. Keystone has notyet tried to assess the impact of the alternate schedule on safety measures suchas observable crew errors or accidents. Overall, management feels an alternatework schedule is feasible on long trips but not on vessels that are constantlyin and out of ports and thus have irregular work schedules. 


NASA Fatigue Countermeasure Program
    In 1980, responding to a Congressional request, NASA Ames Research Centercreated a program to examine whether "there is a safety problem of uncertainmagnitude, due to transmeridian flying and a potential problem due to fatigue inassociation with variousfactors found in air transport operations." The NASA Ames Fatigue/Jet LagProgram was created to collect systematic, scientific information on fatigue,sleep, circadian rhythms, and performance in flight operations. Three programgoals were established and continue to guide research efforts:

  • Determine the extent of fatigue, sleep loss and circadian disruption inflight operations. 

  • Determine the impact of these factors on flight crew performance. 

  • Develop and evaluate countermeasures to mitigate the adverse effects ofthese factors and maximize flight crew performance and alertness.

    Since 1980, studies have been conducted in a variety of aviation environmentsand controlled laboratory environments, as well as in a full-mission flightsimulator. In 1999, the name of the group was changed to the FatigueCountermeasures Group to reflect thechange in emphasis to the development and evaluation of countermeasures.

    Numerous publications from the NASA Ames Fatigue Countermeasures Groupdocument the consequences of fatigue in operational environments as well aspersonal strategies forcombating fatigue both preventively and operationally on the job. SeveralNASA studies have focused on strategic napping in operational settings as acountermeasure.

    To disseminate the results of their research and to educate the aviationcommunity on strategies for alertness management in flight operations, NASAdeveloped their Education and Training Module. The training module was designed1) to explain thecurrent state of knowledge about the physiological mechanisms underlyingfatigue, 2) to demonstrate how this knowledge can be applied to improving flightcrew sleep, performance and alertness and 3) to offer strategies for alertnessmanagement. NASAdesigned the training module for use by a trained instructor. It has aninteractive format that provides a forum for discussion.

    The NASA Education and Training Module was first offered in 1993. Since thattime NASA developed and offers a "Train the Trainer" program so thatinstructors from airlines as well as other industries can disseminate theinformation. NASA estimates that,to date, over 116,000 flight crew personnel have received this training.Airlines report using the training program for both new hire and recurrenttraining. This Education and Training Module has also been the basis forprograms in other industries. For example, the Burlington Northern Santa FeRailroad developed a version for their train crews and the Transportation SafetyInstitute used it in creating fatigue management courses for transit operators,managers and supervisors.

    In 1998 NASA conducted a follow-up survey with former course participants.More than half of the survey respondents reported that the NASA Training Moduleprovided a basis for positive changes related to fatigue in their organization.

    NASA recently developed a version of the course suitable for regional andcommuter airlines. While regional and commuter pilots do not face the jet lagproblem, they may have schedules that result in extended duty cycles. A versionfor general aviation is under development and will be web-based, since offeringa live course to this segment of the pilot community is not feasible.

Air Transport Association (ATA)
    The ATA is an industry organization representing the major U.S. air carriers.The member carriers move 95 percent of the nation’s passengers and cargo.Faced with a proposed FAA rule concerning hours of service for pilots, theairline industry, through ATA, developed a multi-faceted approach to alertnessmanagement. Their guiding principles are the following:

  • A comprehensive approach is required to address the complexity ofalertness management in aviation operations. 

  • Scientific knowledge will provide the basis and guidance for activitiesand actions. 

  • Providing flexibility will be critical to balance the complexity anddiversity of operational demand. 

  • Successfully managing alertness in the air transport industry is a sharedresponsibility among all stakeholders.

    For several years the ATA has encouraged their member airlines to implementthe NASA fatigue training program or a similar one for their employees and infact many airlines have done this. Others have developed and tailored their ownmaterials based on the NASA program. (See discussion below for specificexamples.)

    The ATA Alertness Management Initiative resulted from the efforts of anairline industry task force that looked at fatigue-related issues in commercialaviation. In September 2000 the ATA announced this initiative and reported thattheir member carriers were takingactions to reduce fatigue risks and improve safety. These include eliminatingtail end ferry flights where a pilot could fly a full day but then ferry anempty plane to another location, establishing duty limits (current regulationsonly govern flight time) and implementing fatigue education and countermeasureprograms.

    As part of this initiative, the ATA also established a Scientific AdvisoryBoard, consisting of acknowledged experts on fatigue, to identify gaps inscientific knowledge and provide guidance to the industry. Future efforts willaddress scheduling principles and guidelines and will suggest changes to currenthours-of-service regulations. An ATA representative who has been a long-timeadvocate of the NASA Training Program feels that change is more likely to comeabout when there is commitment from the highest level of management. This is keyto progress in changing corporate culture with regard to fatigue.

Delta Airlines
    In the summer of 2000 Delta initiated a formal fatigue management programunder their Senior Vice President, Flight Operations. The current focus of theprogram is on education. Delta has been using the NASA training program forseveral years. As part of their distributed recurrent pilot training programthey include a 10-page handout on "sleep basics." Under the new initiative,there is now a one and a half hour class for the senior management pilots in thecompany who oversee flight operations. Delta plans to conduct a study todetermine the appropriate use of the onboard rest facility for their longdistance flights. Flights that exceed eight hours require two pilots, thusproviding the opportunity for planned rest breaks.

    The Senior Pilot with responsibility for the Delta fatigue program believesthat both the individual and the company must share responsibility for managingfatigue in aviation operations. He has seen a change in the industry’sattitude toward fatigue. In the past it was unacceptable for a pilot to declineto work because s/he was fatigued as a result of the work schedule. Now this isacceptable; however, a Delta crewmember will not be paid under thesecircumstances. In contrast, American Airlines examines each case and decideswhether or not to deny pay.

American Airlines
    American was the first carrier to initiate a fatigue management program. Arepresentative from American’s Medical Department was among the firstparticipants in the NASA Training Program in 1993. American’s Medical Directorat the time was a former NASA staff member who recognized the fatigue risks inthe aviation environment and advocated for actions to minimize these risks.

    Following the training program, a nurse in American’s Medical Departmentconducted fatigue training classes that were offered to pilots and flightattendants on a voluntary basis. Attendance was poor because crewmembers werenot willing to arrive early for work or stay following a flight in order toreceive the training. American recognized that the fatigue training had to be amandatory part of both their new hire and recurrent training and made thechange. Initially pilots dismissed the 1 hour 15 minute training session becausethey did not think that the instructor, a registered nurse, understood theirjobs.

    To develop credibility and rapport with the flight crews she accompanied themon flights, "lived" their schedules and learned to "speak their language."She succeeded in gaining their confidence through this activity. Her fatiguetraining session is now one of the highest rated at American Airlines.

    Nearly all of American’s pilots have been exposed to American’s fatiguetraining. About two years ago American developed a 1-hour film on fatigue issuesthat can be distributed to individuals who are unable to attend the live course.On request, American’s fatigue trainer has given the training to other groupsin the company who work irregular schedules. These include corporatecommunications and flight simulator technical support.

    American has instituted two other related countermeasures. There is acorporate Fatigue Hotline where employees can call for advice on a fatigueissue. The fatigue instructor responds to these inquiries. In addition, thecompany Intranet frequently includes articles on fatigue issues.

    There has been a change in the corporate culture at American relative tofatigue since these programs were instituted. A request from a crewmember to notwork due to fatigue is now acceptable. The company has also eliminated tail endflights where a pilot is required to fly an empty plane to a final destinationfollowing the termination of a revenue flight.

American’s fatigue program instructor suggested the following as being keyto the success of any fatigue management program:

  • Management must support and attend the class. 

  • Work groups involved with flight crews must also receive the training(e.g., crew dispatchers, schedulers). 

  • Both management and employees must be open to change.

Regional and Commuter Airlines
    The Regional Airline Association represents the regional and commuterairlines. As smaller airlines these organizations do not have the resources ofthe major carriers and as a result fatigue countermeasure efforts in thissegment of the industry have been limited to the NASA Training Program. As anorganization, the Regional Airline Association has not undertaken any fatigueinitiatives.

    According to a representative from the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), thepilots’ union, regional and commuter pilots often have extremely fatiguingschedules. They have short layovers that do not permit adequate rest and in someinstances they are not even provided with a hotel room. The ALPA is advocating for duty limits, asrecommended by ATA. Since takeoffs and landings constitute the heaviestworkload, ALPA has suggested limiting the number of landings rather than justthe total number of hours on duty. From ALPA’s perspective, airlines withChief Pilots who appreciate the fatigue issue are more likely to be pro-activein addressing it.


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration(FMCSA), Office of Motor CarrierResearch and Standards
    While most of FMCSA’s activities have focused on the development andtesting of new technologies and the effect of operating practices on driverfatigue, they have also supported several training and awareness campaigns toeducate drivers about fatigue and its associated risks. Together with theAmerican Trucking Association and the National Private Truck Council, the FMCSAhas undertaken an active outreach program to informmotor carriers, professional truck driver associations and truckersthemselves about the hazards of driving while fatigued. Under this initiativethe FMCSA funded the development of brochures, public safety announcements, anda video to educate truckers and their families about fatigue and the importanceof adequate sleep. A train-the-trainer instructional program was also developedand has been conducted for over 2,000 fleet safety managers and truck drivertraining personnel.

    FMCSA’s responsibilities extend to intercity motorcoach/bus drivers. Anongoing study will develop a compendium of principal fatigue issues affectingmotorcoach drivers and recommend countermeasures. Under this program, the FMCSAdeveloped a video designed to educate motor coach drivers about fatigue andmethods to reduce it. It was distributed to all members of the American BusAssociation.

Western Australia Department of Transport
    The Western Australia Department of Transport has been exploring analternative to hours-of-service regulations. Following a number of serious truckaccidents resulting from driver fatigue, the Australian motor carrier industrytook the initiative to manage the problem themselves rather than be faced with additional governmentregulations.

Under a pilot program, any trucking company that demonstrates their abilityto manage driver fatigue through a structured program of countermeasurestrategies will be given a waiver with respect to hours-of-service regulations.The drivers have been involved in the development of new schedules, and due to their involvement have expressedmore job satisfaction. The program is designed to manage a driver’s time moreefficiently and get the job done safely. Canada is currently considering thisapproach to "alternative compliance."

Challenger Motor Freight
    Challenger is a Canadian-based company that provides trucking services fromCanada through the United States and into Mexico with a fleet of 625 trucks. Forseveral years the company’s President and Vice President Risk Management havebeen concerned about driver fatigue and ways to prevent it. They have visitedAustralian trucking companies to explore fatigue countermeasure strategies.Their first step has been to create an awareness of the issue among theirdrivers and dispatchers. Working through their occupational health and safetyconsultant, Challenger provided information to their employees on the need foradequate rest along with strategies for maintaining alertness in the cab.Brochures as well as company newsletters were used to convey the information.

    Challenger also provides a quarterly "audio newsletter" to their drivers.Since 1997 three audio newsletters have featured a discussion on fatigue.Challenger drivers listen to the tapes on the job. Management feels theseaudiotapes have been successful in creating an awareness of fatigue/alertnessamong their drivers.

    All new trucks purchased for the Challenger fleet now have a heater andmassage unit incorporated into the driver’s seat. This type of seat wasoriginally installed to relieve back problems, but drivers reported that it alsoreduces fatigue.

    Challenger’s drivers will participate in the upcoming FMCSA sponsored pilottest of Fatigue Management Technologies. Based on the results of this studyChallenger management will decide whether or not to invest in any of thetechnologies.

Houg Enterprises
    Houg is a small trucking company with 140 employees. They have a trainer ontheir staff who works with the drivers in small groups regarding fatiguemanagement. During the training session, the trainer uses an 11-minute video,"Iron Mike and the Hobo," to explain the dangers of driving when fatigued.Employees are encouraged to educate their families about the importance ofadequate sleep in relation to their job. The trainer feels that training orcounseling in small groups is ideal because the participants have an opportunityto interact and share social or health problems related to inadequate sleep.

Greyhound Bus Lines
    Greyhound Lines, Inc., a unit of Laidlaw, Inc., is the largest North Americanprovider of intercity bus transportation, serving more than 3,700 destinationswith 20,000 daily departures across the continent. On an average day Greyhoundhas 4,500 drivers on duty. For many years the company has had an active fatiguemanagement effort under their Director of Safety. Greyhound’s approach toengineering fatigue management has two primary components: driver training andschedule design.

    The new hire training program includes modules on personal fatigue managementand nutrition. One of the goals of Greyhound’s training is to educate theirdrivers about off-duty behavior and how it can affect on-duty performance. Thetraining program also covers nutrition and its relationship to driverperformance. (For example, from experience Greyhound has found that eatinghigh-fat foods reduces driver alertness.) Greyhound staff members developed themajority of the training materials but "Motorcoach Operator Fatigue," avideo produced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is also used.

    Greyhound has developed an approach to scheduling runs that is a key elementof engineering fatigue management. Company policy requires the following withrespect to hours of work:

  • Scheduled on-duty time must be less than nine hours. 

  • Off-duty timebetween scheduled runs must be at least nine hours at an away from home locationand 10 hours when at a home location. 

  • For extraboard drivers, call time when away from home is at least twohours and at home it is two to three hours, depending upon commuting conditionsin the driver’s home location.

    At least four times a year a group of managers and drivers meets to establishdriver runs. In addition to the above policies, an attempt is made to minimizeinverted work cycles that require a driver to rapidly rotate starting times. Thecompany has software that assiststhe scheduling group in establishing runs.

    The company has the following procedures that are designed to facilitatehealthy rest periods for their drivers:

  • A centralized dispatch facility in Dallas handles all driver assignments.To assist extraboard drivers in planning their personal time, these drivers cancall the dispatch center to determine their position on the call list. 

  • A driver who feels too fatigued to drive on a given day can ask to beremoved from the call list for 24 hours without penalty. 

  • While on duty, a driver who becomes fatigued or otherwise unable tocontinue a run can call the dispatch center and request a relief driver. 

  • Greyhound has strict company rules against coercing drivers to work whenthey indicate they are fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Allcalls are recorded and any violation of this policy by a dispatcher orsupervisor receives management attention.

Greyhound feels their low accident rate of 0.058 accidents per millionbus-miles is indicative of both the success of their fatigue management programand the overall importance of safety to their bus operations.


    The railroad industry, probably more so than any other sector of thetransportation industry, has implemented comprehensive fatigue managementprograms. Because of the extensive experience in this mode, railroad industryrepresentatives contacted by the research team offered significant "lessonslearned." This section has a brief description of the measures taken by eachorganization followed by their experiential learning. The description of eachrailroad’s fatigue program and the American Association of Railroads (AAR)involvement is based on Fatigue Countermeasures in the Railroad Industry: Pastand Current Developments.

Association of American Railroads
    The railroad industry’s concern with operator fatigue dates back to 1992when the AAR established the Work Rest Task Force. Representatives of the majorrailroads as well as two unions came together to investigate issues relative tocrew scheduling. The first objective of this Task Force was to develop adatabase that could be used to describe and measure factors associated with workschedules in the railroad industry. Over a period of four years the Task Forceassembled, organized and analyzed data from five major railroads. The secondobjective of the Task Force was to determine the relationship between work shiftfactors and accidents and injuries. This was not achieved due to the complexityof factors involved in every accident and injury.

    In late 1997 the Federal Railroad Administration formed the North AmericanRail Alertness Partnership (NARAP) as a forum for the railroad industry, laborunions and government to share information on the issue of fatigue. NARAPincludes members ofthe Work Rest Task Force along with other representatives of railroad laborand the FRA. This group meets on a regular basis to share experiences withregard to fatigue management.

    Based on involvement in both the Work Rest Task Force and NARAP, andfamiliarity with fatigue management efforts of the Class one railroads, arepresentative of the AAR offered insights on the overall process of developingand implementing a fatigue management program. From his perspective,unfortunately it seems as though concern with operator fatigue still requires anaccident or noticed incident to instigate a major fatigue mitigation effort. Nomatter what precipitates the start, however, it will take a lot of time, especially with the buy-in and trust building.

    The first step is education, starting with senior management and unionofficials, and working down to the operator. This education is the foundationfor gaining buy-in from all the stakeholders. The fear of government regulation,while always present, is not enough to achieve strong buy-in from management orlabor. The initial stance from both parties is that they will lose outfinancially with any change, especially one that comes from Congress in aone-size-fits-all form. For true buy-in the senior people have to understand thereal impact of fatigue on their workforce’s safety and efficiency and theirbottom line costs. It is often best if this foundation of information comes froma credible outside source or contractor. Using an outside contractor helpsovercome mistrust within most rail organizations.

    The families of the train crews are a group of stakeholders that should beincluded for early involvement and buy-in. Once they understand the impact thatfatigue has on worker health and well-being they can be effective instrumentsfor change. Experience in the railroad industry has proven that many times theycan be more persuasive than any industry or labor representatives in changingthe behavior of the operating staff.

    Data is absolutely critical to the development of a fatigue mitigationprogram. If fatigue principles can be illustrated in terms of the operator’sactual schedule, the operator is more likely to make the connection betweenhis/her daily life and the possible, and perhaps already manifested,consequences. Once the message is understood on a personal level it becomesimportant and buy-in has begun.

    Each railroad tends to see itself as unique, so major positive efforts at onerailroad tend not to translate to others, at least not easily or quickly.However, this attitude is changing as industry and labor association meetingsprovide forums for discussing this issue. These types of activities help plantseeds in the different organizations, making it more likely that a fatigueprogram will be successful. The bottom line is to expect a barrier. The initialsteps in formulating a fatigue program are difficult and time consuming. Basedon the experiences in the railroad industry, this AAR representative makes thefollowing suggestions:

  • Keep expectations low and move in very small steps. 

  • Expect and plan for slips and reversals. Allow at least double the numberof months you feel it will take to put an initial program in place. Otherwisethe pressure to show results quickly will prevent the program from eversucceeding

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association(ASLRRA)
    The short lines do have an interest in fatigue management programs but thereis not a lot of independent activity at present. Irregular schedules, especiallyones that include night work, are less of a problem for shortline carriers thanfor the Class 1 railroads. Of greater concern is the number of consecutive daysworked, and the subsequent inability to ever fully recover from the work period.

    Class 1 railroads have served as mentors to some smaller railroads andoffered help and guidance with fatigue management. Because a short lineoperation may be no larger than a small division of a Class 1 railroad, anyoperational change may impact the majority of their operation. Implementing such a change represents more of a risk to ashort line railroad than a Class 1. For this reason, the short lines arecautious, waiting to see what approaches prove to be successful for the Class 1railroads. The ASLRRA developed their own fatigue program for their members, but it has yet to beimplemented. They will wait until more information is available on the Class 1programs.

    Amtrak initiated a fatigue management program in 1999. Phase I of theirprogram involved a series of educational seminars to develop an awareness offatigue issues among conductors, engineers, management, and union leaders. Inaddition, a survey and interviews of 142 employees were conducted.

    Phase II of the program consisted of a fatigue risk assessment of all crewsin one area. The purpose of this assessment was to determine the extent to whichemployees were at risk of being fatigued based on their schedules.

    In Phase III, currently underway, possible fatigue countermeasureinterventions are being evaluated. These include fatigue management training,napping policies, rest facility standards, sleep apnea screening, alertnessmonitoring, crew scheduling and the implementation of various operatingpractices to reduce fatigue. Based on Amtrak’s progress to date, their fatiguecoordinator offered some insights.

    Initiation of a fatigue management program requires a critical number ofpeople in the organization to be aware and in agreement that fatigue is a realthreat to workplace safety and profitability. Without this initial buy-in, therewill be an endless stream of excuses why the company should not focus time andresources on fatigue mitigation. Senior management is the first to be brought onboard. Subordinate managers are very sensitive and reactive to the wishes ofthose above them, and will pick up on whether their superiors are serious aboutfocusing on fatigue. If senior management is serious about the problem, then theentire management system within the company will respond to effecttheir wish and vision. If upper management is not convinced, little will bedone to address the issue.

    This is not to say that the lower level managers do not noticefatigue-related problems. Line managers are very aware of fatigue-relatedissues, at least as they manifest themselves in crew mark offs, but they do notfeel confident in approaching this problem on their own.

    One of the first steps toward creating a successful fatigue program is thecreation and empowerment of a steering committee. All the major stakeholdersshould be represented as well as those with direct knowledge of how fatigue isimpacting the company (i.e.,line managers). It is advantageous to have a champion in senior managementwho will push the fatigue issue, and not just agree that it should be studiedand resolved. This type of hands-on approach from senior staff does get noticedand builds trust in the other stakeholders that something will be done about theissue.

    Once there is internal agreement that fatigue is an issue of concern, thenext step is to thoroughly educate the stakeholders as to the nature, causes andconsequences of fatigue. This information should be augmented with actualcompany data and situations to make it as relevant as possible. Amtrak foundthat bringing in a respected outside contractor was helpful in this regard. Thecontractor was able to design the specific educational information and toolsaround the data they collected from the company.

    The effort, therefore, was not seen as a management-only initiative, butrather provided by an independent neutral source. In addition, industrymeetings, both for management and labor, as well as NARAP, continue to focus onfatigue issues, resulting in a reinforcement of the importance of the issue. Theoutside contractor, though, remains the catalyst for driving the change processwithin the company. Of course, continuous feedback and communication among allparties is necessary for the process to work effectively.

    One point Amtrak stresses is that fatigue is not just a train and engine crewissue, but potentially affects all personnel, including managers. Amtrakmanagers, especially line managers, are expected to be on-call 24/7. Somemanagers do tend to work longhours, many times on other than a weekday, first-shift schedule. The concernis that poor management decisions made by a fatigued manager will cost theorganization time and money or jeopardize safety. Fatigue, therefore, is beingviewed as a systemic problem, and not just relegated to a specific category ofemployee.

    Noteworthy is the open culture currently prevailing in the railroad industryfor sharing information on what countermeasure programs and processes seem towork and what do not. The exchange of information about different workscheduling systems and their impact on staffing, mark offs, sick leave, andemployee morale has been extremely beneficial. This sharing of information hasaccelerated the industry’s handling of the fatigue issue.

    Of course not all this information is taken at face value. Some fatiguemanagement practices work or fail due to culture, climate or other factorsthat do differ from railroad to railroad. It is usually evident, though, as towhy a program failed or succeeded and its likelihood of doing the same onanother property.

    The Amtrak representative believes that it is very important to have theright culture and mindset going into a fatigue management program. There must befrank discussion and problem solving, not an opportunity for contractnegotiations or bargaining. There willbe situations in which a few very senior employees will not want to changetheir lifestyle, regardless of the benefits to the other employees or theorganization. The best approach may be to just let them have their way untilthey retire or until they change their minds through peer pressure. Otherwise,the process will bog down in contract negotiations and union grievances.

Union Pacific (UP)
    UP recognized fatigue as an issue in the late 1980s and by the early 1990sthey distributed the Railroaders Handbook and a companion videotape, publishedby Synchrotech, to all train and engine crew employees. A subsequent sleepeducation program given to a subset of these employees produced positive resultsin terms of self-assessment of sleepiness. In 1997, in collaboration with theFRA and the labor unions, the UP developed a comprehensive safety program knownas the Safety Assurance and Compliance Program (SACP). One SACP subgroup wasestablished to oversee fatigue countermeasure efforts. As a result the UPinitiated a comprehensive fatigue management program that includes the followingcomponents:

  1. Appointment of a Director of Alertness Management.

  2. Establishment of the Alertness Management Program (AMP) to provideeducation, specific strategies, scheduling guidelines and the initiation of ahealthy sleep project designed to identify sleep disorders.

  3. Consulting services from world-renowned sleep experts to assist indeveloping a comprehensive, systematic and integrated approach to fatiguemanagement.

    UP initiatives under their AMP include an updated education-training programfor employees, a bimonthly Alertness Management Newsletter, experimental crewscheduling projects, implementation of a napping policy in five areas,evaluation of crew lodging, and development of a comprehensive four yearstrategic and operation plan for alertness management. In assessing theeffectiveness of specific initiatives, UP has examined absenteeism, averageon-duty time, and number of assigned rest days as well as qualitative feedbackobtained through "town meetings" and focus groups.

    UP’s Director of Alertness Management stressed that education is criticalat the beginning. It is especially important that senior management recognizefatigue-related problems. Bottom line labor utilization issues such as sick timeand attrition are of major concern to senior management, so it is worthwhile to collect the data neededto show the relationship between operational performance and fatigue. Forexample, the UP has considered number of mark offs, staffing levels, extrapayments, and the number of people, including crew callers, necessary to keepthe system running. It is also important to focus on the societal and employeehealth impacts from fatigue and to not downplay the need for adequate andhealthy sleep.

    The macho anti-sleep culture can be dismantled through medical facts andempirical research. Managers and operators both underestimate the wide range ofill effects brought on by sleep debt. This needs to be reiterated at regularintervals and through different forums and media for the point to becomeacknowledged and accepted.

    The UP does not limit fatigue education to classroom environments. Rather,all possible venues and education models are utilized to completely permeate theatmosphere around the stakeholders. This includes bringing in the family, andhaving the spouses understand the health and safety implications. The UP usesinformational mailings to the families, town hall-type meetings and focus groupsessions to both provide information to these stakeholders and to collect datathat can be used to tailor the fatigue management program.

    The UP has adopted Procheska’s Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Changeto provide structure to their fatigue management process. (The phases of changein the Procheska model are pre-contemplation, contemplation, planning orpreparation, action, maintenance and relapse.)

    Collecting data throughout the process is important to understand wherepeople are with respect to changing their views, to track their changes and tomodify and update the fatigue management program to keep it on target. Focusgroups are one way of collecting this information. In addition, the UPadministers surveys at various intervals though the process. It is especiallyimportant to collect this type of information when implementing Procheska’smodel as each of the stages has different education and information needs andrequirements.

    While the family tends to understand the influence of fatigue on the engineer(i.e., s/he is grumpy or sleepy when at home), the employee tends to focus onfinancial remuneration. Typically, they have to be assured that any new programwill not reduce their paychecks. Unfortunately, some employees become used to alifestyle that requires them to work an excessive number of hours. To addressthis issue, the UP has begun to provide financialplanning and conflict resolution education. In this way the employees andtheir families are given the tools to map out a plan for living within theirmeans but without having to work excessive overtime.

    Union leadership needs to be brought in at about the same time as seniormanagement and provided with similar information. It is critical to be up frontand forthright with all parties or mistrust will take root and the entireprocess will be undermined.

    A particularly successful strategy for building trust between parties andaccomplishing good fatigue management programs has been the Australian approachof local empowerment. In this model, the local employees and management at aspecific property formulate their own fatigue management solution rather thanhaving it come from corporate headquarters. For this to occur, all vestedparties must go through an intensive educational process to thoroughlyunderstand all of the issues that must be considered in a fatigue managementprogram. Corporate headquarters does establish general guidelines that a programmust follow. However, there is enough latitude within these boundaries that mostlocations are able to develop successful solutions tailored to their particularneeds.

    This type of process acknowledges that the people at the individualproperties know their situation best. Through empowerment they can develop theirideal solution, and in doing so, invest a lot of themselves and have a sense ofownership. Any program just driven down from corporate is generally viewed withsuspicion and will ultimately fail through rumors or lack of commitment from thestakeholders.

Canadian Pacific Railroad (CP)
    In the early 1990s Transport Canada charged the Canadian railroads to developpolicies and procedures to deal with crew rest and fatigue problems. A taskforce of Canadian Railroads, including CP, formed to address these issues underthe CANALERT project. Specifically, CANALERT addressed employee work schedules,rest facilities, en route napping, terminal napping facilities, locomotive cabaudio system, and lifestyle training and individual counseling.

    This first major fatigue countermeasure effort in the railroad industry ledto the concept of "time windows" for employee call, and the introduction ofnapping policies. Both represented major changes in the industry’s operatingpractices. The effectiveness of each countermeasure was assessed in terms ofchanges in sleep patterns, employee attendance patterns and objective measuresof alertness. The most significant improvements were in terms of the decrease invariability of sleep duration and an increase in sleep quality at the CalgaryTerminal and an overall drop in absenteeism from 8.1 percent to 3.2 percent.Over half of the participants reported taking opportunity (as opposed toplanned) naps.

    The next phase of the CANALERT effort at CP focused on CP’s CalgaryTerminal and included the establishment of time pools for assignment to work,implementation of a napping policy and guaranteed rest periods. Since the fallof 1997 the railroad has broadened their focus to include track program andequipment employees under a pilot project. This project is a jointlabor/management initiative and is being facilitated by an outside consultingcompany. The joint project task force, using knowledge gained from an employeesurvey, developed a set of countermeasures that are currently being implementedand evaluated.

    Based on CP’s experience, the biggest hurdle in initiating a fatiguemanagement program is overcoming the stakeholders’ misconceptions of what theprogram entails or its intended outcome. The stakeholders have their own biasesand opinions, and it can be very difficult to convince them that there are otherpoints of view to consider. When starting out it is critical to identify theleaders in the "informal" organization. Initial meetings need to include andpersuade these people. If these initial meetings go poorly it is likely that theremainder of the program will be spent backtracking with minimal forwardprogress.

    The initial meetings should involve all of the decision makers from bothmanagement and union. This minimizes suspicion and allows the two sides tounderstand each other’s needs and important issues. The meeting facilitatormust be responsive to the needs of both sides and stand firm when it comes toempirical evidence. This same process is repeated with the employees, but inthis case the focus is more on what to expect and how to integrate the changeinto their daily routine. CP found it very important to be proactive with theemployees.

    Many programs fail within the first few weeks due to complaints and an outcryfrom an ill-prepared workforce. Much of the outcry can be avoided, however, byproviding the employees with information and tools to help them integrate thespecifics of the program into their daily lives. An open line of communicationand a lot of personal contact during the first few weeks of a new program arevital.

    The project team must be able to assess unexpected difficulties with theprogram and make changes on the fly. The program should be as accommodating aspossible while not losing sight of its intended goal. The project team needs tobe large enough to handle this challenge. One person is usually not sufficient.Typically there is a small percentage (not more than five percent) of employeeswho refuse to relinquish their ability to work as muchas they possibly can. CP left these people to continue their lifestyle, butefforts were made to recruit their families in the attempt to change theirbehavior. Spousal involvement is usually helpful in changing attitudes aboutputting in excessive work time. One other way to gain a high level ofcooperation is to have senior management not only involved but also driving theprocess. Knowing that change will take place, union officials, linemanagement and train crews will all want to have their say, and through doingso, begin to develop buy-in and interest in the outcome.


Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
    In response to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation,the FTA sponsored the development of three fatigue awareness seminars and aninstructor course. The Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) offers the courseslisted in the table below.

Seminar Title Duration
Fatigue Awareness for Employees  2 hours
Fatigue Awareness for Supervisors  3 hours
Fatigue Awareness for Managers  1 1/2 hours
Instructor’s Course in Fatigue Awareness for Employees  8 hours

    TSI conducts the seminars at five different locations annually. Transitagencies can request that the course be offered in their area. Only theinstructor’s course has a fee ($25 per participant), but the transit agencymust arrange for a training facility. Neither the FTA nor TSI has done anyfollow-up on the effectiveness of the course in terms of implementation of theskills and information that it presents.

Phoenix Transit
    In the late 1980s management at Phoenix Transit determined there was a needfor a napping facility for their bus drivers. Initially the facility was in anoutfitted trailer. When a bus garage was renovated in 1994 the agencyincorporated single-sex sleeping facilities in the renovation plans. A formerconference room became the napping facility where the women’s bunkroomaccommodates four people and the men’s, ten people. Phoenix

    Transit’s maintenance department has a linen supply contract so that thereare always clean linens on the beds. The room is soundproofed and dark and eachbunkroom has a temperature control unit. Extraboard drivers are encouraged touse the napping facility and are provided with beepers for notification whenthey are needed. Drivers who mark off at midday at another location are able totravel to the facility via van service.

    Around the same time that the sleep room was instituted, management foundthat attrition among the part-time drivers was exceptionally high. Theseemployees received lower wages than their full-time counterparts and were noteligible for benefits. Management decided to discontinue the part-time positionsand went to a full-time work force.

    To accommodate peak periods without creating additional split shift jobs,Phoenix Transit implemented an innovative program whereby retired drivers arehired back for 20 to 25 hours per week to work not more than one peak period aday. The agency pays these experienced drivers at premium pay, but because theyare retirees, there is no need to paybenefits. Phoenix Transit feels this arrangement has been extremelysuccessful. They have highly skilled, reliable drivers who are not fatigueddoing the peak runs. Management feels there has been a positive effect onsafety, although no formal study hasconfirmed this.

    Management personnel at Phoenix Transit do not necessarily come from withinthe agency. In fact, the agency actively recruits candidates with highereducation who are external to the agency. The agency has adopted this philosophybecause they believeoutsiders help bring innovation to their operation. Having a management teamwith a range of experiences facilitated the introduction of the sleepingfacility and the policy with regard to using retired drivers.

    Recently the agency began teaching fatigue basics in recurrent training fortheir drivers. No assessment of the effectiveness of this training is available.

    Phoenix is in the process of planning an at-grade rail line that will bebuilt in three to four years. The equipment facility for this new line willinclude sleeping rooms.

New York City Transit (NYCT)
    Following a fatal accident that was attributed to operator fatigue, the NTSBrecommended that NYCT institute fatigue training for their subway operators. TheNYCT Rapid Transit Operations Division based their training manual on onedeveloped by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The training programinstructs employees on a variety of fatigue-related topics including the use of"anchored sleep," proper nutrition (especially when working nights), andstrategic use of caffeine. The fatigue training module is also a part of therefresher course that is given to subway operators every three and one half tofour years. NYCT’s trainer for this program reported that employees generallyaccept the training and take the information home to their families.

    At the same time that NYCT instituted their fatigue training program, theagency re-emphasized to their supervisors the importance of assessing each oftheir employees with regard to fitness for duty. In addition to screening forsigns of alcohol or substance abuse, supervisors may ask questions to assess theemployee’s fatigue level.

    NYCT’s Rapid Transit Operations Division has undertaken the followingadditional initiatives with respect to managing operator fatigue:

  • Approximately five years ago the Rapid Transit Operations Divisionevaluated several fatigue countermeasure technologies but found them notsufficiently mature and proven to justify their use with subway operators. 

  • The Rapid Transit Operations Division has an hours-of-work bulletin thatlimits hours of work. Specifically, an employee may not work more than 16consecutive hours. (This is likely to change to 14 hours in the near future.) Inaddition, an employee must have an off-duty period of at least eight hoursbetween each day’s work and every employee must have at least one day off perweek. 

  • With regard to work schedules, the scheduling department considers fatigueconsequences in developing operator schedules. There are no split shifts orpart-time jobs in the Rapid Transit Division. The scheduling department iscurrently evaluating the fatigue prediction model developed in Australia todetermine whether or not it is appropriate for the NYCT Rapid Transit OperationsDivision. 

  • NYCT Rapid Transit Operations Division has no part-time positions and allemployees must obtain permission to hold a second job.All employees in safety sensitive positions must participate in a fatigueawareness training module.

Connecticut Transit
    CTTransit does not have a formal fatigue management program but they haveins

Comments powered by Disqus

Hr Jobs

View All Job Listings