A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation indicates that public and commercial transportation operators are more likely to engage in fatigued driving than the general population. The daytime drowsiness of these drivers was most commonly caused by a failure to get enough rest and has been linked to an increased likelihood of public transportation accidents and truck crashes.
The most severely impacted transportation workers were train operators and pilots. About six percent of pilots reported having a fatigued driving car accident while commuting to and from work, compared to only one percent of non-transportation workers.
About a quarter of both train operators and pilots said that they experienced fatigued-related job performance issues at least once a week. More disturbingly, one fifth of pilots, 18 percent of train operators and 14 percent of truckers reported having a "serious error" or "near miss" incident related to daytime drowsiness as well.
"The margin of error in these professions is extremely small," said the CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. "Transportation professionals need to manage sleep to perform at their best."
The Obama administration recently crafted standards calling for a minimum 10 hour break between shifts for pilots and truckers. Several government safety advisory panels have also called for sleep apnea testing in obese truckers to prevent fatigued driving truck accidents caused by the condition.
It is unclear whether any of the new fatigued driving and operating regulations will have a significant impact on the number of commercial vehicle crashes because reducing fatigued driving requires a cultural shift that many transportation workers are resistant to.
"This is an issue that's not going to be settled anytime soon," a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman said. "There are clearly areas that we need to make improvement on. But the drivers we talk to tell us that they know their bodies, they know when they're tired."
Source: The Washington Times, "Not getting enough rest a problem for operators of planes, trains, trucks," Ben Wolfgang, March 6, 2012