Sleepy Pilots, Train Operators and Drivers

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Date:
Thursday, March 1, 2012

pilots and 47% of train operators say they work the same work schedule each day, compared to 76% of non-transportation workers.

Time off between shifts may play a role in transportation workers’ sleepiness. Non-transportation workers report having an average of 14.2 hours off between shifts, compared to 12.9 hours for pilots; 12.5 for train operators; 12.1 for truck drivers; and 11.2 hours for bus, taxi, and limo drivers. If given one more hour off between work shifts, over one-half of pilots (56%) and train operators (54%) report that they would use that hour for sleep.

Long commutes cut into transportation workers’ already shortened time between shifts. Pilots report the longest commutes with 37% saying it takes more than an hour to get to work from home. Pilots and train operators have the highest average commute time of 45.5 minutes and 31 minutes, respectively, compared to a 23.8 minute average for non-transportation workers.  Other research has consistently found that longer commute times have been associated with shorter individual sleep times.

“Transportation workers experience considerable variability in the days they work, the times they work, and the amount of time off between shifts.  This makes it difficult for such workers to maintain regular sleep/wake schedules, which can, in turn, make it difficult for these workers to maintain alertness on the job. Employers should put more effort into designing work/rest schedules that facilitate sleep and minimize workers exposure to irregular, variable schedule changes,” says Patrick Sherry, PhD, a sleep researcher and professor from the University of Denver Intermodal Transportation Institute.  

 

Pilots and train operators nap twice as frequently.

The poll shows that transportation professionals are taking more naps than other workers. More than one-half of pilots (58%) and train operators (56%) take at least one nap on work days, compared to about one-fourth of non-transportation workers (27%). About one in five pilots (20%), bus, taxi and limo drivers (20%), truck drivers (16%) and train operators (16%) say they take 3-5 naps during the work week. Among those who report napping on work days, one-half of pilots (50%), almost one-half of truck