WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – According to a recent study conducted by Metro, more than 60 of its bus drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past two years, and the number only grows more alarming for its train operators.

The study conducted fatigue analysis on 537 rail operators and 2,480 bus operators working for Metro to gauge the level of sleep deprivation on the mass-transit system’s employees and it yielded some startling results.

The study was conducted by an outside consultant company and was limited to measuring the fatigue of safety-sensitive employees only.

While Metro says there does not appear to be a widespread fatigue issue, the study suggests that on the rail system, as high as six or seven percent of the train operators could be considered “too tired” while working.

Dr. Steven Hursch, with the Institutes for Behavior Resources, says a lot of these employees work the midnight to 8 a.m. shift.

“The problem is you can’t necessarily eliminate that shift,” Hursch said. “If these people are building trains for the morning rush hour, and they’re particularly skilled at that, it would not be operationally feasible not to have them do that job.”

He says that issue doesn’t extend to the Metro bus line, with less than one percent of its drivers being too fatigued to safely do their job. Although, of that sample size analyzed – bus drivers with early start times between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. – there were 68 reports of drivers dozing off behind the wheel.

But Metro says the actual hours worked is not the sole factor affecting employee fatigue, and the total work hours per week or month have little influence as well.

“What we need to do is have schedules that give people an 8-hour opportunity for sleep,” Hursch said.

Some factors cited by the study that could help curb employee fatigue include lifestyle changes, awareness of the effect of fatigue on the body, changes in working environments that will promote and provide the opportunity for rest, and better scheduling software.

You can read the full report here.


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