Study: Transportation Employees More Prone to Sleepiness on the Job

Compared to other transportation workers, school bus drivers are more apt to get the most rest and could be safer as a result, according to a first-of-its-kind national survey on sleep habits.

The National Sleep Foundation's 2012 Sleep in America poll showed that many transportation workers struggle with sleep. About one-fourth of pilots and train operators admitted that their performance is affected at least once a week by sleepiness.

One in five pilots acknowledged a serious error tied to their lack of sleep, and one in six train operators and truck drivers say that sleepiness has led to a "near miss." But only 12 percent of those in a bus, taxi and limo group reported a near miss, and seven out of 10 said lack of sleep never impacts their jobs.

"The results of the NSF poll should serve as a literal 'wake-up call'," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "Inadequate sleep puts lives at risk; we see this over and over in our accident investigations. Improving the quantity and quality of sleep can improve safety and ultimately save lives."

She added that the study brings home the importance of Sleep Awareness Week, which is being celebrated through March 9. Hersman also reminded that Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday.

The Internet survey of 1,087 total respondents had a sampling error of plus/minus 3 percentage points. Fifteen percent of the total respondents said they were professional bus drivers, of which 55 percent were school bus drivers. Meanwhile, 20 percent said they were transit drivers, 12 percent said they drove chartered buses and the balance were about evenly split among vans, "senior transportation" buses, shuttle buses, intercity buses and "other" buses.

The average hours per shift of bus, taxi and limo drivers was 7.2 hours and their commute times 17.8 minutes, which were significantly lower than both pilots (45.5 minutes) and train operators (31 minutes). More than half of the bus, taxi and limo drivers also said they regularly nap on workdays.

The NSF survey found that nearly half of the bus, taxi and limo drivers said they worked at least six hours a day but no more than nine, and all other groups including the control group said they worked longer shift hours.

Three-quarters of the control group, which works the same schedule each day, are likely to begin their shifts between 6 and 9 a.m. compared to 60 percent of train operators, 50 percent of bus, taxi and limo drivers, 54 percent of truck drivers and 31 percent of pilots. Meanwhile, about three-quarters of the control group and the bus, taxi and limo drivers were most likely to end their shifts between noon and 6 p.m., which NSF said were "considerably higher" than the other groups.

Last modified onThursday, 08 January 2015 11:55