A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation shows that transportation workers - including truck drivers, airline pilots and train operators - are at significant risk of having their job performance affected by drowsiness.
The study found that 14 percent of truck drivers reported having a "near miss" of a trucking accident as a result of being sleepy. Train operators are pilots fare even worse - 18 percent of train operators reported having at least one "near miss," and 20 percent of pilots admitted to having made a serious error as a result of being sleepy.
Compounding the problem, many transportation workers report that they are rarely able to get a good night's sleep. Approximately 57 percent of train operators, 50 percent of pilots and 44 percent of truck drivers reported that they "rarely or never" get satisfactory sleep on a work night.
The study's authors think the problem of sleepiness among transportation workers may be due to the fact that their work schedules don't allow sufficient time for rest.
Transportation professionals often have more varied schedules than other workers, and rarely work on a set schedule week after week. They also have less time off between workdays - non-transportation workers get an average of 14.2 hours off between shifts, while truck drivers get only 12.1.
These numbers are certainly troubling. The very nature of transportation workers' jobs means that they often have hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in their hands.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that employers need to do more to ensure that transportation workers have time for adequate rest. By doing so, they would be improving transportation safety for everyone.
Source: National Sleep Foundation, "Sleepy Pilots, Train Operators and Drivers," March 3, 2012.