Transportation Workers Are Sleepy On the Job, Says New Study
In March, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) released its annual Sleep in America® poll, titled “Transportation Workers’ Sleep.” The NSF’s 2012 survey examined the sleep habits and work performance of transportation workers, including pilots, train operators, and truck, bus, taxi and limousine drivers.
The online survey was conducted for the National Sleep Foundation by WB&A Market Research, using a sample of 1,087 adults over age 25. Those surveyed included 202 pilots, 203 truck drivers, 180 rail transportation workers, and 210 bus, taxi and limo drivers, as well as a control group of 292 non-transportation workers.
The transportation workers were asked about the duration and quality of their sleep, specifically on work nights, and how it affects their work performance. Questions included how much sleep they get, compared with how much they feel they need to operate their vehicles safely, if they feel sleepy at work, and if sleepiness on the job has ever contributed to unsafe conditions for themselves and their passengers. The survey also asked if their current work schedules allow enough time for sleep and recovery.
Results of the Study
The results of the poll are some cause for alarm, and reinforce the growing problem of sleep disorders and the potential risks they pose, such as commuter car accidents and errors by public transportation drivers responsible for many people. Some of the results of the survey are:
- About one-fourth of the train operators and pilots polled said that sleepiness has affected their job performance at least once a week.
- One in five pilots polled — about 20 percent — said they have made a “serious error” as a result of on-the-job sleepiness.
- One in five pilots and one in six train operators admit to a “near miss” due to on-the-job sleepiness.
- Pilots and train operators are more likely than non-transportation workers to have been involved in a sleep-related car accident while commuting.
- Among all workers surveyed, train operators and pilots report the most work day sleep dissatisfaction.
- Almost two-thirds of train operators and one-half of pilots say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on work nights.
- About one-third of bus, taxi, and limo drivers said they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on work nights.
The Bottom Line
Not surprisingly, sleepy transportation workers about three times more likely to report job performance problems, and report an average of 45 minutes less sleep per night than their non-sleepy peers. The takeaway of the study is that transportation companies, and the industry as a whole, needs to do more to ensure their workers are getting enough sleep, through improved schedules and education about good sleep and lifestyle habits.
To read the full report, see “Sleepy Pilots, Train Operators and Drivers” on the National Sleep Foundation website.
If you are experiencing sleep problems on a regular basis that are affecting your health and/or daytime performance, see a qualified sleep doctor to get diagnosed and treated properly. It could save your life or the life of someone else.
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