Fatigue a Problem in the Transport Sector

29 per cent of a sample of Norwegian transport operators report at least one episode of sleeping or nodding off while operating in the course of a three-month period. Based on retrospective ratings of the most recent operating period, alertness is found to decrease rapidly towards the final hour of operation, for most types of operator.

Image of man driving a tram.

52 per cent of passenger train operators and 26 per cent of bus and truck drivers reported having nodded off or slept at least once in the three months preceding the survey.

Professional operator fatigue is thought to contribute to substantial shares of accidents and dangerous incidents. In Norway, however, we know relatively little about the causes, prevalence and effects of fatigue in transport operators. This study aims to build a profile of comparative fatigue risks in the Norwegian road, rail and sea transport sectors.
The study finds that operators face widely varying sets of fatigue-related challenges, depending on the transport branch in which they work.
Analysis of survey responses resulted in the following findings for all transport operators in the sample.

  • 29 per cent had slept or nodded off in the 3-months preceding the first survey.
  • 4 per cent reported getting less than five hours sleep in the 24 hours preceding their most recent operating period.
  • 14 per cent reported getting less than 12 hours sleep in the 48 hours preceding their most recent operating period.
  • One in four of all transport operators report excessive daytime sleepiness (score over 10 on Epworth Sleepiness Scale).
  • Over 70 per cent of transport operators reported being overweight (BMI > 25), compared to an average for Norwegian adults of 44 per cent.

Rail operators reported the highest prevalence of sleeping while operating, with 63 per cent of cargo and 52 per cent of passenger train operators having nodded off or slept at least once in the three months preceding the survey. The corresponding share for maritime watch officers was 29 per cent, and for bus and truck drivers 26 per cent. Levels of sleepiness for the final hour of operating are also highest for rail operators, followed by maritime watch officers and then professional drivers of road vehicles.

The report structures fatigue-related risks along a trajectory that should be of particular interest to those wishing to manage fatigue as part of a safety management system.

Report:

Fatigue in operators of land- and sea-based transport forms in Norway. Risk Profiles
Fatigue in Transport Report IV. TØI Report 1440/2015. Authors: Ross Owen Phillips, Fridulv Sagberg, Torkel Bjørnskau.
Link to full report in English.

Ross Owen PhilipsContact:
Ross Owen Phillips
rph@toi.no
TØI, Norway
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