Fatigue “is one of the most insidious issues in the transportation industry,” and more must be done to fight it, said Deborah A.P. Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
“We establish a 72-hour prior history in every NTSB investigation,” Hersman said at the National Press Club in Washington Nov. 16. “Unfortunately, we find fatigue in more incidents and accidents than you would think.”
She said the NTSB has recommended the Federal Aviation Administration set hours of service rules for flight crews, aviation mechanics and air traffic controllers. It took Congress to change century-old rail employee hours of service rules, she noted.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has issued truck driver hours of service rules three times since 2003, plans to propose a new HOS rule early next year.
Companies as well as government need to do more to address the issue, she said, noting that many businesses don’t have fatigue policies or procedures that allow tired employees to take time off.
Earlier this year, the NTSB cited fatigue as a factor in a fatal subway accident in Boston in which a train operator failed to obey a signal and crashed into the rear of another train. Investigators found the operator, who was killed in the accident, had taken a drug found in sleep aids at least one of the nights before the accident and was at high risk for sleep apnea.
After the accident in Boston, the NTSB recommended the Federal Transit Administration develop and disseminate guidelines for identifying and treating individuals at high risk for sleep disorders.
The NTSB also has recommended electronic onboard recorders be installed in all interstate commercial trucks to collect data on the number of hours they are operated and accident conditions.
Contact William B. Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org.