What Can UK Rail Learn From A World First Study Into Driver Fatigue?
The National Transport Commission, in Australia, has just released the results of a world-first study into heavy vehicle driver fatigue. The study spanned over two years used alertness monitoring technology to monitor and evaluate the impact of work shifts on driver alertness. The analysis involved assessing start times, consecutive shifts, length of shift, rotation and rest breaks to see how each of these impacted driver fatigue levels.
This world-first study has identified scientific links between drowsiness/alertness and specific working shifts. Even though the study has focused on heavy vehicle drivers the science and evidence can be applied to other industries that involves long and differentiating shift patterns, such as rail.
Rail requires much of its work and improvement schemes to be undertaken at night and weekends which in turn results in a vast majority of the industry working varying shift patterns. The link between rail and this study is the potential commuting activity undertaken after a rail worker has finished their shift.
With the UK rail industry focusing heavily on the fatigue management of its workforce this study offers some key insights into the links between shift work and fatigue, for example the study found that drivers are at a greater risk of drowsiness when they have completed consecutive night shifts, have limited breaks between shifts and transferring between morning and evening shifts. In addition, it also found that the physical effects of fatigue on those driving after long amounts of time at night had:
- Slow eye and eyelid movement
- Longer blink duration
- Prolonged eye closure
All of which can be potential harmful, if not deadly, when commuting on UK roads after working long night shifts on the UK rail tracks.
Managing fatigue is something the UK rail industry takes seriously, with other industries now starting to follow. The use of fatigue management systems will help the industry better plan and manage the on-set of fatigue and ensure we act responsibly as an industry leading sector.
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