Northeast Corridor Locomotive Engineer Stress

RCED-87-1: Published: Nov 18, 1986. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers' (BLE) studies on stress experienced by Amtrak's Northeast Corridor passenger train engineers, specifically the relationship between the studies': (1) methodologies and findings; and (2) conclusions and recommendations.

GAO found that: (1) although the studies could help find solutions for avoiding harmful stress to train engineers, they were limited and BLE should not modify engineer work duties or procedures based solely on the studies' results; (2) the clinical interview/physiological measurement part of the studies provided valuable insight into some of the complexities of the various stressors the consultants examined; (3) the study identified a number of factors that engineers believed were the most stressful when performing their work; (4) the studies did not directly address work rule changes that included the elimination of the fireman from the cab; and (5) more study and testing is needed to make sure that the reported causes are valid and that BLE identifies the best and most cost-effective corrective actions. GAO also found that the first study: (1) did not consider the frequency and circumstances under which the stressful events occurred, thus limiting its value for determining appropriate types of corrective actions; (2) used data collected at one point in time, thus providing no information on any shifts in the stressors that may have occurred over time; and (3) was based on a low response rate of 61 percent of the engineers. The second study: (1) did not use questions that were comparable with those used in the first study; (2) questioned only a small number of engineers; and (3) did not compare the stress experiences of Corridor engineers with those of other engineers, comparable groups, or the general public.

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