Railroad Safety:

Human Factor Accidents and Issues Affecting Engineer Work Schedules

RCED-93-160BR: Published: Jul 1, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 4, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how railroad engineers' work schedules affect railroad safety, focusing on: (1) whether the number of accidents on yard tracks differ from mainline track accidents; (2) how accident rates differ depending on the type of shift, time of day, and starting time; (3) the differences in work schedule characteristics of engineers who had accidents and the general engineer population; and (4) how the crew-calling system affects the engineers' ability to predict their next work shift.

GAO found that: (1) the time of day, number of hours engineers worked, and type of track had no significant impact on the number of railroad accidents; (2) accident rates at CSX and Conrail were higher for mainline track engineers than yard track engineers; (3) the CSX accident rate was higher during nondaylight hours and in the 11th hour of an engineer's shift, and Conrail's accident rate was higher when start time variability exceeded 4 hours; (4) although engineers generally had similar schedules, engineers who had accidents tended to work on mainline shifts that had greater shift variability; (5) engineers may not be sufficiently rested for work when changes in train scheduling occur because crew-calling systems do not provide adequate notification to allow engineers to properly plan their personal activities and sleep time; and (6) there was no evidence to support increased engineer notification, since engineers generally predict their work schedules 8 hours in advance.

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