As you blink through bleary eyes in the morning, you may want to pause for a moment and consider whether your bus or train driver – or pilot – is as sleepy as you are.
A new poll suggests that they are – or more. And their sleepiness may be leading to unsafe travel.
An American group, the National Sleep Foundation, says they’ve conducted the first poll asking pilots, train operators, truck, bus, taxi and limo drivers about their sleep habits and work performance.
Train operators and pilots were most likely to admit to sleepiness affecting their work at least once a week – 26 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively. (By comparison, about 17 per cent of non-transportation workers said the same.)
And one in five pilots “admits that they have made a serious error” and one in six train operators and truck drivers says “that they have had a ‘near miss’ due to sleepiness.”
Even commuting home can be more dangerous for those who drive trains and fly planes.
“Driving home from work after a long shift is associated with crashes due to sleepiness,” Sanjay Patel, a sleep researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in a release. “We should all be concerned that pilots and train operators report car crashes due to sleepiness at a rate that is six times greater than that of other workers.”
What’s more, almost two-thirds of train operators and half of pilots “say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on work nights,” compared to 44 per cent of truck drivers and 42 per cent of non-transportation workers, the poll found.
Sleepiness affects us all – the foundation says 10 per cent of Americans claim they’re likely to “fall asleep at an inappropriate time and place, such as during a meeting or while driving.” But transportation workers “report job performance problems about three times more often and report averaging about 45 minutes less sleep per night than their non-sleepy peers,” according to the poll.
Some reasons include grueling schedules, shift work and long commutes.
“Transportation workers experience considerable variability in the days they work, the times they work, and the amount of time off between shifts," Patrick Sherry, a sleep researcher and professor from the University of Denver Intermodal Transportation Institute said in a release. "This makes it difficult for such workers to maintain regular sleep/wake schedules.”
Should transportation companies do more to ensure their workers are getting the sleep they need?