What will it take to solve the problem of fatigue in transportation?
Fatigue has been a major issue in aviation lately because of its possible role in the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., early last year. The Transportation Department and Federal Aviation Administration recently proposed new rules intended to keep pilots fresh, including requirements that they get nine hours of rest, not just nine hours off duty. It's also a problem on rails, waterways and trucking routes, as laid out in a recent analysis by News21, a student journalism project associated with the Center for Public Integrity.
But what to do about it? News21 found that since the National Transportation Safety Board was founded in 1967, "the board has issued 138 fatigue-related safety recommendations. Only 68 have been implemented." Some of those recommendations have sat for years. Indeed, the NTSB has had its eye on pilot fatigue for two decades already.
On the regulators' side: Why have the NTSB's recommendations languished? How can fatigue be measured and ameliorated? On the operators' side: What about the pressures on individuals to work more hours or stay on schedule? Are there costs to getting proper rest? What practical problems would be created for airlines, shippers and others who need those man hours?