December 9, 2011

Veolia to lead rail engineer distraction study

Global transportation management firm Veolia Transportation said George Elsmore, a senior railroad official from the company, would lead an ongoing study on engineer distraction conducted at the Volpe Institute of Transportation Studies in Massachusetts. Academic expert, Dr. Raja Parasuraman, from George Mason University, will join Elsmore, to study workplace cognitive distractions that result in errors and accidents.  

Elsmore moved from his position heading rail safety for Veolia because of the importance of this work.

The study, sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), was awarded to Veolia in June 2011 to assess the factors contributing to the distraction of locomotive engineers during passenger rail service operations and to develop a rigorous training program focused on techniques to mitigate distraction.

The project supports the shared commitment of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Veolia to find ways the industry can, in all modes of transportation, reduce accidents and violations related to distracted drivers/operators. The FRA will fund $250,000 for Veolia to conduct the study which will provide rail operators with a comprehensive training program focused on steps locomotive engineers can use to maintain attention and focus while operating a train.

The Veolia study will be conducted in two phases: The first phase will include a select pool of locomotive engineers operating in front of a locomotive simulator within the Volpe Center at the Cab Technology Integration Lab (CTIL) where each engineer will conduct a regular work session as they would on a normal workday. The CTIL will generate conditions each engineer would confront as part of operating a passenger locomotive and will include various settings under varying weather and operating conditions. The engineers will be put through a number of scenarios that will attempt to distract the engineer from operating the locomotive. Changes in engineer performance, physical condition and focus will be compiled and tabulated.

A training program will be then be developed based upon the results from the first phase of the study. During the second phase of the study locomotive engineers again will be put through a number of scenarios that will attempt to distract them from operating the locomotive, as they were in the first study. Then they will receive the training, and the scenarios will be replicated to determine the effect of the training program. At the conclusion of both phases, test results will be compiled and analyzed by Dr. Parasuraman, and a final report and Veolia will submit conclusions of the study to the FRA.

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