Testing train engineers for sleep disorders won’t save lives
The National Transportation Safety Board acted in a classic government manner the other day, saying effectively nothing of value and moving us further away from progress. The presentation was a report on the findings after an exhaustive investigation following the Hoboken derailment in September 2016 killing one young mom. The conclusion was that the engineer's sleep apnea and the Trump Administration failure to require screenings caused the crash. What?!?
So testing the guy riding the train for a sleep disorder would've prevented a deadly crash? You've got to be kidding me. Even if you know a guy has difficulty sleeping and is operating at half speed on the job, you can't force someone to have a full night's sleep. When is the last time you slept 8 hours? 6 hours? I tend to operate on a lot less sleep than many and I know many of you are the same. We're all out their on the roads every day commuting to work whether the dog kept us up during an overnight thunderstorm or the kids were up puking all night. Maybe you're working two jobs just to stay above water in NJ and some days you just need a couple extra hours.
The bottom line is that human error will always be a factor. What actually would have prevented the crash, even if the driver fell asleep at the switch, would be positive train control. PTC is designed to slow and stop a train if the engineer isn't following safety speed restrictions.
This should have been in place already except that our government couldn't find the money. So they pushed back and delayed a potentially life-saving upgrade. Shameful. Disgraceful. Deadly.
Instead of scapegoating a guy with a sleep disorder who could be anyone with a cold, kids and/or a dog, why not actually invest money in making the trains safe? No amount of Apnea testing will prevent the next crash if the engineer has a heart attack while driving the train. No amount of Apnea testing will slow a train approaching a station too fast. Only upgraded brakes and safety measures will prevent the next crash. Time for NJ Government to step up and modernize. Or maybe it's time to privatize the transportation agency and let private investment make the critical upgrades.
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