Federal officials announced changes to air traffic controller scheduling practices, a move they say will allow controllers more time for rest between shifts.
The new scheduling rules, which have already been put in place and will be fully in effect by the end of the week, include mandating at least nine hours off between controllers’ shifts and prohibiting controllers from switching to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off.
“We expect controllers to come to work rested and ready to work and take personal responsibility for safety in the control towers. We have zero tolerance for sleeping on the job,” Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a news release. “Safety is our top priority and we will continue to make whatever changes are necessary.”
In addition, controllers will no longer be able to swap shifts unless they have a minimum of nine hours off between the last shift they worked and the one they want to begin and FAA managers will schedule their own shifts so as to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late night hours.
“Research shows us that giving people the chance for even an additional one hour of rest during critical periods in a schedule can improve work performance and reduce the potential for fatigue,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a news release. “Taking advantage of the time you have to rest is also a professional responsibility.”