A Question for Drivers.....

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Ammodog1

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Hi,

I wonder if any Drivers would be good enough to give their thoughts and ideas on something for me please?
I am considering applying for the position of Mainline Driver and the only concern that I have if about the shift work.

I have no issue with the loss of social life or family time, my issue is with whether or not my body could cope with the shift pattern and still stay alert enough to do the job safely, I worry that it would be possible to become fatigued to such a level that concentration was suffering.
It would be awful to be succesful and come into the profession only to lose the job again due to a SPAD or similar.
Do any Drivers suffer with this problem to any extent and if so what measures do you take to combat this and are they successful?

Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks
 
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E&W Lucas

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It's not a job, it's a lifestyle!

All a question of self discipline and organisation.

Some personal thoughts:
Try and keep your meal routine consistent, even if that means taking your main meal of the day into work, and re - heating it there.
Keep off caffiene, especially on nights.
Make sure you get a solid six, preferably eight, hours sleep before you go to work. This frequently means I am in bed before my young child!
Take up healthy eating - I'm a recent convert, and I find I have much more energy on small, light, easy to digest meals. Loads of salad and raw veg - what the body is designed to digest.

I like shiftwork, and could not go back to "office hours".

Confidence my friend, you have nothing to fear. The first part of the training programme is in part an opportunity to learn how to adjust, before it matters too much!
 

KA4C

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It's not a job, it's a lifestyle!

All a question of self discipline and organisation.

Some personal thoughts:
Try and keep your meal routine consistent, even if that means taking your main meal of the day into work, and re - heating it there.
Keep off caffiene, especially on nights.
Make sure you get a solid six, preferably eight, hours sleep before you go to work. This frequently means I am in bed before my young child!
Take up healthy eating - I'm a recent convert, and I find I have much more energy on small, light, easy to digest meals. Loads of salad and raw veg - what the body is designed to digest.

I like shiftwork, and could not go back to "office hours".

Confidence my friend, you have nothing to fear. The first part of the training programme is in part an opportunity to learn how to adjust, before it matters too much!


I agree with the above, go for it, there is plenty of help and advice in regard to lifestyle issues, to help you out. TOC's and FOC's are, generally, also very into this stuff and will beat you up with advice
 

Ammodog1

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Thanks EW,

I did wonder how much of the battle was diet related. I must admit, my diet isn't the greatest at the moment!

When you have a late start and then finish, e.g. 19:00 to 03:00 or 04:00 do you get a couple of hours kip before going in, or is that a recipe for disaster?

Also, do you have any idea if this is something that most drivers struggle with, or in the main are they OK once they get used to it?

Thanks again for the reply, much appreciated :)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Cheers KA4C,

It's good to know that there would be some understanding of the potential problem and also some advice/support
 

E&W Lucas

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Thanks EW,

I did wonder how much of the battle was diet related. I must admit, my diet isn't the greatest at the moment!

When you have a late start and then finish, e.g. 19:00 to 03:00 or 04:00 do you get a couple of hours kip before going in, or is that a recipe for disaster?

Also, do you have any idea if this is something that most drivers struggle with, or in the main are they OK once they get used to it?

Thanks again for the reply, much appreciated :)

Depends on the individual. I try and sleep in one block.
What is fatal, is to have an early start, say 0400 - 1300, then snatch an hour when you get in. You won't be able to get to sleep early in the evening.

Almost by definition, drivers have got used to it. Those that can't handle it, drop out during training.
 

GB

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Depends on the individual. I try and sleep in one block.
What is fatal, is to have an early start, say 0400 - 1300, then snatch an hour when you get in. You won't be able to get to sleep early in the evening.

Almost by definition, drivers have got used to it. Those that can't handle it, drop out during training.

Not sure I agree with that but it all depends on the individual. Thankfully I don't do that kind of early shift too often but when I do I have little choice but to get an hour or two in the afternoon.

I detest early shifts like that.
 

Ammodog1

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I think the earlies would be the ones that suited me fine to be honest. My concern would be the late ones. But hey ho, I'm no different to the next guy (I don't think!) so hopefully I would adapt to it ok.
 

pendolino

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It would be awful to be succesful and come into the profession only to lose the job again due to a SPAD or similar.

You won't lose the job if you have a SPAD or any other safety of the line incident (unless they happen too regularly, or if you try to cover something up - which is a guaranteed way to be sacked). All drivers make mistakes. I can only speak for my TOC, but they are very supportive of drivers who have incidents, not just with coaching plans etc. to try and prevent a repetition, but also with support immediately after the incident - most drivers feel quite miserable after a SPAD or similar, and certainly my TOC takes duty of care very seriously - checking you get home OK after the incident (in a taxi if necessary), that sort of thing.

And incidents will happen sooner or later to everyone, which is why your mates will support you too - they will either have been there, or know that it's only a matter of time, so no-one will point and laugh.

Anyway: shiftwork. I know a couple of drivers who don't cope very well, and they have worked out a mutual swap with other drivers so they can work permanent lates. But in general most people cope quite well. There will be days when you feel very tired, other times being awake at 4am feels perfectly natural.

Your employer will provide support and guidance, but it can be a very individual thing - you may have to tweak your lifestyle for a while until you find what works for you. For me, the hardest part is the late Saturday to early Monday - I find the best way to deal with it is not to have a lie-in on Sunday (despite that being very tempting) but to get up and be active. That way I find I am tired enough on Sunday evening to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but even so, the first few earlies can be a struggle.

If you take up a position as a trainee driver, you will probably find it very tiring at first, but this will partly be due to the fact that the practical handling part of training with a Driver Instructor is hard work and requires a lot of concentration and mental effort, so you will be exhausted regardless of whether you are working shifts or not. It does get easier though.

When you qualify, I would suggest taking it easy for the first 6 months or so - make the most of your time off, don't work loads of rest days. Give your body time to adjust, not just to shiftwork but also to using the skills that train driving requires.

Best of luck!
 

Ammodog1

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Depends on the individual. I try and sleep in one block.
What is fatal, is to have an early start, say 0400 - 1300, then snatch an hour when you get in. You won't be able to get to sleep early in the evening.

Almost by definition, drivers have got used to it. Those that can't handle it, drop out during training.

Blimey, I couldn't afford to be one of the drop outs! :roll: That mortgage won't pay itself! ;)
 

RPM

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You are right to be concerned about shift work and fatigue and it is good that you recognise it is of the utmost importance. Most people find they adapt to it but you do have to make a conscious effort to ensure you have had adequate rest between shifts. That means having to make sacrifices sometimes but the job always has to come first.

If you have a young family it can be considerably more difficult because you can't always sleep when you want to - especially if your partner works and you have to get the kids ready for school after only a few hours sleep. I'm in that situation at the moment but in the scheme of things it is only a short period of one's life.

Personally I find split sleep patterns OK. On earlies I have a couple of hours sleep when I get home and then go to bed at about 10 in the evening for another 5 or 6 hours. Maybe not as good as a solid block of sleep but beggars can't be choosers.

However well you manage your sleep all drivers struggle with tiredness from time to time. You have to learn to recognise it in the early stages and take steps to beat it; put your head out of the window, have a cold drink, drive standing up for a bit etc.
 

Ammodog1

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You won't lose the job if you have a SPAD or any other safety of the line incident (unless they happen too regularly, or if you try to cover something up - which is a guaranteed way to be sacked). All drivers make mistakes. I can only speak for my TOC, but they are very supportive of drivers who have incidents, not just with coaching plans etc. to try and prevent a repetition, but also with support immediately after the incident - most drivers feel quite miserable after a SPAD or similar, and certainly my TOC takes duty of care very seriously - checking you get home OK after the incident (in a taxi if necessary), that sort of thing.

And incidents will happen sooner or later to everyone, which is why your mates will support you too - they will either have been there, or know that it's only a matter of time, so no-one will point and laugh.

Anyway: shiftwork. I know a couple of drivers who don't cope very well, and they have worked out a mutual swap with other drivers so they can work permanent lates. But in general most people cope quite well. There will be days when you feel very tired, other times being awake at 4am feels perfectly natural.

Your employer will provide support and guidance, but it can be a very individual thing - you may have to tweak your lifestyle for a while until you find what works for you. For me, the hardest part is the late Saturday to early Monday - I find the best way to deal with it is not to have a lie-in on Sunday (despite that being very tempting) but to get up and be active. That way I find I am tired enough on Sunday evening to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but even so, the first few earlies can be a struggle.

If you take up a position as a trainee driver, you will probably find it very tiring at first, but this will partly be due to the fact that the practical handling part of training with a Driver Instructor is hard work and requires a lot of concentration and mental effort, so you will be exhausted regardless of whether you are working shifts or not. It does get easier though.

When you qualify, I would suggest taking it easy for the first 6 months or so - make the most of your time off, don't work loads of rest days. Give your body time to adjust, not just to shiftwork but also to using the skills that train driving requires.

Best of luck!

Thanks Pendolino,

That's really reassuring to hear actually, especially how your TOC is about incidents. Can't believe they would be that understanding! I just assumed it would be 'one strike and you're out' with something like that.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Cheers RPM and everyone else who has provided me with so many answers and in such a short space of time!
I really appreciate all the help and advice! :)
 

pendolino

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Thanks Pendolino,

That's really reassuring to hear actually, especially how your TOC is about incidents. Can't believe they would be that understanding! I just assumed it would be 'one strike and you're out' with something like that.

You will hear stories from the olden days of '3 strikes and you're out' but it's not like that any more thankfully*. We are all human, we all make mistakes. Staying focused is probably the hardest part of the job, especially when you're tired.

The important thing is to deal with any incident correctly at the time (e.g., with a TWPS activation, contact the signaller for permission to continue, don't 'reset and go'), then during the investigation be open and honest about how you feel it happened, and then when you're back on track learn from your experience.

*although a small number of drivers have multiple incidents over a short period of time and questions are then asked about their suitability for the role which may lead to them being taken off mainline driving permanently. But even in those cases, they can often be offered alternative employment e.g., as a conductor or shunter. That, in my experience, only happens very very rarely though, as the recruitment, screening and training procedures are designed to filter out anyone who may not be suitable.
 

Ammodog1

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That's good to know, although I think I would be mortified if I struggled to that extent! I think I would be the kind of person who would want to do the job safely or not at all. It's nice to know though that TOC's do realise that Drivers are only human! :)
 

spurs4life

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Not the toc I work for if there's a indecent they want to know what caused it they think drivers should be robots and never make a mistake.
 

Hoodedclaw545

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Sorry to say this, if you have a spad with my TOC you can expect to be taken off driving duties for upto 12 months and be expected to jump through hoops to get back driving (spending time with an outside body of physco analysts they check your lifestyle and concentration levels with alsorts of tests and to cap it off, if they say NO that's it you won't be driving anymore!)
Expect this treatment with a tpws activation even after you have reported yourself and carried out all the correct rules and regs!
Have a second spad in your driving career and I dare say that is it with my TOC, just hope there's a guards vac at the depot!
 

Sammy h

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I have been doing shift work for 7 months now and love it.

Have to say that I don't agree about the person who said don't have an afternoon kip, I have been getting up at 4am the last week and it took it's toll on me so I had an afternoon nap, something I do often on early turn.

However I am relatively young and can pretty much sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. If I went back to office hours I would hate it!
 

TDK

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Hi,

I wonder if any Drivers would be good enough to give their thoughts and ideas on something for me please?
I am considering applying for the position of Mainline Driver and the only concern that I have if about the shift work.

I have no issue with the loss of social life or family time, my issue is with whether or not my body could cope with the shift pattern and still stay alert enough to do the job safely, I worry that it would be possible to become fatigued to such a level that concentration was suffering.
It would be awful to be succesful and come into the profession only to lose the job again due to a SPAD or similar.
Do any Drivers suffer with this problem to any extent and if so what measures do you take to combat this and are they successful?

Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

If you could not cope with the shifts and therefore became a risk you would not pass the training so therefore would not have a SAPAD due to fatigue. I do not know if you are aware but any safety critical roles are governed by Hidden 18 which is a guideline that drivers have to stick to for example you have to have 12 hours rest between shifts and shifts cannot be over a certain lenght with also governed breaks during a shift you can only work 13 consecutive days also I believe and also there are restrictions on actual driving hours. I have been doing shifts for over 12 years and to be honest it isn't a problem as long as manage your sleep. I have not known any drivers in my career that have had reapeat incidents due to shift work if tiredness is a factor then it is down to self management, if you cannot self manage the job is not for you.
 

westcoaster

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I think the earlies would be the ones that suited me fine to be honest. My concern would be the late ones. But hey ho, I'm no different to the next guy (I don't think!) so hopefully I would adapt to it ok.

I'm totally the opesite I used to like earlies but now prefer lates, nothing better than waking up naturally when you ready and not by an alarm clock, at our depot the earliest start is 02:45 with a 10:40 finish, and our latest finish is 02:50 with a 18:30 book on plus nights in the mix, as I said I prefer lates to earlies but everyone is individual.
 

Rugd1022

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Plenty of good solid advice to follow throughout the two pages so far, and something I'd like to add is try not to let youself fall into any bad habits, particularly where your diet is concerned. Personally I've been ok on this score for the large part, but I did have a period just after I passed out for driving of eating too much of the wrong kinds of food which affected my energy levels and ability to sleep properly. At the time I was working endless ballast jobs where I took a lot of food with me to 'tide me over', all the wrong kinds unfortunately. Luckily the penny dropped, I got myself back in shape and things have been fine since then. My brother is also a driver and a several years ago he had a similar problem but it affected him quite badly and because of his diet (or lack of I should say) he had a SPAD. He learnt a lesson that day.

Hope the above hasn't put you off what can be a wonderful way of life.... for some, it is 'just a job' but for many more of us it's much more than that..... all the best!
 

Ammodog1

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Sorry to harp on, and I know it sounds like I'm obsessing now, but how easy is it to have a SPAD or some other safety critical incident. Does it happen to many drivers and do many end up losing their career over them?

I can't think of any reason that it may potentially happen to me, it just seems that you would be working your whole career on a knife edge, worrying that you would make that one mistake and then be out of a job.

Tell me if I'm thinking too much into this, I'm just a worrier I guess :(
 

pendolino

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You're right to be concerned about the possibility of having a safety of the line incident - that's the right attitude to have after all.

But look at it this way, it costs something like £150,000 to train a driver - that's a substantial investment, and not one that a TOC is likely to toss away at the drop of a hat. Very few drivers get sacked for having a safety of the line incident - it would have to be a deliberate and conscious breach of the Rule Book for that to happen.

It's very easy to have a SPAD or other incident - so easy in fact that it happens without you realising it, which tends to be where the problem lies! I don't think there are many drivers at my depot who haven't had at least one incident; those who haven't are probably quite new, but it is quite likely their time will come. Some drivers go for years without any incidents, but that in many ways is purely down to luck: many incidents are down to a combination of factors that might only come together once in a blue moon.

But you can reduce the risk. Using the tools available to you as a driver is critical in my view - commentary driving, formation reminders, constantly checking and re-checking what you're doing etc etc. And above all taking your time and not rushing, as that is how many mistakes occur - 'safety comes first, bo****ks to the timetable' is how many drivers see it.

You may still have an incident, but in this way at least you can show that you were making every effort to be professional in your approach, and that counts for a lot at my TOC. As does honesty when you do make a mistake - NEVER try to cover anything up (it's all on the data recorder). Being seen to be untrustworthy is a far bigger sin than having a small lapse of concentration that results in an incident.
 

142094

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If you keep thinking about having a SPAD, you're probably more likely to have one.
 

robby p

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I'd just like to add that while fatigue, bad diets and bad habits are causes of many incidents, it doesn't account for all of them.

Drivers with the best lifestyle, diets, sleep patterns and have great concentration levels still have incidents!

All it can take is thinking 'oh I forgot to put the bins out this morning' at the breaking area for a station or even someone shouting to you 'mate, where's platform 2?' and whilst your shouting back 'over there' your pulling away again a red signal!

I know people will reply about cab/station duties discipline but with some DOO drivers diagrams calling at over 150 stops in a single day, it's very easy to lapse during at least one.

I'm totally with the general trend of this thread with that we are all human and all we can do is try our very best to drive safely at all times.
 

pendolino

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I'd just like to add that while fatigue, bad diets and bad habits are causes of many incidents, it doesn't account for all of them.

Drivers with the best lifestyle, diets, sleep patterns and have great concentration levels still have incidents!

All it can take is thinking 'oh I forgot to put the bins out this morning' at the breaking area for a station or even someone shouting to you 'mate, where's platform 2?' and whilst your shouting back 'over there' your pulling away again a red signal!

I know people will reply about cab/station duties discipline but with some DOO drivers diagrams calling at over 150 stops in a single day, it's very easy to lapse during at least one.

I'm totally with the general trend of this thread with that we are all human and all we can do is try our very best to drive safely at all times.

Good post. However I would add that in certain scenarios (like the 'where's platform 2?' one), to a certain extent you're choosing to be distracted (albeit unwittingly) by answering the question. You can choose not to be distracted, by purposefully ignoring the person - yes, it takes a lot of willpower and it comes across as being a bit rude, but, well, that's preferable to a SPAD. It's not always easy though - it's one of those disciplines that needs to be practised to be perfected.

Buses have notices behind the drivers seat - along the lines of 'do not stand forward of this point or distract the driver while the bus is in motion' - making it clear that it is unacceptable to distract the driver. Logically the same applies with trains, only there aren't any notices so it's down to the driver to manage this risk.
 

GB

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While I don't know the official figures, the cost of....

The course examiner/instructor
Building and course material
Residential facilities ( lodging and food etc)
Pyschometrics
Lose of productivity
Mentor wages
Uniform
Travel expenses
Costs associated with practical handling, fuel, loco/unit use, paths etc

Probably more.
 

Beveridges

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In answer to the original question, that is a very good question as I believe shifts are the hardest part of any rail job I have ever done, by far.
I have worked shifts on the railway for around 5 years now. Currently a Depot Driver /Shunter, having worked up from Platforms. I have never been able to adapt to the shifts. Over the years I've done all sorts of shifts, from extreme early (getting up before 04:00), to 12 hour nights (19:00-07:00).
I can cope with "middle" sort of shifts but nights or early's are both hard in the extreme, on early's I used to get about 2 hours sleep a day. Its alright those who say "just go to bed earlier" thats no good if your just lying awake until the early hours every night.
Permenant nights (which I work mostly now) are very hard as well I can only get about 4 hours if I'm lucky and that is light sleep. But earlies are probably worse. It's one thing that puts me off going mainline, as much as I'd like to get off permenant nights. But at least you can recover on rest days. Unless you like overtime. It can make life miserable but its still possible to do the job safely while fatigued - at least from the depot driving point of view (and on the mainline as well going off what some mainline drivers have told me). It doesn't seem to effect concentration that much but its makes you feel horrible. I just see the shifts as the reason the job is payed well. You will find out very quickly if you can cope with it or not, when you shadow an instructor/minder on shifts. I always remember my first week with a minder, back in the platform days, a full week of 05:00 starts, and its been a struggle ever since.
So if you find your one of those like me who can not adapt to any sort of early or night shift, you can either struggle through it or drop out.
 
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Legzr1

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Be prepared for symptoms close to jetlag and you won't be too far of the mark.
 
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