More Rest for Air Traffic Controllers: LaHood
Controllers must now have at least nine hours between shifts
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 17, 2011 2:18 PM CDT
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood speaks during a news conference at Gross Towers in Allentown, PA Monday, March 4, 2011.   (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

(Newser) – Following reports of at least seven air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, the US government announced today that controllers will have more time to rest between shifts under new work rules, but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made clear he won't tolerate sleeping on duty despite studies and expert recommendations that suggest scheduled naps can help combat fatigue. "On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps. We're not going to allow that," he said. "They are going to be paid to do the job that they're trained to do, which involves guiding planes in and out of airports safely. But we are not going to pay controllers to be napping."

The new rules will give controllers at least nine hours off between shifts, compared with eight now. More managers will be on duty during the early morning hours and at night to remind controllers that nodding off is unacceptable. But LaHood said he would not allow controllers to take naps on the job, despite research that indicates it might prove beneficial. Other countries, such as Germany and Japan, provide sleeping rooms for controllers on break at night. An upcoming study by the FAA and National Air Traffic Controllers Association is expected to recommend that controllers take sleeping breaks of as long as 2 1/2 hours during midnight shifts.