The answer to where do train engineers sleep depends on whether they are operating passenger or freight trains. Engineers on passenger trains stay with the train throughout the run and are allowed to disembark for a set rest period after their shift is over. Engineers on freight trains, however, are not allowed to leave the locomotive or take a nap while in motion. They are required to wait at their away terminal for a train to pick them up when their shift ends.
Even so, two decades after federal officials identified fatigue as a major safety issue, railway workers continue to nod off at the controls of mile-long freight trains laden with dangerous cargo. National Transportation Safety Board records have documented that entire crews have nodded off at the controls of trains carrying chlorine, oil and petroleum products, and radioactive waste.
In the aftermath of a deadly derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec, in July, a number of current and retired rail workers contacted CBC News with warnings that chronic exhaustion is one of the biggest threats to the industry. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. Some said they frequently fell asleep while at the controls and put lives, cargo and communities at risk.
Amid growing public concern, CSX Railroad Co. announced in April that it will no longer allow its engineers to take naps while on duty. The change, instituted in a half-page bulletin, eliminates more than two decades of allowable napping and puts CSX at odds with its main U.S. rivals, which allow naps under certain conditions and provide sleep rooms for their crew members.