"We know very little about ... pilots' commuting practices, the distances they commute," said Oster.
"There are lots of stories and anecdotes about pilot commuting, but there is virtually no systematic evidence. So we don't have good information about the extent to which commuting practices can contribute to pilot fatigue," he said.
Oster insisted that the FAA and the airline industry should get together to assess how well fatigue risk management plans are working.
The International Civil Aviation Organization has been developing Fatigue Risk Management Systems to help airline companies understand fatigue and how to reduce the risks it poses, he said.
These systems could help develop more data on the role of fatigue and commutes in airline safety and recommend ways to lower the risk, he added.
The FAA has proposed a rule which would allow others to assess if a pilot is fatigued. However, right now there aren't valid and reliable tools and techniques to assess fatigue in pilots in the work setting, the committee found. More research is needed to validate tools and techniques and their use in the real-world, the authors noted.
For more information on fatigue, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Clinton V. Oster Jr., Ph.D., professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington; Jean Medina, spokeswoman, Air Transport Association; July 6, 2011, National Research Council report, The Effects
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