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The interaction between fatigue and distraction in multi-modal transport operators

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Jamson
    Dr G R Law
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr Samantha Jamson (Institute for Transport Studies), Dr Graham Law (Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine), Dr Stephen Wright (School of Chemical and Process Engineering)

Project overview

Users of the transport system can move between different modes, to fulfil their leisure and professional duties. For example a truck driver, train driver or pilot may drive a car, or ride a bicycle, to their place of work before undertaking their professional duties. Depending on the timing and length of the commute to work, and its mode (car/train/cycle/walk) the operator may arrive at their place of work in a partially fatigued condition. Despite being highly trained, truck drivers, train drivers and professional pilots share common psychological attributes with non-professional drivers; these include fundamental performance limitations such as the speed of information processing, and decision making, as well as susceptibility to fatigue.

The effects of fatigue on operator performance have been widely researched in both the aviation and driving domains: reaction time increases, decision making skills deteriorate, and teamwork/communication worsens. Fatigue warning systems, which respond to subtle changes in a car driver’s steering inputs, are market-ready and are an optional feature of many vehicle manufacturer’s “driver support packs”. Wearable technology (wireless glasses for instance) are another option for detecting sleepiness via blink rate which is known to increase with time on task. However, it is also clear from previous research that workload (or task demand) affects both steering control and blink rate – thus the relationship between these two operator states (fatigue and workload) is rather unclear.

This PhD project will examine both fundamental aspects of pilot and driver fatigue and its interaction with task demand and explore ways in which performance decrements can be best detected and managed. The student will have the opportunity to publish in a wide range of journals (Sleep, Transportation Research, Human Factors) and present at leading international conferences in the field. The supervision team has expertise in human factors, sleep physiology and aviation and access to appropriate study participants (pilots and drivers). The active interaction with key stakeholders will be supported, in order to maximize the impact of the research.

Methods and facilities

This studentship provides an exciting opportunity to undertake research in a multi-disciplinary environment, with access to state of the art facilities including:

- The University of Leeds Driving Simulator - one of the most advanced worldwide that allows research into driver behaviour to be performed in accurately controlled and repeatable laboratory conditions (

- Sound Asleep Laboratory – an advanced scientific facility for world-leading research into sleep (

- Airbus A320 simulator (

The student will receive training in the operation of the simulators as well as in the recording of physiological data. Training in statistical techniques and research methodology will also be supported through attendance at modules in the MSc in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. There is a wide range of networking opportunities via the newly formed [email protected] – an interdisciplinary research initiative bringing together clinical medicine, psychology and engineering disciplines.

Depending on the student’s academic background, we envisage a suite of experimental studies undertaken which could include:
1. The effect of fatigue on strategic and operational decision making in both the driving and aviation environments
2. The interaction between fatigue and task demand
3. The effect of sleep quality and quantity on fatigue and response
4. Comparative studies to establish the most appropriate early-warning indicators of fatigue
5. Evaluation of interventions and fatigue management systems

Entry requirements:
Students should have an undergraduate or Masters degree in Psychology, Physiology, Human Factors or cognate discipline. Evidence of research design and statistical is desirable.

Please visit our LARS scholarship page for more information and further opportunities:


Connor, J. (2009). The Role of Driver Sleepiness in Car Crashes: A Review of Epidemiological Evidence. Drugs, Driving and Traffic Safety, pp. 187-205.

Dawson, D. et al. (2011). Modelling Fatigue and the Use of Fatigue Models in Work Settings. Accid Anal Prev, 43(2), 549-564.

Goode, J. (2005). Are pilots at risk of accidents due to fatigue? Journal of Safety Research, Volume 34, Issue 3, August 2003, Pages 309–313

Morris et al. (2005). Electrooculographic and performance indices of fatigue during simulated flight. Biological Psychology, Volume 42, Issue 3, 5 February 1996, Pages 343–360

Philip et al. (2005) Fatigue, sleep restriction and driving performance. Accident Analysis & Prevention. Volume 37, Issue 3, May 2005, Pages 473–478.

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