A US Department of Transportation study, The Transportation Management Center Staffing and Scheduling for Day-to-Day Operations, provides managers, supervisors, human resource personnel, and private contractors with valuable insights for Transportation Management Center (TMC) staffing and scheduling decisions. The study addresses the concepts, methods, processes, tasks, techniques, and other issues related to work analysis, scheduling, and staff planning. Several methods for analyzing aspects of work are covered, including job analysis, workload analysis, and demand analysis. General scheduling practices, issues associated with shiftwork, and methods on how to create a staffing plan and planning for emergencies are also discussed.
TMCs provide a public service to communities with traffic management needs. Traffic management helps: safeguard travelers by reducing the number of accidents and coordinating emergency responses to incidents; provide time and cost savings to residents by mitigating congestion; and decrease pollutants released into the air by motor vehicles. In the service industry, employees are often the most critical element in the delivery of the service, and their payroll costs typically account for the greatest portion of the budget. In servicing the public’s travel needs, the efficient operation of a TMC depends on the effective management of human resources. Day to day TMC operations can benefit from systematic work analysis. Job analysis and a workload analysis help determine how to assign work to employees or groups of employees. Human factors principles can be used to develop guidelines for assigning tasks to employees in different scheduling configurations.
- Conduct a job analysis to determine which knowledge, skills, and abilities employees must possess to staff a work shift. Job analysis is a method used to determine what knowledge, skills, and abilities employees must possess to perform the required job elements successfully. During peak traffic conditions, for example, employees with training in congestion management may be needed, whereas special event management training may be more important immediately following a sporting event. Determining which employees can perform a task during a specific work shift is based on three factors: the work elements, the worker attributes required to perform the tasks, and the specific employees who are available to work a shift.
- Identify work scenarios that are vulnerable to overload and determine procedures for managing and alleviating the workload. Default task allocation principles, which can be found in the study (see Source), provide general guidelines for assigning tasks to employees. To protect employees from being overloaded, identify work scenarios that are vulnerable to overload and devise procedures for managing and alleviating the workload. Prioritize and distribute tasks over time as evenly as possible. Tasks that are not time dependent can be scheduled for non-peak workload times. More than one operator should be assigned to tasks that require conflicting actions or simultaneous attention to multiple sources of information
- Conduct a workload analysis to help avoid overloading employees and optimize performance. Workload will vary depending on the number and combination of tasks performed, the difficulty of the tasks, and the characteristics of the employee, among other factors. Predicting performance is a complex and inexact task. Overload occurs when demand requirements overwhelm available resources. For example, the TMC in Atlanta initially developed a system of alarms to indicate a device failure, but found in operation that numerous simultaneous alarms caused an overload of information for an operator. In an overload situation, an employee may compensate with one of several tactics: filtering the information sources based on their perceived level of priority; providing simplified, approximate responses; allowing the work to accumulate and attempt to catch up later. As a result, the employee may fail to respond to several sources or make errors.
- Prioritize information sources to ensure that employees pay attention to the most important information. Several strategies, based on human factors principles of workload analysis, can be implemented. Train employees to effectively scan multiple information sources to ensure the development of optimal scan patterns. In general, people tend to monitor sources of information that update more frequently, and neglect sources that update less frequently regardless of the importance of the content. During high stress situations, people tend to attend to only those sources that they perceive as being the most important and salient, and tend to ignore information that is contradictory to their understanding of the environment. In general, the problem with selective attention is that people tend to focus on the wrong aspects of the situation.
TMC employee and operational efficiency may increase if effective task allocation procedures are used to assign tasks to employees who are capable of performing those tasks most efficiently. Job analysis procedures can be used to verify which employees can most efficiently perform the work required during a shift. Workload analysis can be used to ensure that the work system does not constrain employee performance.