The FAA is introducing new scheduling rules for air traffic controllers as the latest step in its response to the sleeping controllers controversy.

The new requirements have been put in place, and will be in effect by the end of the week. They generally tighten rules that govern controller scheduling, and reduce controllers’ flexibility in altering schedules.

Multiple examples of controllers sleeping while on duty have surfaced in recent weeks to the embarrassment of the FAA and the Transportation Dept. The FAA and DOT have already brought in new staffing rules to ensure controllers do not work alone during night shifts, and Chief Operating Officer Hank Krakowski has resigned.

The additional steps announced today are an acknowledgement that scheduling practices are also problematic. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt tells controllers that “taking advantage of the time you have to rest is also a professional responsibility.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he “expect[s] controllers to come to work rested and ready to work and take personal responsibility for safety in the control towers … we have zero tolerance for sleeping on the job.”

Under the revisions, controllers must now have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts, whereas currently “they may have as few as eight,” FAA says. Controllers will no longer be able to swap shifts unless they have at least nine hours off between shifts, and they will not be allowed to switch to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off.

FAA managers will also be told to “schedule their own shifts in a way to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late night hours,” the FAA says.

The FAA, with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, is planning a “call to action” program regarding ATC safety and professionalism. “The goal of the call to action is to reinforce the need for all air traffic personnel to adhere to the highest professional standards,” says the FAA. This echoes the airline safety call to action that Babbitt issued in 2009, focusing on pilot training and fatigue.

This campaign is set to begin April 18 in Atlanta, where Babbitt and NATCA head Paul Rinaldi will visit ATC facilities. During the following week they will also visit ATC facilities in Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C., and the controller training academy in Oklahoma City. Senior FAA and NATCA officials will travel to other FAA facilities over the next few weeks.

A fatigue education program will be developed “to teach controllers the risks of fatigue and how to avoid it,” the FAA says. The agency will commission an independent review of the ATC training curriculum and qualifications “to make sure new controllers are properly prepared.” Controller training has already been frequently studied in recent years by the DOT’s Inspector General and others.