The truck driver's guide to fatigue management

Tess Lynch, 3 min read

How many people can say that every night they get the recommended eight hours of sleep?

I’d be willing to bet not many of us, yet we all get up in the morning, push through it and head to work anyway.

However, when your job is driving, fatigue isn’t just a major risk for you. It impacts the safety of other road users, your company and the wider community.

You'd think the signs of fatigue would be fairly obvious, though there are some that could go unnoticed and a few that we all tend to ignore.

If you think you’ve ever experienced any of the signs below while driving, it’s probably best to start thinking about your fatigue management strategies. If you think you’ve never experienced signs of fatigue while driving, it’s still best to starting thinking about your driver fatigue management strategies.

So, here’s everything you need to know.

Signs of driver fatigue

Causes of driver fatigue

  • This one may be obvious but, lack of sleep
  • Extended driving shifts
  • Driving during times you’d naturally be sleeping (12am-6am)
  • Skipping breaks
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Ignoring signs that you're tired

Consequences of driver fatigue

20% of accidents on the road are caused by driver fatigue, with the highest risk times being from 2-6 in the morning. Micro-sleep is a major concern for drivers, and is a common symptom of fatigue. Micro-sleep is a momentary burst of unconsciousness, that you may not even be aware of, where your brain is struggling between being awake and being asleep. Have you ever felt your head fall and jerk you awake? Yep, that’s micro-sleeping.

As many drivers are required to work in the early morning hours, fatigue management strategies should be put in place to prevent fatigue and micro-sleep.

How to manage driver fatigue

Unlike drug and alcohol testing, it’s hard to test fatigue. It is your responsibility as a driver, or as a safety officer, to ensure the safety of yourself as well as the safety of others.

TOP TIP: Chain of Responsibility means that everyone in the chain, whether you pack, load, transport or receive goods, is legally liable if a driver is fatigued and gets into an accident.

On-the-job: The only real cure for fatigue is sleep and rest. If you’re a driver and you notice any of the symptoms above, the best thing you can do is pull over and have a power nap.

Before the job: Training is the best way to make sure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and knows how to respond given a risky, fatigue induced scenario. To prevent fatigue from the get go and avoid on-the-job fatigue, drivers must be aware and adhere to work and rest requirements.

Under the heavy vehicle national law there are three options for work and rest you can choose from:

1. Standard hours

For drivers working outside of the National heavy vehicle accreditation scheme (NHVAS). It sets out the maximum number of work hours and the minimum number of rest hours required to drive safely

2. Basic fatigue management

For drivers working within the NHVAS with basic fatigue management accreditation. It allows for greater flexibility of work and rest hours, allowing drivers to work up to 14hrs in a 24hr period (with appropriate rest time).

3. Advanced fatigue management

For drivers working within the NHVAS with advanced fatigue management accreditation. Allows for even further flexibility, giving operators the opportunity to set their own work hours so long as the fatigue risk is offset by sleep and rest and a compliant fatigue management system is in operation.

Whatever risk management approach you choose, it is most important for drivers to both be aware of the signs and symptoms of fatigue and to know what to do if they are fatigued, so that they are able to minimise their own risk while on the job.

If you have any further questions or are looking for training program on fatigue management don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tess Lynch

Tess Lynch

Tess is a design savant, fashion leader and a pretty darn good writer. Whether it’s creating digital designs, blogging about learning science or rocking a neck-scarf, Tess can pull it off.

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