Driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving while drunk, and long, irregular work patterns are only increasing levels of fatigue for drivers. Phil Lawlor, Sleep Expert at mattress specialist Dormeo, knows all too well how vital it is that we get enough sleep, not least those of us who drive hundreds of miles around the country. In this article, he explains the importance of sleep and how you can make sure that your drivers are well rested on the road.
We’ve all got busy lives. Balancing our work commitments with our family while also trying to have a social life is difficult for many of us. And, when it comes down to making sacrifices to fit it all in, sleep is usually the first victim. That’s why over half of adults admit that they do not usually get enough sleep, according to the Independent.
As we continue to research the importance of sleep and develop a deeper understanding of its role in our lives, it is becoming clear that a lack of it reduces our reaction times and detrimentally affects our decision-making abilities. This is particularly relevant to the transport and logistics sectors, as a lack of sleep has been shown to drastically increase the chances of being involved in an accident (Guardian).
With that in mind, I’m going to share some tips you can follow to make sure your drivers are well rested on the road.
Falling asleep at the wheel
Feelings of tiredness undoubtedly affect a driver’s decision-making abilities and decrease reaction times, but many drivers will try to fight through it, thinking that they could never fall asleep while focusing on the road. But, unfortunately a number of factors can overrule our good intentions.
The most obvious factor is a lack of quality sleep from the night before, with anything under 7 hours increasing our chances of being involved in an accident. Factors that can affect the quality of this sleep, and therefore decrease its restorative abilities, include drinking alcohol and taking certain medications, so drivers should be advised to alcoholic drinks and drowsy medication the night before any journey. Age is also a factor, with older driver more likely to doze off, while the boring nature of long journeys on monotonous roads can lead the mind to slowly drift off.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to carry out risk assessments for their employees while they are at work, including while driving on the road. While employers have no control over the hazards that workers may face while driving, it is still their responsibility to ensure that proper health and safety procedures are followed.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure that staff are fully trained on the dangers of driving while fatigued, prior to letting them behind the wheel. For jobs where a lot of driving is required, it is wise to actively monitor tiredness levels and regularly communicate with your drivers to make sure they are feeling up to the job at hand. Where possible, consult them on the planning process and make it clear that they are free to voice any concerns they have over their own condition.
When planning driving schedules, employers should take into account the number of hours employees have worked, not just the number of hours they’ve been behind the wheel. Try to arrange shift patterns to avoid potential problems, and don’t forget to include a worker’s commute when considering how much they have driven. For maximum safety, all drivers should be advised to get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before any journey.
Fully training staff and following strict safety procedures will put you in the best place to avoid accidents. That said, it can be tough to know if one of your drivers is impaired by fatigue. For this reason, it is a matter of personal responsibility for all drivers to be sure to get enough sleep.
You should place emphasis on your drivers getting at least 7 hours of sleep the night before their shift, and make sure they are feeling fit and ready before setting off. Drivers should also be aware that they must take a 15-minute break every two hours, especially if they are driving at night, to give them an opportunity to get some refreshments and to stretch their legs. Drivers must be encouraged to stop and rest should they feel tired — there are many places around that they can park up safely for a little while to rest and recuperate before setting out again.
Proper training, careful planning, and an environment where employees can talk about how they are feeling are key ways to minimize accidents due to tiredness. The bottom line is: tiredness kills, so make sure your staff can take a break.