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11 Ways Heavy Vehicle Drivers Can Fight Driver Fatigue

If you’re a driver of heavy vehicles, then you’re sure to have come close to or experienced driver fatigue at least once in your career. Driver fatigue is a common occurrence among drivers of heavy vehicles, and can be the cause of several major problems not only for the drivers, but the company, operators and managers they work with.

So what is driver fatigue, and what can be done to avoid it?

What is Driver Fatigue?

Driver fatigue, otherwise known as drowsy driving, is basically what drivers experience when they drive with too little sleep, stay awake and on the road for too long a time, or drive at night or during hours when they are typically sleeping. Drivers who suffer from sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea and those who suffer from diabetes may also be prone to driver fatigue.

Driver fatigue can cause many problems. They can cause road crashes which not only delay or inhibit the delivery of goods but more seriously, cause numerous injuries and fatalities. This is why there are several transport laws which help keep incidences of driver fatigue at bay. A breach in any of these laws will result in penalties and fines for the driver and the parties involved.

Ways to Prevent Driver Fatigue

Because of the many negative consequences of driver fatigue, it is important to implement ways of avoiding it. As a driver, here are some ways you can prevent driver fatigue:

  • Get enough sleep. Always get enough sleep or rest before driving for long periods of time.
  • Do not travel tired. If you feel drowsy, tired or close to sickness, it is better not to continue driving. Do not force yourself if your body is not in the best condition. Driving for extended periods of time will only make you weaker and make you more prone to driver fatigue. Make sure you feel rested and well before you start driving.
  • Avoid driving during your drowsiest hours. Nighttimes and late afternoons are the times most people feel drowsy. If you can, avoid driving during these times. If you must, make sure you get enough rest beforehand.
  • Take breaks. Have 15 minute breaks every few hours or so to relieve you of drowsiness.
  • Regulate your driving hours. As much as possible, do not drive for more than 10 straight hours in a day.
  • Share the driving. If you can, have someone share the driving so that you can take turns resting and driving.
  • Eat healthy. A balanced diet will help keep your stamina up during long drives. Avoid alcoholic beverages, fatty foods and too much sugar as these can make you sleepy. Caffeine and energy drinks may help to keep you alert for a time, but they can also cause a significant crash once they leave your system.
  • Recognise the signs of fatigue. Constant yawning, loss of focus, shifting lanes, daydreaming, difficulty keeping eyes open or keeping head up, difficulty remembering the last few seconds – these are all signs of fatigue. Be aware of them and take a break once you notice yourself experiencing any of them on the road.
  • Maintain proper environmental conditions. The inside of your vehicle must not be too warm not too cold. If you’re faced with glare from the sun, wear a good pair of sunglasses. Keep your seat upright and do not slouch as slouching can cause you to become too relaxed and drowsy. Having some music and fresh air may help keep you alert, but make sure the music is not too loud.
  • Keep a work diary.For those drivers of fatigue related heavy vehicles, it is a requirement to keep a work diary. A work diary should include:
    • Your name, license number and state where your license was issued
    • The date and day when you start driving
    • The address of the base/bases where you receive work orders, as well as the address of your record keeper
    • If you are alone or working with another driver
    • The system of working hours you are currently adopting (standard hours, work/rest hours exemption, basic fatigue management or advanced fatigue management)
    • The operator’s accreditation number (if you are working under basic fatigue management or advanced fatigue management)
    • Changes in rest and work and the time spent in work or rest since the last change
    • The place and time where the change occurs
    • The odometer reading at the change
    • The registration number of every vehicle driven during change/s
  • Have an electronic work diary.These days organisations can be more proactive when it comes to managing and monitoring driver fatigue through the use of electronic work diaries. These electronic work diaries come with advanced systems that automatically inform drivers and vehicle operators about the driver’s break times and ensure that the driver follows these times. If the driver does not comply, the operators or managers are immediately informed.

Don’t let the pressures of work force you to risk experiencing driver fatigue. Whether you’re regularly driving a Greyhound bus from Sydney to Brisbane or a driver of Volvo trucks that haul logs down from logging areas, make sure that you and your employers abide by the rules set by the government regarding fatigue management; and follow these simple, preventive measures to keep your driving and your career always in the right lane.

Debra Wright blogs about a plethora of topics including trucks and other fields. Debra considers Truckworld.com.au as one of the leaders in Truck sales.