Driver Fatigue Management in Trucking

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Driver fatigue…

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy/fatigued driving accounts for 72,000 crashes per year and more than 800 deaths. Driver fatigue is a concern among “regular” drivers, but it’s even more of an issue for commercial drivers.  Why?  Because research indicates that commercial drivers only get about half of the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night.  And when driving is the main duty for your job, well, the lack of sleep can be a problem.  A serious one.
Driver Fatigue

How Fatigue Affects Drivers

Driver fatigue leads to slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly.  One of the most dangerous elements of fatigue is how quickly it can sneak up on vehicle operators, car drivers or truck drivers.  Often times truck drivers (like most people) can not assess their own fatigue levels accurately and are therefore unaware that they are not able to perform normally.  Too often, fatigued drivers fail to notice that they are drifting between lanes.

“By the time that you’re feeling fatigued and tired, you’re way past the point of being safe on the road,” said Erin Mabry, a senior research associate at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s (VTTI) Center for Truck and Bus Safety.  VTTI is part of a multi-year collaborative research effort to develop, test and evaluate components of a fatigue management program (FMP) – the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP) – for commercial vehicle operators.

High Risk Factors for Fatigue Include:

  • Driving alone
  • Driving on monotonous roads
  • Driving for long periods of time
  • High and low traffic volumes
  • Driving at circadian peaks and lulls

Fatigue Study

The purpose of the FMP is to understand the issues, opportunities and challenges inherent in managing operator fatigue in commercial trucking. The NAFMP was developed in parts of Canada and the U.S. and through four research, development and testing phases.

The first 3 phases of the study used focus groups and field tests with commercial drivers and motor carriers to lead the the 4th phase – developing training modules with VTTI.  The fatigue training program includes 10 modules that were each designed to target a specific population – drivers, shippers, receivers, carriers, dispatchers and drivers’ families.  In order for this to be successful in managing driver fatigue, it must start from the top (with Fleet Owners & Managers) and go all the way down.

How Fleets Can Get Fatigue Training

Fleets can adopt the program by downloading the modules, which are free and publicly available on the NAFMP website. Along with the modules, VTTI developed an implementation manual on how fleets can tailor the FMP to their organizations’ needs.

The program also offers an ROI calculator that fleet managers can use to track any financial benefits gained from implementing the program.

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