Are Your Drivers Getting Enough Rest? The Ins & Outs of Driver Fatigue

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This is a great question. Do you know the answer?

In addition to distracted driving, driver fatigue is right up there among the top causes for concern when it comes to truck driver accidents. Getting good amounts of sleep as a CDL driver just isn’t easy. If you’ve ever tried get some shut eye in a sleeper berth then you know this. Not only do you have tight quarters, but there are also noises to deal with. This could be the idling engine or hum of an auxiliary power unit (APU).

Understanding Driver Fatigue

Fatigued drivers are at a much greater risk to cause or be involved in an accident. These accidents many times involve a single vehicle straying from the correct driving lane and colliding with another object around them. such as a tree beside the road or another vehicle. The bottom line is that being tired makes you less aware of what is going on around you while driving and can significantly reduce reaction time. So how do you know if you are fatigued? Well, here are 5 basic warning signs:

  • Nodding off and/or struggling to keep the eyes open
  • Forgetting the last few minutes of driving
  • Poor judgement, slower reaction time
  • Drifting into the lane next to you
  • Persistent yawning and rubbing your eyes

There are several other warning signs of driver fatigue, but these are among the most common. The other thing to consider about these is that by the time you notice them, your driving ability has already been impaired to a certain degree. This means it is highly advisable to pull over and get some rest.

Especially Pay Attention to the 1st Hour

A recent study conducted to determine the risk of having a safety-critical event as a function of driving-hour suggests that incidents are highest during the first hour of driving. The authors hypothesize that drivers may be affected by sleep inertia shortly after waking from sleep. This may be especially true for drivers who sleep in the sleeper berth.

How NOT to Combat Driver Fatigue

Not just commercial drivers, but all drivers tend to want to convince themselves that they’re not as tired as they actually are. They believe they can just “power through it.” This many times leads to trying different alertness tricks such as smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, singing loudly, etc. This often gives a false sense of security or temporary feeling that all is OK followed by a crash in energy.

So What CAN You Do to Prevent Driver Fatigue?

Well, the best thing you can possibly do is make it a point to get a good amount of rest. There’s just no substitute for letting your body get 8 hours of sleep to rejuvenate. In addition to that it always helps if you:

  • Take breaks when you are required AND when you need to
  • Stay hydrated (on water) and eat a balanced diet
  • Notify your Fleet Manager/Supervisor if you feel you are unable to drive safely
  • If possible, schedule your route around the bad weather/demanding conditions

Final Thoughts

Trucking is a demanding job and sometimes driver fatigue just isn’t preventable. The best thing you can do as a commercial driver is be aware and simply pull over if you feel you are unfit to drive. While delays are not ideal, being involved in an accident is much more damaging to your company and your career.

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Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dickinson Fleet Services has grown into one of the largest independent fleet maintenance and management companies in the country. Dickinson Fleet Services is the leading provider of on-site mobile maintenance and repair services nationwide. Offering mobile on-site maintenance and repair services for light, medium and heavy-duty trucks and trailers with over 300 mobile units operating in 40 states.