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Driver Fatigue Management - The Ultimate Guide

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

Key Takeaways:

Driver fatigue is the leading cause of heavy commercial vehicle accidents, causing 20-30% of crashes every year. A driver fatigue management plan is critical to decreasing collisions. A comprehensive plan will also address federal and local drive- and rest-time regulations. The right technology can help carriers track driver hours and comply with the law regarding driving time and rest breaks.

What is driver fatigue management?

Fatigue is a huge problem for every driver on the road, but it is especially troublesome for the motor carrier industry. When drivers get tired, their attention dwindles, and reaction times slow. Falling asleep at the wheel causes more accidents than you might think.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that fatigue is the most common cause of heavy vehicle collisions. Driver fatigue is not a country-specific problem, and several countries have opted to create similar solutions to this serious issue.

The leading causes of fatigue are simply not getting enough sleep, driving at night, and working or being awake for long stretches at a time. Medical conditions and medications can also cause issues with fatigue. Driver fatigue management addresses many of these issues, especially regarding the interplay between fatigue and hours of service.

Driver fatigue management and safety management systems are policies and solutions that sets out how a company will address the dangers of driving while tired. It complies with the law regarding driver work and rest hours and sets out company policies that adhere to those laws or perhaps even takes additional safety precautions that go above and beyond the minimum legal requirements.

Driver fatigue management usually comes in the form of a driver fatigue management plan. This plan sets out company policies and regulations that each driver must follow.

What is a driver fatigue management plan?

An employer creates a driver fatigue management plan, also known as safety management plans, in consultation with their drivers, dispatchers, and key parties. It provides how the risk of fatigue will be mitigated, specifically as they relate to long-haul driving, commercial vehicle driving, number of working hours, and driving at night. It will also often include alcohol and drug policies and procedures.

The standards vary slightly based on where the employer operates, but in addition to ensuring hours of service regulations are adhered to, businesses should also consider including the items below in their driver fatigue plan:

  • Trip scheduling, including accounting for the actual amount of time it takes to travel from one place to another with adequate rest break
  • Rest period required to recover from the fatigue effects of work
  • Methods for addressing whether drivers are suitable to drive
  • System for monitoring health and safety
  • Procedures for reporting hazards and incidents
  • Training and information provided to drivers regarding fatigue
  • Loading and unloading schedules

A fatigue management plan should help close the gap between safety concerns and operational needs. When used correctly, a fatigue management plan can help reduce accidents and improve the overall function of a carrier’s company.

Why is managing driver fatigue so important?

Driver fatigue is the leading cause of collisions in heavy commercial vehicles and directly impacts driver safety and the safety of anyone else on the road. Drive claims that inadequate sleep resulted in more than 3000 deaths in Australia in 2016-17, including almost 400 people falling asleep behind the wheel or dying as a result of fatigue-related industrial collisions

According to one study, reaction times decrease nearly 17% when a driver is fatigued. A study done by the Centre for Sleep Research in South Australia found that driving for 17 hours without sleep essentially puts drivers at the same risk as if their blood alcohol level was 0.05, and driving for 24 hours without sleep was essentially the same as having a blood alcohol level of 0.10.

From an employer's perspective, managing driver fatigue correctly will often lead to safer drivers, fewer collisions, more efficient load delivery, fewer injury claims, and happier customers.

What driver fatigue regulations are in place?

A weekly maximum driving time can total no more than 56 hours, and a driver must take at least 45 minutes of breaks every 4.5 hours of driving unless they take a rest period.

What technology is available to help with driver fatigue management?

A proper fatigue management system pulls all of that data, for all of your drivers, at any given time, into one easy to view lens. This allows fleet managers to pull critical driver data in an instant, saving time and allowing you to quickly react to any productivity challenges.

The right technology can assist with data visibility, management, and planning. And when you want to take a step beyond these basic measures and take proactive steps to identify fatigue and mitigate risk, dashcams are the next logical step.

In fact, some internal dash cams use smart technology to pick up on signals of a drowsy driver, such as frequent yawning or distraction. They can then pass along an alert to the driver or the driver’s dispatcher that a break is necessary.

To learn about technologies available to carriers to help better track drivers and combat drowsy driving, contact Teletrac Navman today.