National Highways has launched a series of ‘Toolbox Talks’ videos to raise awareness of vital safety and compliance issues with van drivers, one of the subjects featured is driver fatigue. One in five incidents is caused by tiredness and 40% of such incidents involve a commercial vehicle.
Most of van drivers have felt sleepy at the wheel at some point so it’s something we all need to take extremely seriously.
Fatigued drivers are far more likely to:
- Respond emotionally rather than rationally when driving
- Have poor lane discipline
- Have fluctuating speed
- Have poorer reaction times and coordination
Causes of Fatigue
Many factors can contribute to driver fatigue.
Long Driving Hours
Driving continuously for two hours of more can lead to your concentration starting to deteriorate. You will be less aware of the road situation and slower to react to hazards, which increases the risk of an accident. Stopping for breaks every 2 hours will help to keep you alert and aware on the road.
Getting out of the van during breaks and walking around can help keep you alert.
Stress is well known to cause tiredness and issues with concentration. Mitigating stress can be difficult, but it can help to plan your route and set off early so that you aren’t rushing to reach your destination. Taking advantage of the van’s radio or music system can also help you stay relaxed in the driving seat.
Lack of Sleep
Low or interrupted sleep will leave you tired before you start your day. There are many reasons for poor sleep, including busy schedules, sleep disorders, or a new baby in the family.
Time of Day
Research has shown that van drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel in the early morning (between 2am and 6am) and early afternoon (between 2pm and 4pm). Night driving in general can be tiring if you are not accustomed to it. Be aware of this and try and plan a rest stop during this time.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, having a van with a lot of added features can contribute to tiredness. Modern vans are now fitted with a lot of comforts and labour-saving devices (lane-assist, cruise control, and so on) that make driving a lot easier than it used to be. This can relax you a little too much, in that your attention could wander from the road.
To counter this, a lot of vans have a driver attention alert system that monitors your activity and lets you know if it thinks you aren’t paying attention.
The only real way to combat drowsiness is to sleep. If you can feel yourself actually nodding off, pull over somewhere safe. No destination or deadline is worth the risk. There are, however, a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of fatigue setting in.
- Get a good night’s sleep before you set off
- Avoid eating huge, filling meals that will make you feel more drowsy
- If possible, try to share the driving on night journeys
- Make sure the cab isn’t too warm
- Put something engaging and lively on the radio
- On your break, drink two strong caffeine drinks and take a nap for 15 minutes