National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Battling Driver Fatigue Depends on More than Just Issuing a Mandate

The HOS mandate is supposed to help reduce the problem of fatigued driving but although the FMCSA can mandate the hours one can drive, they can’t mandate drivers to not feel tired.

There’s no question that driver fatigue is a major issue of concern, not just for the trucking industry (although we get the most attention on this issue) but for every driver, commercial or not. Think of the last time you could say that you were fully rested. Hard to remember, isn’t it? That’s due to a world full of distractions and schedules that keep most of us from getting the rest and the sleep we need. And no matter how many government regulations are passed, some of us will still have a difficult time getting the necessary sleep to operate at our optimum performance.

A recent article in FleetOwner “Battling Fatigue,” addresses this problem and offers a number of suggestions and solutions. What’s clear is that you can mandate how many hours a driver is behind the wheel, but you can’t mandate what he or she does when they’re not behind that wheel. If days off consist of running errands, taking your kids to all of their activities, and just puttering around, are you really getting the proper rest in order to be at your best come the next time you’re driving? Or, if you spend your off-time worried about paying bills or dealing with family problems or concerned about making the time to visit elderly parents, can you honestly say that you’re fully rested, even though you’re not sitting behind the wheel of a big rig.

The fact of the matter is, in today’s world, most of us are fatigued more often than not. However, when your job is to operate a 16-ton tractor trailer carrying up to 20 tons of freight, the concern is even greater. The FleetOwner article alludes to the different ways of dealing with fatigue, from wearable technology to company policy to lifestyle changes, all dedicated to preventing driver fatigue.

In the past few years, there’s been a significant upsurge in the development of biometrically-interfacing wearable devices and technology. Pedometers have been around for quite a while counting the steps you take; but now you can wear physical activity trackers (iWatch or FitBit) that measure not just how many steps you’ve taken, but also your heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and more. But these are baby steps compared to the wearable technology in the article; one can measure levels of fatigue from 1 to 100. Another device (inserted in the brim of a cap worn by the driver) measures brainwaves in order to determine alertness levels.

In addition to these and other technology advances, the article also includes an interview with the director of safety and training at a fuel transport logistics company. The company policy addresses their drivers’ “biological clocks” by trying to give each driver consistent start and end times, among other guidelines. Drivers are encouraged to get proper rest on their time off (but again, no government agency or company can truly control that).

What we also know is that truck drivers generally don’t have the healthiest lifestyle. It’s a sedentary job; food choices are usually not advantageous to maintaining alertness, and exercise (which is essential for optimal performance) is rarely practiced. So education is important. Companies can create programs that inform drivers about nutrition (which foods will boost energy and which will make them more tired) and encourage drivers to perform even moderate exercise. Good nutrition and moderate exercise will help address the issues of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes that too many drivers suffer from. These health problems also leave drivers feeling fatigued even when they get the requisite hours of rest.

Regardless of what approach you take, alert drivers are safe drivers and safe drivers will positively contribute to a company’s rising bottom line.

For more information, read the full article.

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