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Managing driver fatigue

Driver tiredness and fatigue is a major killer. Drivers who become drowsy or fall asleep at the wheel contribute to thousands of crashes each year.

Fatigue, or driver tiredness, reduces an individual’s ability to recognise hazards; slows their reaction times and impairs their judgement. This combination of factors can be lethal, as a driver will only spot a hazard at the last minute (if at all) and may not have time to brake before the collision. Therefore, the results of any incident involving driver fatigue are likely to be more serious.

In developing a Driver Tiredness and Fatigue Standard the following needs to be considered:

  • The organisation of tasks and shifts for driving work – drivers working at night or long shifts are at greater risk of falling asleep while driving.
  • A night driving policy (if permitted under local regulations) - the most likely times to fall asleep are midnight to 6 am and 2 pm to 4 pm.
  • Working and driving hours: ensure sufficient time is available for a driver to sleep for at least eight hours in every 24 hours. Set working and driving hour limits for staff required to drive for work, to include at least a 24-hour rest break after every six working days.
  • Rest breaks - drivers’ to take a 15-minute break every 2 hours.
  • The requirement to plan journeys and schedules to ensure sufficient time is available to minimise the risk of driver tiredness and fatigue. 

In addition the organisation needs to implement a programme to raise drivers’ and managers’ awareness of Driver Tiredness and Fatigue. The following are items to be included in such a programme:

  • The causes and consequences of Driver Tiredness
  • Quality of sleep
  • Sleep-related medical conditions
  • Use of alcohol and drugs, including prescription or over-the-counter medications
  • Strategies to manage driver tiredness; including their right or duty to stop driving if they are tired
  • Emergency measures (e.g. power naps and use of caffeine)
  • The organisation’s policies and procedures for managing driver tiredness

The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has developed a 10-point programme to manage driver fatigue, which can be downloaded below.

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