Whilst drivers’ hours regulations are a well-established means of cutting the risk of truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel, those regulations take little account of the ‘body clock’ and that at certain times of the day, drivers can come over sleepy even though they have adhered to the regulations. More worrying still is the fact that a quite significant proportion of HGV drivers may have some form of sleep disorder* .
Driver tiredness is thought to be a contributory factor in many crashes, particularly catastrophic claims involving perhaps a vehicle travelling at speed and running into stationary traffic without any attempt at applying the brakes. This issue should prompt every haulier to consider the issue of driver tiredness when carrying out their occupational road risk review. Causes of sleepiness do vary considerably. Sleep apnoea is a particularly serious risk for drivers and if not diagnosed and treated, could prove fatal for the driver and other road users. Other causes of sleepiness include lack of sleep, natural time of day / body clock issues, other health factors such as narcolepsy and inappropriate drug and alcohol use, work factors such as those resulting from unrealistic delivery schedules and two-up driving issues such as being unable to sleep properly when not driving. Carrying out appropriate risk assessments is obviously vital but the wide range of possible causes of sleepiness amongst drivers points to the need to go further and consider developing a comprehensive and proactive
driver welfare and monitoring programme designed to holistically manage the fatigue risk. Measures that prudent transport operators may consider include:
- Drawing up a protocol that allows their drivers to take appropriate measures in the event of excessive sleepiness whilst driving
- Using telematics to monitor driver behaviour and identify driver actions or inactions that might indicate a fatigue or other crash-related risk
- Introducing a sleep apnoea screening and treatment programme.
Proactive measures taken by a transport fleet operator to cut the risk of catastrophic crashes should reap rewards from an insurance premium perspective given the favourable impact such measures can be expected to have on claims experience.
*Source: Health and Safety Executive , RR1104 Research Report, Occupational health and extended working lives in the transport sector.