Commercial Driver Fatigue

There was a survey years ago which showed how, as a population, we have more “free” time than we used to have. I put “free” in quotations because that’s subjective. It’s what we do in that free time that puts us over the edge. It was also perceived that working 40 hours a week was the normal. But now it seems to have changed.

It used to be quite normal to have a 40 hour work week, but for many, especially those with larger families, 40 hours may not be enough hours to help you earn enough money to provide all of the comforts of home. Putting in extra hours at work will often give many that extra income to have a family vacation, or earn more money for buying gifts, or save for retirement. In some cases as a commercial driver, the long hours are par for the course of employment. In many cases, these long hours can lead to fatigue. As a commercial driver, it could be fatal.

Drowsy or fatigued driving can seriously put drivers at high risk of crashing. That’s not a secret. However, drowsy driving may happen more often than many may realize. It’s not just that your body is tired; your brain is also tired. It stops functioning as well as it needs to in order to keep you driving safely. Here are a few things to consider.

When our brain is impaired by fatigue, it can reduce our abilities of making logical driving choices. Information your eyes gather which are sent to your brain will send messages to your hands, feet and eyes. Fatigue can cause these messages to be late, which can seriously affect how safely you can perform the driving task. Let me explain.

Think how you may when you’re feeling tired or fatigued and aren’t in a vehicle. You may not be as active, your mental and physical responses may be somewhat slower and you may not be thinking as clearly as you normally would when be, compared to when you are fresh. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to drive when you’re feeling this way. This is all too dangerous to consider letting happen as commercial drivers, yet many people ignore the symptoms of fatigue and keep driving.

As drivers, we should recognize the signs of fatigue well before getting into your vehicle. However, there are times the symptoms of drowsiness may begin to appear while you’re well into your drive. If, and when, this does happen, there are a few things you can do to keep you awake and alert until you can safely park your vehicle. Let’s begin with the short-term solutions.

  • drink strong coffee or a cold caffeinated drink can help to keep them awake.
  • blow cold air from the air conditioning on your face or keep the windows rolled down
  • play the music loud
  • have a detailed conversation with passengers.

These tips may work for some to help keep you mentally awake and alert but would normally only work for a very short while. However, if you need to do any of these suggestions for a few minutes until you can safely get off the road, it may help. The best solution to being fatigued while driving is getting enough rest. Taking a power nap and wake up refreshed can make a world of difference. Find a parking lot, lock your doors and have that 15 to 20 minute nap. Having a little nap can be refreshing enough to become awake and alert once again to be able to drive away safely. Arriving late after a small nap is far better than not arriving at all. If you need more than those 15 to 20 minutes, take it. No need to rush yourself as you may become drowsy once again soon after you begin driving once again.

Visit our website for more information on Fatigue Management.

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