Focus on driver fatigue: 6 best practices for employers in the transportation industry

Here are 6 practical steps you can take to help reduce your employees' risk for driver fatigue on the job.

6 Best practices about driver fatigue

Your employees are a vital asset. You can’t make sure they get a good night’s rest every night, but there are steps you can take to help reduce their risk of becoming mentally or physically fatigued, and being involved in a motor vehicle incident (MVI).

More sophisticated methods for recognizing and managing fatigue in the workplace do exist – like fatigue risk management systems and fatigue monitoring devices – but the six best practices outlined below are steps that any employer can take toward reducing driver fatigue-related incidents and improving their workplace health and safety culture.

 

1. Know Your Employees

Knowing your drivers will help you understand their limitations. Make a point of speaking with them regularly so you become accustomed to their mannerisms and recognize when their physical and verbal behaviors suggest they are fatigued. Better yet, if you create a workplace with open lines of communication, employees will be willing to discuss workload and scheduling challenges that are generating fatigue, and work with you to figure out a solution rather than accept or ignore it.

 

2. Support Employee Health and Wellness

An employee with a healthy work-life balance is much less susceptible to fatigue. Host “lunch and learns” that provide tools, guides and ideas that will help staff make healthy lifestyle choices. Encourage employees to get more active, for example, get group rates for gym passes or have in-house facilities (pingpong table, stationary cycle, stair machine, etc.). Proactive organizations that invest in employee wellness have tracked their success in terms of reduced health benefits costs, lower absenteeism, and increased workplace engagement.

Arrange driver schedules so they’re able to see a doctor if needed, to diagnose and address matters before they become a serious health issue, or contribute to a motor vehicle incident.

 

3. Have Realistic Expectations

Hours of service regulations govern commercial drivers, but each driver has a different fatigue tolerance. One driver may be able to function reliably for 13 hours, while another driver’s performance declines sharply after 11 hours. A stress-filled 10-hour day is more tiring than an easy going 12-hour day. Work with your employees to build realistic, sustainable schedules.

 

4. Consider Flexible Scheduling

You’ve got commitments to your clients and customers. Employees have responsibilities that compete for their time when they are not at work. Research shows that tolerance to schedule changes and irregularities varies among individuals. Some are most alert and productive in the morning, while others work best if they start later and work into the evening. Capitalize on your employees’ strengths, maximize their productivity, and reduce the likelihood they will become fatigued and make costly mistakes while driving.

Studies also show that week day crash frequency peaks between 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Think about ways you can schedule your drivers to reduce their exposure to those risky conditions.

 

5. Instruct Your Drivers to Take Regular Breaks

Drivers need to take breaks to get fresh air, stretch their limbs and re-hydrate at least every two (2) hours. Insist they do that and build those breaks into driver schedules. Support your drivers by supplying or incentivizing with items such as Fitbits or other physical activity tracking devices.

 

6. Instruct Drivers with Proper In-cab Ergonomics

Any drive – short or long – can result in a sore and tired driver. Help your drivers and learn more about how to properly outfit and setup an ergonomically correct seating configuration. Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) offers an Ergonomics for Transportation training course for managers, supervisors, and workers in the transportation industry.

 

For More Information

IHSA has developed a number of online educational resources to address driver fatigue and assist workplaces with strengthening their road safety plans, including tip sheets for employers and workers, and safety talks that address driver mental health that will be available in Spring 2021.

IHSA urges stakeholders in the trucking industry to visit the Driver Fatigue topic page to learn more about industry-identified root causes of driver fatigue and recommended solutions. Working together, we can create safer working environments for all professional truck drivers and those with whom they share the road.

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