A Complete Guide to Fatigue Management for Truck Drivers 

March 14 2023
Driver fatigue is the leading cause of heavy truck accidents.

Fatigue management is requisite for truck drivers to observe road safety and compliance during freight and interstate transport. Proper fatigue management counters dangerous driving outcomes, such as falling asleep at the wheel or making wrong turns. Knowing the causes of fatigue and its associated risk bolsters the need to take preventive measures.

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue results from lack of rest or working long shifts. It leads to failed physical performance, impaired cognitive abilities, and poor judgment. Truck drivers need to consider strategies that manage their workload to mitigate fatigued driving. It involves taking regular breaks during a shift and avoiding activity that makes concentrating difficult. They should also eat healthy meals and get enough sleep before and after each shift.

Signs of Fatigue

  • Decreased alertness and reaction time
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Daydreaming or zoning out
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Continuous Yawning
  • Swerving or jerking the wheel
  • Erratic braking or acceleration
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blurred vision

Effects of Fatigue

  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Reduced coordination and motor control
  • Increased stress levels
  • Lower concentration levels
  • Poor judgment
  • Impaired vision
  • Loss of motivation
  • Inability to focus
  • Lower productivity
  • Increased risk of health problems

What Causes Fatigue?

Without proper rest stops, drivers lose energy and have decreased alertness and reaction times, increasing the likelihood of an accident. Furthermore, the weight of commercial trucks also slows acceleration times, increasing the time it takes drivers to reach their destinations and contributing to fatigue. Drivers must stay vigilant when on the road and remember to take breaks when necessary for their safety and for other motorists.

Long-haul truck drivers often experience fatigue due to the stress and monotony of their work. Constant driving for hours on end, often overnight or under challenging conditions, limits sleep time and disrupts one’s natural circadian rhythms. Sitting for prolonged periods also leads to health issues like obesity and heart disease, which make you tire fast.

Truckers must also contend with sedating medications while on the job. They also deal with stressful factors like the strain of logistic planning and tight scheduling deadlines. Truckers navigate unfamiliar roads and drive in challenging weather conditions, which stretch anticipation and energy levels over time.

Other causes of fatigue include:

  • Ignoring federal driving regulations
  • Unhealthy or low-quality food choices
  • Dehydration
  • Mental and physical exhaustion
  • Inadequate rest breaks

A driver fatigue management plan is critical to decreasing accidents.

Rules and Regulations You Need to Know About Fatigue

Western Australia has the Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Regulations 2011 and the Western Australian Road Transport (Vehicle Standards) Rules 1998. The former sets rules for managing driver fatigue, while the latter outlines what drivers expect of their work hours and rest breaks.

The Heavy Vehicle National Laws outline rules to manage fatigue and risks to road safety. This law requires a driver not to drive more than 12 hours in any 24 hours and to take regular rest breaks.

The Chain of Responsibility laws requires all parties involved in goods transport to ensure drivers are not fatigued while on the road. They must ensure every driver is well-rested before getting behind the wheel.

For Solo Drivers

  1. Drivers must take at least 20 minutes of break time after every 5 hours of work. This break must include at least ten consecutive minutes of rest, taken during or after the 5-hour shift.
  2. Drivers must work at most 168 hours over a 14-day period.
  3. Drivers must have 27 hours of non-work time every 72 hours. It includes three periods of at least seven consecutive hours of non-work time.
  4. Drivers must have at most 17 hours between non-work periods. These periods must be at least seven continuous hours.

Two-up Driving

  1. Drivers must take a break of at least 20 minutes after every 5 hours of work time. Breaks should consist of 10 consecutive minutes or more, which they can take during or after five hours.
  2. Drivers should work up to 168 hours in any 14 days.
  3. Non-work time must be at least 7 hours in any 24 hours spent in transit or stationary.
  4. Drivers must have at least 24 hours of non-work time between shift changes if they are working five or more consecutive days.

Steps to Take if You are Fatigued

Drivers should take precautions and be aware of warning signs if they spend long hours behind the wheel. These are a few steps truck drivers can take to combat fatigue and stay safe:

  1. Find a safe, quiet truck bay away from traffic to rest.
  2. Use dark curtains and liners to keep out light. Blocking out exterior lights to reduce distractions is effective in combating fatigue.
  3. Turn off your phone or radio for minimal distractions and ensure your sleeping berth is well-ventilated.
  4. Depending on your schedule, nap for 20-30 minutes or longer.
  5. Drink plenty of water.
  6. Eat healthy snacks: Healthy, nutrient-dense snacks provide sustained energy and improve concentration. Drivers should choose snacks that are low in sugar, high in protein, and free of processed ingredients.

Fatigue Management Strategies

Fatigue management recognises and responds to the adverse effects of working long hours beyond natural body rhythms. It requires various strategies to ensure drivers’ safety, health, and performance while encouraging them to maintain a balanced lifestyle. It also encourages the establishment of realistic working or break cycles and provides regular breaks throughout the day. These breaks range from shorter rest periods between tasks to longer hours of restorative sleep at night. It prevents potential fatigue-related injuries or illnesses associated with lack of sleep.

As a truck driver, feeling tired and exhausted is natural. To ensure you remain safe while driving, understand the dangers of fatigue and follow specific fatigue management strategies. These strategies help you balance rest and work, safeguarding your well-being.

  1. Get Adequate Rest: Truck drivers should get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night and take regular breaks while on the road. Follow the workplace procedure and protocols as outlined.
  2. Eat Healthy Meals: Eating healthy meals with energy-boosting nutrients maintains energy levels.
  3. Exercise: Light physical activity helps truck drivers get their blood flowing and stay alert. Simple activities like stretching or taking a short walk make a big difference in how awake and energised they feel.
  4. Follow the Fatigue Management Rules and Regulations: They uphold scheduling, rostering, workplace conditions, health and well-being, and training and education. Take the necessary fatigue management training and standards.

Fatigue is a huge problem for every driver on the road, but it is especially troublesome for the motor carrier industry.

Importance of Fatigue Management Training and Standards

Fatigue management is a critical part of any organisation’s safety regulations, as it affects the well-being of employees and the quality of their work. Investing in fatigue management training and standards ensures workers know how long they can work without losing concentration, which can lead to errors and accidents. Fatigue management training and standards protect truck drivers and the public. Without proper training, drivers may be more susceptible to falling victim to the dangerous effects of fatigue.

Companies should ensure their drivers receive proper education and information on fatigue management. They should provide comprehensive training before a driver hits the road. They should revise how rest/sleep works and how driving long distances affects mental clarity and performance.

Companies should also regularly assess driving schedules and discuss at all levels to identify potential safety issues. Companies can better support their drivers’ safety by staying up-to-date with the regulations of driving hours and rest periods. An effective fatigue management plan should also include establishing specific regulations, such as the maximum hours allowed per shift and days off for recovery.

Key Takeaways

Truck drivers must have proper fatigue management strategies to ensure safe and efficient freight transport. Truckers should plan and create a schedule that includes regular rest stops to remain alert while driving. They should also avoid using medication or substances that could impair their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Additionally, having a proper diet and staying hydrated helps truckers stay alert while on the road.

Australia Wide Haulage is committed to ensuring their freight transport is safe and efficient, and our team members are well-trained in fatigue management. Contact us if you’re looking for a reliable and efficient hauling service with proper practices in place, or if you’d like to know more about fatigue management.