Date PostedApril 26, 2013

Uncomfortable Sleep Dangerous for Commercial Drivers

Fatigue can be caused by a number of reasons such as sleep apnoea, medical conditions, insomnia, stress, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and even bad quality sleep as a recent alert by WorkSafe WA has highlighted.

Fatigue came under the spotlight during investigations into a recent workplace incident in the state. The WorkSafe WA Authority has released a safety alert stating that non-conforming sleeper cabs in commercial vehicles can increase the risk of driver fatigue.

Read what the alert on had to say:

Some drivers engage in what is called a two-up driving team, where two drivers alternate turns in driving and resting.However, the risk of driver fatigue is increased if the resting driver undertakes rest in cabins which do not meet the design requirements of Australian Design Rule 42/04.The risk of driver fatigue can increase if the cab is uncomfortable or does not provide adequate space and support for the commercial vehicle driver to obtain quality sleep during periods of non-work time.According to WorkSafe WA, employers must provide a safe working environment for employees.A commercial vehicle that operates north of the 26th Parallel in WA between October 1and March 31should be air conditioned. If used as an alternative for sleeping accommodation, the air conditioning should be able to run continuously while the vehicle is stationary.Source:

WorkSafe goes on to advise people responsible for the workplace, in conjunction with drivers to ensure that their working environment (ie vehicle’s cab) assists in the prevention of driver fatigue as far as practicably possible by ensuring that sleeper cabs meet the requirements of Australian Design Rule 42/04 as a minimum requirement for both two-up and single driver operations.

Common sense dictates that if a person’s sleeping place is uncomfortable it will contribute to restless sleep or a poor quality of sleep which will in turn result in fatigue when they are carrying out their duties.

Operators and drivers need to act immediately to ensure their cab conforms with Australian standards to avoid any further incidents.

According to research done by Flinders University the two main causes of fatigue are lack of quality sleep and driving at times when you would normally be asleep. By not getting enough sleep you will build up a sleep debt. That is why sufficient hours of god quality of sleep are so important, as are the following for truck drivers:

  • before a long trip you should only have a light meal

  • share the driving if you can, with another person

  • make sure you regularly get enough sleep

  • don’t undertake a long trip after a long day at work

  • take a break at least every two hours and walk around

  • be aware that you are at a greater risk of having an accident when driving between 1am-6am and 1pm-5pm as you are out of sync with you biological clock

  • Do NOT drink any alcohol before or during a long trip as it could make you sleepy

  • If you feel tired pull off into a parking bay and sleep. A 10 minute Powernap can significantly lower the risk of a fatigue related crash

  • eat well balanced meals at your normal meal times.

Read more:

Once your vehicle has been brought up to date with size specifications for your cab and your driving roster has been reviewed and takes into consideration reasonable driving hours, look out for the symptoms about which could indicate an even more serious underlying issue, such as a medical condition.

According to research done by Flinders University, these are the common signs of driver fatigue:

  • your head keeps nodding

  • difficulty in keeping your eyes open

  • unable to remember last few kilometres

  • constant yawning

  • drifting in the lane or driving off the road edge

  • delayed reactions

  • loss of concentration / daydreaming

  • fluctuations in driving speed.

Read more:

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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