Comment: Driver Fatigue

In a past life I was involved with a company using truck for limited distance haulage. This was a 24 hour operation and fatigue was an issue. We found not only were drivers at risk but we noticed the incidence of equipment damage increased during the low awareness times. We were privileged to have information sessions presented by noteworthy leaders in research on the subject of Fatigue. One clear point that was made was the use of power naps. The advice given was to have a power nap of 20 minutes, no longer for a maximum return. We implemented this across the business and noticed an improvement in productivity and a reduction in damage. On the other side they advise that over 30 minutes resulted in a deeper sleep zone being reached and this resulted in an increase in drowsiness.
I have tried this power nap method when I was travelling 9 hours after a full day at work. ( Related to matters of the heart) I found it very affective and am sure it saved my life many a times when on the road during the night.
Thanks for your article, good to look after each other.
Hugh Dorey

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Reply By: Neil & Pauline - Thursday, Apr 03, 2014 at 20:13

Thursday, Apr 03, 2014 at 20:13
All through my working life I have used the, now known as, power nap. Seeding time I would budget on getting 15 hours on the tractor each day for 6 weeks to get programme completed. I found 5 to 10 minutes every 2 to 3 hours kept me functioning in straight lines and missing trees and rocks. Still employ this now by having power nap during the day. No more 15 hours driving runs for me any more, more like 3 hours.

With nothing to do and all day to do it life is a bit simpler.

Neil
AnswerID: 529783

Reply By: Echucan Bob - Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 08:17

Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 08:17
Hugh,

thanks for bringing up the subject.

I reckon falling asleep is a far bigger factor in the road toll than we presently credit it for. (The other under-estimated factor is deliberate crashing for the purpose of suicide.) I say this from my experience working in a rural emergency department, my personal experience as a driver, and listening to what the ambos and cops tell me about what they see at the roadside.

When I started seriously touring over twenty years ago, I was capable of driving for over 24 hours straight without experiencing signs or symptoms of fatigue. We all know what they are: changes in visual concentration, vision "flicking", repeated wandering off the preferred line, visual hallucinations (seeing roos or logs on the road that don't exist), actually falling asleep momentarily, drifting onto the wrong side of the road or onto the shoulder. Drifting into the oncoming traffic or the woodwork may not always be remembered!

Over the last few years I've been doing a lot of "non-leisure" highway driving, often after a ten hour working day. There have been many times where I have struggled with fatigue within an hour or two of my destination. I've tried caffeine, listening to interesting podcasts, blasting cold air on my face, stopping to stretch the legs. The thing that works best for me is pulling over for a kip.

The problem with fatigue management, is that we are often reluctant to admit we are tired (driving 2,500 km straight is a badge of honour!), we are keen to get home rather than pull over somewhere in the bush, or we may be under some sort of commercial pressure.

I often wonder when the sign says that police are targeting fatigue what they actually look for - people slumped over the wheel? Managing fatigue is a personal responsibility, and the first step is specific information rather than vague platitudes. Unfortunately, road safety messages are often treated cynically, because people are rightly cynical about some government measures in this regard (eg the simplistic 'speed kills' message as the rationale for revenue raising).

So I welcome your raising of the subject.

Bob
AnswerID: 529803

Follow Up By: Member - Hugh D (WA) - Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 12:30

Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 12:30
Bob,

Just a shame more of our Revenue Earner dollars are not spent on driver education. All good to put a few signs around, ( we are so sign blind these days due to heaps of the things) but go and talk to drivers and company managers to assist with fatigue management does not appear on the agenda.
Hugh Dorey

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Reply By: pop2jocem - Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 10:34

Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 10:34
Keep in mind that this little "incident" occurred about 40 or so years ago, long before truckies were required to have breaks after a certain length of driving time, log books had to kept and inspected and GPS units could tell a story of actual distances, speed and locations.
A company that I worked for were the local dealers for a well known brand of diesel engine. Boats, generators, trucks, etc. One of our customers operated a heavy recovery unit, you know, those oversize tow trucks that drag broken down semi trailers back to workshops. This day the owner driver was sitting in the lunch room having a bite with us and told of a job he was sent out on.
Apparently the truck he was to tow was located say 200 k's away. On the way there he came across a semi parked on the road in the LH lane. His first thought was that someone had no idea how to estimate distances, because he had only travelled about 100 k's. Anyway he pulled up behind it, put all the flashing lights on and went to have a word with the driver.
He walked up to the drivers door and said something along the lines of "G'day mate, got a problem?" To which the driver, sitting in his seat with a rather far away look on his face replied in words to the effect that there was no problem, he was just waiting for the train to cross the highway.
Only odd thing was that there wasn't a railway line within 100 kl of where they were parked yet this guy was so out of it he was convinced there was a train crossing the road in front of him. Took the recovery guy some time and a fair bit of talking to convince this other driver that there was no train and that he should pull his truck over to the side and have a nice long nap. It sounded like the pills were no longer having the desired effect or he had just plain over dosed.
Scary to think what could have happened if the phantom train hadn't caused him to pull up.

Cheers
Pop
AnswerID: 529819

Follow Up By: ian.g - Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 16:45

Friday, Apr 04, 2014 at 16:45
I came across a long distance driver once that had got out of his truck to have a pee, couldn't find his truck again and was convinced someone had stolen it, truck and trailer were about 50 meters away from where he was standing, with the motor still running and all lights on, very scary when you think these blokes are sharing the road with you.
Regards
Ian
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Reply By: The Bantam - Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 at 10:26

Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 at 10:26
The thing with these power naps, is the time period varies from person to person.

It realy helps to know how your own sleep cycle works.
There are various periods where sleeping and waking are most effective, and others that are a real problem. Those periods vary thruout the sleep cycle.

That ideal short nap time can be as short as 10 minutes for some and others longer that the oft recommended 30 miniutes

The important thing is you should not fall properly to sleep.

Once fallen properly to sleep to get any benifit you need to stay asleap for a full sleep cycle period which for most is around 90 minutes...but that varies too.

If you are very tired......yeh ...um.....if you fall properly to sleep....you may have difficulty getting back to an alert state.

One thing I have learned, is the importance of what you eat and when.
eating large amounts of anything, at any time or excessive carbohydrates ( that includes sugary drinks) and fats is not at all helpfull.

Eating small amounts and mostly protien every 2 hours, I have found best.
Eggs, chicken legs, tinned fish work well for me.....That optimum balace of protien carbs and fats also varies from person to person.

The caffene and sugar drinks may spark you up in the short term, but there is a definite tendancy for a significant drop on alertness some time later.

cheers
AnswerID: 529863

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