South Africa has the world’s tenth-largest road network, and the country’s our country’s average truck driver routinely move massive amounts of cargo over long distances. How can they accomplish this while managing fatigue and maintaining total concentration on the road? How do logistics and transportation companies ensure that their drivers can deliver freight safely and on time?
This article discusses the challenge of truck driver fatigue and offers five tips for decreasing this road risk and increasing driver safety.
Understanding truck driver fatigue
Last year, the country recorded a 142% spike in road crashes with multiple fatalities by the middle of December, with light delivery vehicles and trucks contributing the most to these accidents. One of the biggest threats to driver safety and a significant cause of accidents is fatigue.
Fatigued drivers and drivers who are distracted can cause devastating crashes that result in tragic injuries or disabilities and loss of lives. Some of the main factors contributing to truck driver fatigue include:
- Working overtime and pushing an overwhelming amount of hours
- Spending too long on the road with too few rest periods between shifts
- Having limited sleeping accommodations in the vehicle
- Being dispatched with irregular driving schedules and sleep patterns
Each of these factors leads to a high prevalence of drowsy driving, which can impair a driver’s ability to stay awake and make them less able to concentrate, respond quickly and accurately, keep the correct lane position, or react to hazards in the road.
Fuel costs have also steadily risen, leading carriers to limit the size of their fleets and resulting in drivers having to work longer hours or deliver loads late at night and early in the morning to make up for losses.
These risk factors increase truck drivers’ exhaustion and, without proper rest, may compromise their reactions and ability to control the vehicle. Ultimately, all these factors can lead to increased accidents involving large commercial vehicles.
Five tips for reducing truck driver fatigue
As discussed above, there are multiple challenges that truck drivers face on the road, and it is vital to understand the various risk factors involved in truck driver fatigue. The next step is for organisations to take a fatigue management approach where managers and drivers collaborate to implement, monitor and improve safety policies.
When reviewing truck driver fatigue holistically, we have found five tips for reducing truck driver fatigue. Let us discuss them below.
1. Follow the regulations
Regulation with regards to the driving hours of truck drivers is covered not by the Rules of the Road but by the Collective Bargaining Council. The basics of the Agreement with the Collective Bargaining Council outline the overall limitation on hours of work.
An employee may not be required to work more than 90 hours in a single workweek, including regular hours, overtime and hours worked on Sundays or public holidays. This is based on standard working hours and the overall limitation of working hours, not distances travelled.
Despite this specification, distances between load and offload destinations, as well as “office hours” at these locations significantly impact the amount of time truck drivers must spend on the road. Where there is no formal legislation, it is essential for organisations in the trucking industry to self-regulate to keep driver fatigue down and ensure staff safety.
This means that fleet managers must monitor each contract and driver’s hours and working conditions daily to maintain safe driving parameters in line with specific work requirements.
2. Train drivers to manage fatigue
Having well-trained drivers who are qualified and experienced enough to handle challenging hours and working requirements is very important for trucking companies. These drivers should also receive adequate training on safety policies to reduce risks such as driver fatigue and increase driver safety.
An essential training requirement is for truck drivers to be aware when fatigue is setting in. Signs of driver fatigue include:
- Blurry or unclear vision
- Making an increasing amount of mistakes
- Excessive nodding or dropping the head
- Having itchy eyes and struggling to keep them open
- Experiencing changes in mood
- Decreased alertness and ability to concentrate
Although it is critical for truck drivers to catch the signs of fatigue early and have clear safety protocols for what to do in these situations, training should focus on prevention first. Drivers should be skilled at maintaining their delivery schedules to ensure safe and timely deliveries of goods.
Truck driver training should also emphasise rest and sleep schedules, providing practical information about trip planning, including rest at key points and recommendations for what rest areas offer the best opportunities for sleeping and getting refreshed.
3. Run risk assessments for drivers and trips
Every trip a truck driver undertakes will have various risks and specifications that drivers, fleet managers and other stakeholders must navigate for success. Fleet managers must run rigorous risk assessments for each trip, focusing on the following:
- Trip to driver assignment
- Vehicle maintenance
- Road regulations and potential incidents
- Stop planning for cargo pickup, drop-off, fuel and rest
- Hours of service regulations, highway safety initiatives and load securement
Having a clear view of these factors before dispatching drivers will give fleet managers and drivers a better opportunity to manage other risks, such as fatigue. Drivers will experience less pressure on the road knowing their managers have mitigated critical risks, allowing them to focus on their safety and delivering cargo successfully.
4. Set up a driver monitoring system
According to insights from Arrive Alive, no highly successful and equally cost-effective technology system has been implemented or used in the South African market. Companies looking for technology to assist with driver fatigue can explore systems that provide real-time tracking and analytics data from trucks to monitor and report on truck driver hours.
Fleet managers can use these reports to determine how many hours a driver has driven, how many stops and hours of rest they have taken, and whether or not a driver is tired.
Trucking companies should also establish control rooms where fleet managers and operators can monitor drivers on the road. This will allow drivers who call in when tried to receive accurate advice on the nearest stop and how to best manage their situation.
5. Prioritise truck driver wellness
Wellness is “a balance between the individual’s physical, mental and emotional needs.” Truck driver wellness is a core factor in driver safety that companies may overlook in such a competitive and cost-intensive industry.
Trucking companies should prioritise truck driver wellness to prevent fatigue and long-term health issues that may decrease a driver’s ability to work safely. Companies can incorporate optional health tests before major deliveries or annual medicals to ensure that drivers stay healthy for their daily business operations.
Offering workshops or programs centred around wellness concepts such as nutrition, mental health, stress management and sleep is encouraged. Companies that invest in truck driver wellness can secure the health of their most skilled, permanent workers while gaining an edge over the competition by operating with a healthier and more motivated team.
Leverage drivers for hire
It may be quite challenging for smaller to medium companies to run an entire trucking operation in-house while maintaining high safety levels. Business owners and fleet managers must navigate complex regulations, develop clear policies and procedures, adhere to strict training protocols, ensure efficient operations flow throughout the supply chain, and manage and motivate an entire in-house team or contractor pool of drivers.
If this becomes an overwhelming task, many businesses outsource the management of a portion or all of their fleet to experienced driving specialists who provide drivers for hire. A reputable outsourcing agency will offer a range of skilled, qualified and vetted drivers for a company’s needs, along with training and onboarding programs together with various risk mitigation features.
Larger enterprises may also find that outsourcing drivers are a cost-effective method of maintaining operations while increasing time to focus on core competencies and product lines. They know that getting there safely and on time is only half the battle when running a bigger fleet. Securing a reliable supply of drivers for hire that can be dispatched on demand is an unmatched competitive advantage.
Secure quality drivers
Although multiple factors contribute to driver safety and managing fatigue, employing quality drivers is critical to a company’s operations. For drivers to be more than just a commodity, employers must ensure that drivers are adequately screened, certified and trained to perform their duties effectively while also maintaining safety protocols.
By partnering with Measured Ability (MASA), trucking companies can better ensure operational safety and boost their bottom line with the most qualified drivers for hire in South Africa. We provide strict driver testing programs to maintain our high standards and ensure that our drivers comply with the latest industry regulations and best practices.
MASA’s expert team is always available to clients, focusing on risk mitigation and managing a seamless experience with our drivers for hire. Visit our website to learn more about our services and contact us for a personalised assessment of your staffing needs.