Drowsy driving is possibly a bigger threat to the safety of your fleet and other road users than you might think. Data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that drowsy driving causes 100,000 crashes every year, injuring more than 40,000 and killing over 1,500. And, because it can’t always be determined with certainty that driver fatigue has caused the crash, the actual numbers may be a lot higher.

A crash represents a significant cost to your fleet and your business, especially where injury or death are involved:

  • Worker compensation
  • Lawsuit legal costs and payouts
  • Time off work
  • Lowered worker morale
  • Insurance excesses
  • Unwanted negative publicity for your brand
  • Increased insurance premiums

So how can you make sure that none of your drivers becomes another ‘drowsy driving’ statistic?

Protecting yourself and others from fatigued driving

Obviously, preventing the accident in the first place would be ideal. But the pressure of running a competitive business is pushing many drivers to work dangerously long hours. Shift workers are at even greater risk because, on average, they only get about five hours sleep, well short of the recommended eight.

And while many drivers know they need more sleep, when there is pressure to get work done, sleep is often the first thing that is sacrificed. Artificial stimulants such as caffeine pills, coffee or even stretching are used as methods to sidestep the body’s need for sleep. Unfortunately these measures have limited value and can, in some cases, give drivers an unrealistic sense of just how dangerously tired they are.

Combating fatigued driving is a team effort, and managers, drivers and their families need to do their part to contribute to a safe driving environment.

How can fleet managers help their drivers?

As an employer, fleet managers have a responsibility to create a safe working environment for their drivers. At the same it’s actually in their best interests to do so because it means lower costs and less downtime. So what can fleet managers do to minimize the risk of drowsy driving?

  • Improve awareness — The first step is about creating a work environment where all staff are familiar with the dangers of driving tired, and provide some practical tips on what they can do about it. The NHTSA provides a lot of resources for employers including posters and training sessions that can be run in-house to improve awareness of the problem.
  • Be reasonable — What sort of environment have you created in the workplace? Are you reasonable in what you expect of drivers? In a down economy where jobs are scarce, drivers can be particularly sensitive to the urgings of their managers to complete journeys in record times or ignore legal HOS requirements, making them more likely to become victims of drowsy driving.
  • Accurately record HOS — Recording DOT HOS in a paper logbook is a system that is commonly used, but sometimes the logbook only tells part of the story, and it is open to misreporting. An electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) is far more effective and efficient at recording driving hours, and is less likely to be tampered with and far better at reporting to DOT and fleet management. EOBRs (or ELDs as they are now known) are set to be compulsory for all CMVs by October 2017 (learn more).
  • Monitor safe driving — Driving hours will only tell part of the story. If they start driving tired, then it doesn’t matter if they’ve only driven a few hours — they are a danger to themselves and other drivers, and far more likely to cause a costly accident. Using a comprehensive fleet management system such as Telogis Fleet™ you can set up alerts for, and monitor, unsafe driving such as speeding, swerving or hard braking, all telltale signs of delayed-reaction driving.

By taking appropriate measures to minimize or eliminate tired driving in your fleet, you can make sure that you’re not contributing to the expense, the injuries and the deaths that result from ‘drowsy driving’.