By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles
More than 400 delegates attended the 2019 edition of the Van Excellence Operational Briefings, which took place this spring in Derby, Edinburgh and London. As van driving is such a physically and mentally demanding role, drivers need the right diet, rest, support, and mindset to match. Here are some top insights and tips we picked up from two of our speakers at the event.
Marcus de Guingand, Managing Director of the Third Pillar of Health, explained how tiredness impairs driving performance, by reducing reaction time, alertness and concentration. Ultimately, driving tired increases the chance of a collision, yet is a common problem, as the figures he shared illustrate:
Fatigue accounts for approximately 20 per cent of accidents on UK roads and 30 per cent of fatal accidents
Sleep deprivation affects the flow of blood to three areas of the brain which play a crucial role in decision making, attention span and the speed at which we adopt new information
At any one time, 20 per cent of people in developed countries are suffering sleep problems
Despite the connection between fatigue and vehicle collisions, too many drivers are taking risks: 40 per cent of car, van and lorry drivers said they have carried on driving when too tired and 10 per cent of people who own a vehicle for work admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the past 12 months.
De Guingand recommends workplaces enforce a strict no tolerance rule to driving while drowsy, and foster a culture where drivers feel it is acceptable to take rest when required.
DIET AND HYDRATION
A recent survey by Mercedes-Benz Vans UK found that 70 per cent of van drivers say work pressures severely restrict their ability to keep hydrated and stick to a healthy diet. This was the focus of the session by Susan Burry, a nutritionist at the British Dietetics Association, who explained why dehydration and poor nutrition can negatively impact driver performance. She also offered simple and practical advice to boost health and wellbeing, for example, swapping fizzy drinks for water and preparing lunch in advance so is it less tempting to grab something unhealthy on the go.