How much sleep did you get last night? Was it enough? With a demanding work schedule and busy family life, many of us are not getting adequate rest. It’s not healthy and if you’re driving a van, it’s also extremely dangerous.
It’s estimated around a fifth of all road accidents are sleep-related and of those incidents, 40 per cent involve commercial vehicles.
With longer nights at this time of year, all drivers should be aware that driving in the dark and in poor weather conditions is tiring and they may need to take more and longer breaks.
The FTA Van Excellence code highlights the importance of implementing and maintaining proper driver hours and safety records for vehicles and fleets of all sizes. It’s vital that operators monitor every driver’s fitness to drive, log their working hours and keep a record of all accidents and incidents, however minor.
If a driver develops any form of medical condition which seriously affects their sleeping patterns, such as sleep apnoea or cataplexy then they must inform the DVLA. If they don’t, they risk a fine of up to a thousand pounds and if involved in an accident, a criminal prosecution.
Although the hours of staff driving commercial vehicles carrying under 3.5 tonnes aren’t regulated, the legislation that governs drivers of larger vehicles can provide useful guidance about what’s safe and what isn’t. The requirements for HGV drivers working in Great Britain can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/drivers-hours/gb-domestic-rules.
The absence of a formal legal framework doesn’t absolve drivers or operators of taking driver rest seriously. If a driver is prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving, being tired or falling asleep can be considered an aggravating factor which may increase the seriousness of an offence and the potential penalty.
The government has produced some useful guidelines on fatigue for all drivers, as part of its THINK! Campaign. They’re worth sharing with all staff, even those who drive infrequently:
- Plan your journey to include a 15-minute break every two hours.
- Don't start a long trip if you're already tired.
- Remember the risks if you have to get up unusually early to start a long drive.
- Try to avoid long trips between midnight and 6am when you're likely to feel sleepy anyway.
- If you start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop - not the hard shoulder of a motorway. Drink two cups of coffee or a high-caffeine drink and have a rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.
Getting good quality sleep is also important to ensure drivers are not tired during the day. It’s wise to limit caffeine intake in the hours before bedtime; make sure the bedroom is properly ventilated and go to bed earlier before an early start. Using devices such as tablets and mobile phones before sleeping can disrupt deep sleep, again preventing drivers from resting properly.
The FTA’s ? Van Excellence scheme supports operators of fleets from a single vehicle, right up to some of the biggest UK transport firms. Accreditation offers a framework which gives drivers and operators peace of mind, knowing that they’re following best practice in all areas, including health and safety as well as the regulations governing drivers’ hours.
If you think your fleet would benefit from joining the scheme you can find out more on the FTA Van Excellence website.