Focus on Fleet Safety: Asleep at the Wheel

According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of adults reported driving while drowsy, with almost a third reporting that they do so at least once per month. Commercial truck drivers, young people, and shift workers are some of the groups at the highest risk of driving while drowsy. Are your employees among them? And if so, what can you do to ensure that these workers don’t become another statistic?

Are You Getting Sleepy?

The first step to staying safe on the road is to recognize the signs of drowsiness. Drivers that experience these signs should stop and rest to avoid putting themselves and others at risk:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Trouble keeping head up
  • Drifting out of the correct lane or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing eyes

Restoring Alertness

When it comes to preventing behind-the-wheel drowsiness, there’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep. However, if drivers find themselves becoming sleepy on the road, stopping for a short nap may help. For optimal effectiveness, naps shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes; any longer than that can cause grogginess. If stopping to rest isn’t possible, consuming caffeine can temporarily increase alertness.

If you’re an employer whose workers drive on the job, make sure you have a safety policy in place that addresses drowsy driving and train workers in the hazards of behind-the-wheel fatigue. Advise workers to avoid driving while drowsy and to follow the interventions described above, emphasizing that arriving safely is more important than arriving quickly. In addition, make sure employees who drive on the job know to avoid substances that can increase drowsiness, such as alcohol and certain medications.

If your employees are commercial motor carriers, the Department of Transportation has Hours of Service (HOS) rules to ensure that drivers take adequate periods of rest. The specifics of these rules depend on whether the driver is transporting passengers or property, but all commercial motor carriers must break up their periods of driving time with specified minimum amounts of off-duty time and must not exceed total driving-time limits in a 7- or 8-day period.

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