Let’s face it: No matter how professional or highly-skilled your truck drivers are, they will never be able to overcome their natural need for sleep.
No one can.
Considering how driver fatigue can lead to tragic losses for truck drivers as well as trucking companies, fleet managers and owners ought to make sure that their drivers are adequately rested.
More than just the obvious impact that driver fatigue can cause to driver’s health and the company’s overall output, let’s dig deeper and uncover its impact on driver retention and their careers.
Before we dive deep down that rabbit hole, however, let’s talk about some of the work conditions that contribute to driver fatigue and some of its symptoms. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what to look out for when trying to address the problem.
5 Common Contributors of Driver Fatigue
- Extended graveyard shift
- Working unreasonably long hours
- Lack of quality sleep
- Very early start times
- Working irregular hours
While several factors can cause driver fatigue, these are some of the most common reasons that contribute to it. If you find that your drivers are exposed to any of the points above, it would be prudent for you to adjust the way you handle your drivers to keep them from experiencing driver fatigue.
Another route fleet managers can take to figure out what’s causing their drivers high levels of fatigue is to run surveys.
With the use of ELDs, fleet managers can send messages to their drivers directly to ask them what they feel is causing them too much fatigue. Once a fleet manager has collected enough data from drivers, the trucking company can now make changes on how they run their business operations.
Symptoms of Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue is so insidious because it often comes unannounced and undetected. Drivers can be mentally fatigued without feeling fatigued at all. Some studies even reveal how drivers are often unable to assess their own levels of fatigue accurately. They are just shocked at how their bodies are at their limits which, at that point, is often too late.
To give your drivers a fair warning about driver fatigue, you can share these symptoms with them.
- Missing your exit
- Wandering thoughts
- Daydreaming while you’re driving
- Cramps and stiffness
- Deviating from your lane
- Zoning out
- Heavy or sore eyes
The Impact of Fatigue on Drivers & Their Careers
1. High Turnover Rate for Drivers
It goes without saying that if your drivers feel they’re overworked to death, they are bound to look for other trucking companies who will treat them better.
This conundrum is quite tricky to handle. While you need to make sure that your drivers have enough time off of their work, drivers also do not appreciate not having enough miles. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to look for other companies to work with if they feel they aren’t utilized enough by their current trucking company.
Solution: Fleet managers and trucking company owners need to make sure their drivers have enough miles in their workload. They can easily track their drivers’ miles or their number of driving hours by using their ELD’s logbook app.
Fleet managers can also review drivers’ behaviors or driving patterns for signs of fatigue. Seeing an unusually high number of sudden breaks and turns can be an indication that the driver had a slow reaction time. Slow reaction time is often an indication of fatigue.
2. Lack of Motivation
When your drivers are fatigued and exhausted, their focus is on coping with their existing workload. They won’t have enough energy to pursue career growth.
Solution: Be sure to give your drivers adequate time to rest so they can think about advancing their careers instead of simply “getting by” with their daily routine.
When you’ve reached the point where you know that your drivers are well rested, you can then implement incentive programs or bonuses to keep them pumped.
3. Your Drivers Will Continually Seek Greener Pastures
Because your drivers hate working with you due to them always getting overworked, they will proactively look for other trucking companies that they can work with.
Solution: Show your drivers that you are genuinely concerned about them. In addition to giving them ample amount of time to rest, you can also help them with their nutrition by sharing diet plans, health tips, and free health checkups.
4. Short-Lived Driving Careers
Your drivers won’t last long in your company either because they found another trucking company to work with, or they ended up having an accident (due to their fatigue) that permanently prevents them from driving.
Solution: To keep your drivers safe from accidents and to make their lives better while working in your company, you can install ELDs so you can track their working hours, check their driving habits, send immediate help when they need one through instant-messaging features, or help them comply with their schedules in a much more effective way.
ELDs have several benefits for the trucking companies as well as for CMV drivers. With ELDs installed, drivers will have a better and safer working environment that prolongs their careers.
5. You’ll Have a Hard Time Finding and Recruiting New Drivers
You can bet your horses that your drivers are sharing with their community of drivers how you are treating them — whether you’re treating them the right way or not.
Of course, if you’re overworking them, that’s the same message they’ll share with their community. This can easily lead to other drivers steering clear from your company, even if you’re offering competitive salaries and benefits.
Solution: To prevent your drivers from even spreading bad rep about you in the first place, you need to make sure that you are treating them well especially in the area of giving them their much needed time to rest.
Once your drivers are satisfied with their working experience with you, your company can use referral, recruitment, or signing bonuses to entice other drivers to work with you.
5 Solutions for Preventing Driver Fatigue
1. Use ELDs
ELDs help fleet managers tracking drivers and vehicles in real-time. It can tell them whether drivers were able to take their breaks or if they have been on the road for dangerously long periods of time.
Once fleet managers determine that drivers missed their breaks, they can send drivers direct messages via the ELD logbook app to send them a reminder.
ELDs also help fleet managers monitor the driving habits of their drivers. If those driving habits are bad, you can help drivers rectify the problems. On the other hand, if those driving habits are good, you can appreciate drivers and even give them bonuses.
This allows fleet managers the opportunity to give proper feedback to their drivers, helping them improve their driving skills, which is crucial to them growing their careers.
2. Follow the Hours of Service Rules
Following the hours of service rule will prevent drivers from experiencing dangerous levels of fatigue since it is meant to regulate their number of driving hours.
Due to truck drivers focusing on their work, they sometimes forget to comply with hours-of-service regulations. This is where ELDs can help because ELDs have built-in features that will notify truck drivers if they’re about to approach violations.
3. Avoid Taking Performance-Enhancement Drugs
Sadly, some drivers even take methamphetamine (among other drugs or medications) to keep themselves awake.
These types of drugs can often do more harm than good since users will tend to push their bodies further than their bodies can take. It is because these drugs give them a false sense of energy and strength.
This can lead to drivers experiencing a mental or physical breakdowns, or even a severe “crash” once the drug’s effects fade.
4. Avoid Eating Too Much Before Driving
Eating heavy meals will often give your drivers a spike in blood sugar levels. When their sugar level subsequently drops, so does their energy levels making them sleepy. Instead of devouring heavy meals, they can eat something light instead.
5. Encourage Visits to Doctors
If a driver has sleeping disorders (like sleep apnea) that’s keeping him from getting their much-needed sleep, then you should advise him to visit his physician to get treatment or medical advice.
Good fleet managers and trucking companies not only encourage drivers to visit doctors, but they also step up and make appropriate arrangements. It all translates into a happy working place where people care about each other, and where fleet managers ensure that drivers are performing at their best.
How have you been combating driver fatigue? Let us know.
Also, if you have any questions, feel free to contact our support team.
Furthermore, if you are still considering the implementation of ELDs, request a demo and one of our product specialists will get in touch with you.