Drowsy driving is suspected to be a primary cause in more than 20% of road fatalities. Most fatigue-related accidents occur during normal sleeping hours, and the more severe the crash, the more likely it is that the driver or drivers were fatigued. Fatigue is a likely factor in almost one-third of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas. Many people think fatigue is only a problem for long-distance drivers, however, it is just as relevant for short-distance drives. People generally don’t become fatigued from driving. Usually, they are already tired when they get behind the wheel from long hours, shift work, lack of sleep, sleep apnoea or physically demanding roles. Your body can’t fight the need to sleep. Chemicals build up in your brain until they reach a tipping point and you will fall asleep. If you’re in charge of an HGV, that’s pretty bad news.
Enough sleep is critical for avoiding fatigue. If you haven’t got enough sleep at night, then you are always going to feel tired during the day. But not everyone needs the same amount of sleep – even the experts are starting to agree on that. Some people can sleep for just 4 hours and wake up refreshed and raring to go, and some people need 9 to achieve the same feeling. So take some time to find out exactly how much sleep you need to function well, and then make sure you get it every day. Treat it as a part of your workplace safety – ensuring that you are awake and alert enough to operate your HGV safely.
Food, sleep and health are all very closely interlinked. If we don’t eat well, our sleep and our overall health can be affected. So while it might not seem like a direct issue, paying attention to your diet can help reduce overall fatigue. Diets full of sugars and fats will lead to feelings of tiredness and disturbed sleep, while a diet full of fruits, vegetables and high-fibre foods will help regulate your sleep pattern and give you the energy you need to stay awake during the day. It’s also worth avoiding heavy meals during the day, as these will make you feel bloated and tired in the middle of the day.
A common cause of fatigue in professional drivers is driving when they would usually be sleeping. Humans have very deeply ingrained sleeping patterns, and it is difficult to readjust them. If you struggle with night shifts, then it might be best for you to switch to only day driving. Similarly, if you’re used to driving at night and are finding that driving early in the morning or evening is causing you problems, then you may be better off switching to only night driving. The point we’re trying to get to is this – you need to be sure you can stay in a pattern that works for your circadian rhythms so that you can function properly and without tiredness when you drive.
Of course, if you’re taking good care of yourself and you’re still struggling with fatigue, or if you’re suddenly feeling tired when you haven’t changed anything, it might be time to get yourself checked out. There are many underlying medical conditions and disorders that can cause fatigue, constant tiredness or even to make you suddenly fall asleep at any time. Diseases like sleep apnoea and narcolepsy are manageable once they are diagnosed, so it’s important to get yourself checked out if you feel something isn’t right.
At the LGV Training Company, we take driver tiredness very seriously. That’s why our experts don’t just teach aspiring drivers how to drive the vehicles, but how to do so safely. Our instructors cover every aspect of driving HGV’s safely, which includes taking care of themselves as well. For more information, or to book on to your first HGV training course, get in touch with us today.