Combating Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving is a major safety risk for heavy vehicles. It can be a warning sign an individual is fatigued. This puts all road users in danger. In most countries, including Australia it is against the law to drive fatigued. In this article we’ll explore drowsiness, a key indicator of fatigue and how drivers and fleet managers can reduce the risk it poses. 

Fatigue – Causes and Signs:

Before diving into drowsiness, it’s worth clarifying fatigue and the signs. You might assume this is a little basic but fatigue is still one of biggest contributors to truck crashes in Australia. Fatigue is a state of physical and/or mental exhaustion. In the context of a driving environment, this has an adverse effect on a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. Common causes of fatigue include lack of sleep and physical exertion. Illnesses and conditions as well as medication can all lead to fatigue. 

Some common signs of fatigue include:

  • – Drowsiness 
  • – Excessive yawning
  • – Reduced coordination and reflexes 
  • – Headaches and dizziness
  • – Blurred or impaired vision

Why is drowsiness such a concern for driving? 

For heavy vehicle drivers, any slight loss in concentration on the road can result in devastating incidents. From a financial perspective, consistent damage to assets can impact the bottom line in the short term with repairs and loss of cargo but in the long term too with increased insurance premiums. However, the consequences on a business goes far beyond the driver and truck. In Australia, as part of Heavy Vehicle National Law, all parties involved in heavy vehicles – from the drivers and supervisors to fleet managers and executives can be held accountable for any incident. This is known as the Chain of Responsibility (CoR). Recent rulings have not only seen action taken against drivers but entire fleets. 

How to mitigate drowsy driving:

Now that we’ve covered definitions and the impact, let’s dive into key actions fleets can take to reduce instances of drowsy driving. 

Drivers adhering to work hours and breaks:

This one is very straightforward. Following local regulations on the legal working hours can reduce the likelihood drowsiness or other signs of fatigue occur. Truck fleets usually cover long distances so utilising rest stops and taking proper breaks can also help. 

As we discussed above, everyone is accountable for safety on the road. For that reason businesses should also…

Create and maintain a solid safety management system (SMS):

This is a formalised, systematic plan to identify hazards that could impact the health and safety of drivers and other road users. Risk also needs to be monitored and clear paths of action documented in case of incidents. An SMS really should become part of everyday operations so the entire chain in a business is aware of their roles and responsibilities. 

Implementing an effective SMS can lead to a…

Culture of Safety:

All members of an organisation need to buy in for this to happen. Developing a culture a safety takes time as we are often changing ingrained behaviours. Thorough training and ongoing educational road safety initiatives can change this change. This not only reinforces policies set out in a SMS but encourages drivers to be more aware of signs that put them at risk when on the job. 

Well implemented policies and education is a solid way to create long term behaviour change. However, as recent road tolls have shown, incidents still occur from drowsy driving. Adopting technology that watches for signs of drowsiness and proactively alerts drivers can significantly reduce road incidents. 

An example of this technology is…

AI Powered Driver Monitoring Systems: 

Driver monitoring systems (DMS) such as Cipia FS10 Plus harness computer vision to combat drowsy driving. The advanced artificial intelligence has been refined to be incredibly accurate at detecting any sign of fatigue in a driver. Once a detection is made, the device will trigger  a real time audio, visual LED and vibration alert to warn the driver. The technology has been specifically designed for fleets which allows safety managers to configure thresholds, tailoring to their requirements. This further reduces the chance of a false alert being activated.

Drowsy driving poses a significant risk to heavy vehicle safety, endangering all road users. Understanding the causes and signs of fatigue is essential, along with adhering to work hour regulations and implementing robust safety management systems. Additionally, the adoption of AI-powered driver monitoring systems, like Cipia FS10 Plus, offers proactive alerts to mitigate the dangers of drowsiness on the road.