Fatigue Program Moves Forward

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. –Provincial investigators in Quebec and Alberta, Transport Canada and agencies in the US recently completed a long-term pilot project on fatigue management.

The next step for the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP) Steering Committee is to find a consultant to boil down some 1,000 pages of research into a FMP, which may be Web-based. It may be ready within a year for use by trucking companies of any size in North America and their drivers.

“The idea is that with management support, drivers will be able to receive online training on fatigue management,” says Paul Gobeil, specialist in safety with the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ).

“During the pilot test, we had an agreement with some private clinics for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of drivers suffering from sleep apnea. Once the FMP is in place, SAAQ plans to have people go out into the trucking industry to diagnose and treat sleep apnea and other sleeping problems.”

SAAQ, which is responsible for many trucking industry information and enforcement issues, has tapped into this research to prepare a 29-page summary document called Driver Fatigue (the French version is called Fatigue au Volant).

With it, any fleet should be able to reduce their exposure to the risk of fatigue-related accidents.

The guide starts with some statistics; ie. fatigue is cited in 31% of all accidents involving heavy vehicles. Professional drivers appear to be well aware of the problem, yet this knowledge appears to translate poorly into preventative action: 21% of drivers acknowledge at least one fatigue-related incident, such as drowsiness or drifting into other lanes. A fifth of drivers who had accidents thought that fatigue was the cause.

The document discusses known causes, aggravating factors and the effects of fatigue on driving performance. It also introduces readers to concepts that they may not be aware of, like circadian low points. These are the periods every 24 hours (early afternoon and between roughly 2 a. m. and 7 a. m.) when we are most likely to be drowsy, and most at risk for an accident.

Readers will learn about warning signs of fatigue, such as frequent yawning, frequent lane changes, not checking mirrors or not remembering having driven the last few kilometres. Short-term fixes include stopping for a 20-30 minute nap or exercise. Suggestions for preventing fatigue include getting seven to eight good hours of sleep, not driving through heavy traffic during the circadian low points and turning down the dashboard lights at night to prevent visual fatigue.

Shippers and fleet managers must do their parts too, such as giving drivers a decent place to relax while waiting for loads, providing training and comfortable vehicles, and scheduling enough rest time into drivers’ routes.

An accident risk management checklist ferrets out weak links in the chain of responsibility. There are many factors outside drivers’ control, but within the control of others, that can be adjusted to reduce the risk of fatigue; ie. carriers that schedule trips or otherwise force drivers to run around such that they cannot get seven to eight hours of sleep every 24 hours are asking for trouble.

There is a detailed section on determining whether a carrier is setting its drivers up for a small, medium or high risk of an accident. Another section introduces short-, medium-and long-term strategies for reducing the likelihood of fatigue-related accidents.

This appears to be an excellent document with lots of real meat and no baloney. English and French versions can be downloaded as PDFs from www.saaq.gouv.qc.caby clicking Vehicles lourds in the left-hand column if you are reading the Web site in French, or Heavy vehicles for English readers. They are in the PDF documents section.

(Note:The English PDF requires a more up-to-date Adobe Reader to open than the French file. Download version 9 from the Adobe Web site -it takes only a couple of minutes).

Boucherville-based Robert Transport installed dash-mounted equipment last year that is supposed to detect driver fatigue, but the company declined to show it to Truck News, citing problems with it. However, a collaborative video by SAAQ and Robert on the risks and management of driver fatigue offers plenty of warning signs of driver fatigue to those with, ah, open eyes. It is viewable at www.fatigueimpairment.ca.This Web site has quite a few resources on driver fatigue, and on just how quickly a trip can end up in the trees if drivers do not heed the warning signs.

In the video, a discussion between a tired driver and his more wakeful self takes place during a road trip. It is almost funny, but so familiar, just how hard it is for the wakeful self in the passenger’s seat to convince his macho man driver self that he is tired.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.