Driver Fatigue Guide (Spanish) 
Poster: Driver Safety and Fatigue
Poster: Driver Safety and Fatigue (Spanish)

Whether you are behind the wheel, fueling, loading, unloading, or just climbing in or out of your vehicle, fatigue can affect the ability to safely perform any of these tasks. A split-second mental lapse can cause an accident which can injure or even kill you. Numerous studies have been done over the years to measure the effects of fatigue on safety and productivity. One of the most recent studies, conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was aimed at unlocking the secrets of fatigue so that the hours-of-service regulations could be adjusted. While the new studies, research, and technology have brought new ways of identifying and dealing with fatigue, there is no way to absolutely eliminate it. The best way to handle fatigue is by understanding the warning signs and knowing your own limitations.

Know Your Biological Clock
To be a safe driver you need to be aware of your biological clock and what your body is telling you. When are you most alert? When are you most likely to be drowsy? For many people, it's the time shortly after lunch (2 to 5 p.m.) and the time shortly before sunrise (2 to 6 a.m.).

Get to know what times of day you are drowsier and/or less focused. Try to schedule a break or nap during these times. Understand how meals can affect your biological clock. For example, heavier or high-calorie meals will trigger drowsiness in most people as their body fires up for digestion. Eat smaller meals instead. Drink plenty of fluids but limit the intake of coffee or caffeinated beverages. While it is often thought that caffeine will counteract fatigue, the effect is short-lived and the returning effects can be even more severe.

Know the Warning Signs

  • Do you have trouble focusing your eyes or mind on the task at hand?
  • Does it seem to take extra effort or concentration to keep your head up, shift gears, change the radio station, or get in or out of your truck?
  • Do you have trouble remembering the last few miles, a conversation you had a few minutes ago, or where you are in a load count?
  • Have you missed your exit or are having trouble maintaining a steady speed?
  • Are you having trouble standing or sitting still?

Know How to Minimize the Effects of Fatigue

  • Get plenty of sleep before you start a trip. This is easier said than done. Try to plan your trips to allow yourself time to get sleep. Days off at home can be even harder so you may need to prioritize.
  • Get several good nights of sleep before you head back out on the road. There is no substitute for sleep. Be alert to the warning signs of fatigue and drowsiness, especially between 2 and 6 a.m. If you feel drowsy, pull over and take a nap.
  • Schedule a break at least every two hours or 120 miles, but stop sooner, if needed.
  • Take a nap when you need to, but plan ahead. Napping alongside the road can be dangerous and is prohibited on interstate highways and many state routes as well. Find a safe place to stop such as a truck stop, rest area, intersecting highway, or designated pull off.
  • Get fresh air. Keep a window opened slightly. During a break, take a walk, do a safety check or get some form of exercise before getting behind the wheel again.
  • If you start to feel drowsy, but have not yet made it to a safe parking area, talk to other drivers on the CB radio. Roll down your window. Find some music you can sing along with.
  • Stop at the next safe parking place and take a nap. If you are part of a team operation, pull over and notify your co-driver. Remember that your co-driver needs their rest as well. Be considerate. Avoid hard braking, sudden lane changes, excessive volume from the stereo or CB, and other activities that could interrupt your co-driver’s sleep. Drive like you have your family with you. If you are both too tired to proceed, park the truck and get some rest.

Know When to Get Help
In recent years, it has been discovered that a surprising number of people have a physical or medical condition that affects their ability to get adequate sleep. If you have any of the following symptoms, you may need to consult your physician for further testing:

  • Do you get eight hours of sleep or more nightly, but wake up feeling tired?
  • Do you have trouble getting to sleep or wake up frequently while sleeping?
  • Do you wake up choking or gasping for breath?
  • Do you nap often or nap at inappropriate times (movies, concerts, meetings)?

The best defense against the effects of fatigue is you. Plan rest and down time into your trips. Heed the warning signs your body is giving you.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.