It’s human nature to work yourself into habits. Habits are a part of life and can range from something small like biting your nails to something very serious that impacts those around you. When you break a workplace safety rule, you’ve taken the first step in forming a bad habit—one that’s serious and can lead to an injury.
What’s one bad workplace habit plaguing the transportation and logistics industry? Unfortunately, it’s driving while tired. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving is a cause of at least 100,000 auto crashes each year. Of these crashes, an average of 40,000 people are left hurt and more than 1,500 dead. The NHTSA suggests that the true number is actually a lot higher though, as these statistics only include wrecks that occur during the evening. Additionally, it’s difficult to determine if a driver was truly too tired to drive, thus causing a crash.
Several factors contribute to the risks associated with drowsy driving, and now, with the help of research and technology, transportation companies are better equipped to educate and train drivers on how to combat it. Three proactive steps for minimizing the risk of drowsy driving include:
- Ensure drivers remain alert on the job. Don’t let routine or familiarity lure into carelessness.
- Know the job. If an employee is given a new route or truck, remind them to follow all proper safety procedures outlined in the safety manual and take precautions.
- Hold drivers accountable for a rest log. If a driver becomes drowsy while on the clock, encourage them to pull over and take breaks when safety is in question. Additionally, encourage wellness initiatives among your workforce, such as exercise programs and education on nutrition to help with productivity and alertness.
The best solution to prevent the likelihood of a drowsy driving accident is the most obvious: ensure drivers get at least seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. It’s critical drivers are aware of common warning signs, such as frequent yawning, not recalling the past few miles driven, missing an exit and drifting between lanes. Unfortunately, due to sleep apnea and other health-related factors, some drivers may be unaware of just how impaired their driving is.
Over the years, the federal government has taken steps to limit a commercial driver’s hours of service on the road before resting. One step has been strict enforcement of hours of service regulations. These regulations are supposed to help limit the time a commercial driver can be behind the wheel without mandatory rest. However, the impact has not been directly seen as far as limiting the amount of accidents related to drowsy driving. This is because the current “paper log system” can easily be manipulated by those who are pushing themselves to get from point A to point B.
With the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate looming over the industry, the government is hoping this will change. The new ELD system is designed to make drivers more aware of hours of service limitations, make the regulations easier to comply with and enforce, and ultimately help drive down the rate of drowsy driving related incidents throughout the country.
Employers leading the charge with respect to becoming compliant with ELDs can dramatically minimize the risk of drowsy driving incidents, leading to safer roadways, lower claims and reduced premium. In an industry notoriously opposed to change, only time will tell how effective the new system will be, but the data backs up the evidence that something must be done to curtail drowsy driving.