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Tips for Managing Fatigue

Knowing what causes fatigue allows you to recognize the risk factors that are involved for you as a professional driver. It is highly recommended that you take action before fatigue sets in. This can be done in a number of ways.

Talk to Your Scheduler/Manager about Your Shifts

  • Never agree to a roster where you have to drive longer than legal hours.
  • Make sure your shifts include the allowance for sleep at night.
  • Make sure your trips include plenty of time for breaks and recovery from long stints on the road.
  • Discuss what action you can take if fatigue sets in and you are unlikely to meet your deadline.

 Get Enough Quality Sleep

  • Take an afternoon nap before starting back on a night shift so that you are more refreshed.
  • Ensure you have a good night’s sleep before you start your trip.
  • Take rests early on in the trip, before you start feeling fatigued.

 Plan Your Stops Ahead

  • Plan your trip ahead of time to allow for stops.
  • Make sure your schedule has enough time for at least the legal breaks and more if you need them.
  • Plan your rest stops to happen before you start feeling fatigued.
  • Plan to take your rest breaks when your body clock tells you to sleep (e.g. night/early morning).

 Make the Most of Your Rest Stops

  • When you do stop, get out and stretch your legs, or go for a quick walk.
  • Try to have something to eat and drink on breaks, but avoid high calorie or fatty foods.
  • Take the time to really rest your mind and body from driving.

Set a Regular Sleep and Waking Schedule

  • Try to set a regular pattern of sleeping and waking for every day of the week.
  • If you do shift work, try to make your sleeping and waking patterns as regular as possible. Stick to your pattern so your body can get use to it.
  • After your last night shift, try to sleep for only two to three hours on the first morning and then get a good long sleep that night and the next.

Recognize the Signs of Fatigue

  • Be aware of the causes and effects of fatigue so you can predict when you will become fatigued.
  • Don’t try to push on, especially in those danger times of late night and early morning.
  • Stop and rest as soon as you realize you are becoming fatigued, or before if possible.

 Repay the Sleep Debt

  • Plan for shorter shifts and more breaks toward the end of the week as your sleep debt increases.
  • Try to have at least two nights of good sleep to make up for sleep you may have lost in the past few days.

 Look After Your Health

  • Try to stick to a healthy diet.
  • Try to keep active by exercising regularly.
  • See your doctor if you have any problems that may affect your driving or sleeping.

Avoid Alcohol Before or During Your Trip

  • Alcohol in your system not only slows your reactions, it also increases the onset of fatigue.

 Don’t Believe the Myths

  • A couple of cups of coffee and I’m fine.” Drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks does not stop fatigue. You may feel more awake for a short period, but over time you will be as fatigued, or more so than before.
  • “I just turn on the radio, open the window or talk on the CB.” Distracting yourself from how tired you are will not stop fatigue. These diversions won’t stop you losing concentration or falling asleep if your body is fatigued.
  • Slamming my finger in the door always works a treat.” Although the short-term pain may wake you up, fatigue will soon set in when this wears off.
  • A few pills will get me there.” It’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. But apart from the legal implications, taking drugs can be very dangerous to your long-term health, leading to high blood pressure and other problems. Illegal drugs, like speed, can also have an unknown quality and strength – making it easy to overdose. The fact is, rest and sleep are the only cures for fatigue. Drugs simply mask the effects of fatigue and will leave you even more tired when they wear off.