Drowsy Drivers: The Issue Behind HoS Regulations
On July 1, 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) passed rules regulating the Hours of Service for property- and passenger-carrying drivers. These regulations were created to decrease the number of drowsy drivers by limiting the time they can spend driving on the clock, as you can see in this chart:
Although these regulations have helped keep overworked, drowsy drivers off the road, they can’t regulate what drivers do in their off-time. You can encourage your drivers to take their rest seriously, but ultimately, you can’t control their actions.
Instead, train your drivers to recognize the signs of dangerous drowsiness and show them the consequences of ignoring these signs. Help them understand the dangers of driving on just a few hours of sleep and implement these suggestions to protect all drivers on the road.
1. Look for physical indicators
Sleepy people tend to yawn often, rub at their eyes and lose focus easily. When driving drowsy, you will find your car drifting across lane lines and sometimes drifting onto the rumble strip on the edge of the road. Train your drivers to recognize these signs. Offer backup plans, such as pulling off the road for a nap or stopping at a motel for the night.
2. Prepare for your next shift
The best way to stay safe and aware is to be proactive. Your drivers should always get a healthy amount of sleep before a driving shift, especially for a long trip. Pay attention to the date. Drivers should take extra care the week after daylight savings and during the holidays. Remind your team to avoid alcohol, late nights, and mind-altering substances, including energy drinks as a sleep substitute, before shifts.
3. Keep an open-door policy
The best way to avoid unsafe driving is to encourage your drivers to be honest about their ability to safely do the job. If someone has a rough night or is otherwise unfit to drive, you want them to tell you before they get into a vehicle. Trade shifts or adjust schedules, if needed, but only put your drivers on the road when they are capable of performing well.
To keep drivers from taking advantage of this policy, create a system of incentives and consequences. Reward drivers who do the right thing and perform well and penalize drivers who continually miss shifts or fail to prepare.
4. Track your HoS compliance
Safety is your top priority, but complying with government regulations is also important. Keep track of your drivers’ driving time and schedules with your telematics units and software. With tools, such as Geotab’s Hours of Service plan, you can track hours for compliance needs and your own records.
How do you protect your fleet from drowsy driving?