New Tool to Manage Driver Fatigue

July 16, 2013

Truck driver fatigue can be a dangerous, even deadly problem. Fatigue can lead to a range of health and wellness complications for truckers and a number of problems that can contribute to crashes and near-crashes. The following health and wellness issues may result, at least in part, from fatigue:

- Increased blood pressure

- Increased risk of heart disease

- Gastrointestinal problems

- Increased calorie consumption

- Weight gain

- Disruption of circadian rhythm

- Type II diabetes

- Poor immune system function

- Increased likelihood to smoke and use alcohol

- Increased irritability and depression

- Disruption in relationships

- Worsening of psychiatric conditions

- Decreased quality of life

- Increased number of sick days used

In addition to these health and wellness implications, fatigue can increase the risk of involvement in a crash and/or near-crash. Fatigued drivers perform more inappropriate lane deviations and have slower steering responses, experience reductions in responses to speed changes of a lead vehicle, have increased speed variations, exhibit slower reaction times, experience impaired visual scanning or "tunnel vision," and are at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

All of these factors increase the likelihood of crashes and near-crashes resulting from driver error.

In 1990, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) studied 182 fatal-to-the-driver large truck crashes. The in-depth investigations conducted by NTSB revealed fatigue to be a principal cause in 31 percent of these crashes (fatigue was the largest single cause of truck crashes in the study).

Additionally, Knipling and Wang found that commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers were asleep at the wheel in 4 percent of all heavy-vehicle crashes, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that fatigue was a contributing factor in 13 percent of serious CMV crashes (i.e., crashes involving serious injuries and/or fatalities).

FMCSA estimated that fatigue was a factor in 15 percent of all fatal large-truck-related crashes. The agency estimated that fatigue was directly involved in 4.5 percent of these crashes, while mental lapses and inattention associated with fatigue were directly involved in 10.5 percent of fatal large-truck-related crashes.

Regardless of the degree to which fatigue was an associated factor during these CMV crashes, it is apparent that fatigue-related crashes among CMV drivers are prevalent given drivers' extended work hours and shifts that can start at various times of the day and night.

Research has shown that fatigue affects driving performance similar to alcohol consumption. Simulator studies found that drivers who were awake for 18 hours had decreased driving performance comparable to their performance with a 0.05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. This is noteworthy considering the legal BAC limit for CMV drivers in the United States is 0.04. When these drivers were awake for 24 hours, their driving performance was comparable to their performance with a 0.08 BAC, which is the limit for non-CMV drivers.

In order to help drivers and trucking companies deal with fatigue issues the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has launched the North American Fatigue Management Program website,

The NAFMP website represents the culmination of a decade of research, development and testing of a comprehensive fatigue management program. Substantial financial and in-kind support was provided by the NAFMP partners including ATRI, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Transport Canada, Alberta Motor Transport Association, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, Alberta Transportation, Alberta Workers Compensation Board, Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail du Québec and Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec.

The NAFMP provides a comprehensive approach to commercial driver fatigue management including:

- Online fatigue management training for drivers, drivers' families, carrier executives and managers, dispatchers and shippers/receivers;

Information on how to develop a corporate culture that facilitates reduced driver fatigue;

- Information on sleep disorders screening and treatment;

- Driver and trip scheduling information;

- Information on fatigue management technologies.

Issues associated with fatigue in CMV operations can be conceptualized into three areas, according to the website: driver, environmental, and operational factors. When addressing fatigue in CMV operations, it is important to identify how these three areas relate as each factor can influence the others. For example, operational and environmental factors may influence driver factors such as sleep deprivation or sleep hygiene practices. Solutions to manage CMV driver fatigue should consider the following driver, environmental, and operational factors:

Driver factors:

- Circadian rhythm performance

- Sleep deprivation

- Sleep disorders

- Sleep hygiene practices

- General physical health

- Lifestyle factors

- Diet

- Emotional state

- Domestic factors

Environmental factors:

- Weather

- Road conditions

- Seasonal variations

- Engineering/ergonomics

Operational factors:

- Hours-of-service (HOS) regulations

- Owner/operator issues and contacting

- Loading/unloading practices

- Dispatching practices

- Rest areas

- Sleeper berth regulations

- Corporate culture

The Fatigue management programs (FMPs) offered on the website are designed to address and change driver and operational factors to reduce driver fatigue. Ultimately, the goal of an FMP is to reduce the frequency of fatigue-related crashes and costs to drivers, carrier management, workers' compensation agencies, insurance companies, and the general roadway public.

To accomplish this goal, an FMP attempts to realign corporate culture to support fatigue management, address dispatching practices that hinder drivers from obtaining adequate sleep, provide training and education to drivers to improve sleep habits, and introduce drivers to a sleep disorder screening and treatment program.

The NAFMP website also includes a return-on-investment calculator that allows motor carriers to estimate the cost-benefit of deploying the NAFMP in its entirety or select components in a customized program.

All of the NAFMP information and training is available on the website free of charge for interested parties.

ATRI will manage the NAFMP website on behalf of the NAFMP partners.

"It is rewarding to see ATRI's 10-year involvement in the research and development of the NAFMP come to fruition," commented ATRI President Rebecca Brewster. "The NAFMP website will be a one-stop shop for carriers of all sizes to address the important issue of driver fatigue."

American Trucking Associations leaders praised the American Transportation Research Institute and its government and industry partners for their work in launching the North American Fatigue Management Program.

"This program is a great example of industry organizations and regulators stepping forward to identify, provide and promote real solutions to improving the safety of our nation's highways," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "ATA has long believed that looking holistically at alertness and fatigue management, rather than relying on a prescriptive Band-Aid approach provided by the current hours-of-service regulatory system, is the best way to address the complex issues of human alertness and fatigue."

"Last week, we saw yet another new set of even more prescriptive hours-of-service rules go into effect," Graves said. "Such rules originated in the 1930s and while their basis may represent the best thinking and analysis of that time, in light of the research and work that ATRI and others have done, it is clear that an hours-of-service approach is insufficient relative to the more progressive and comprehensive strategies laid out here to promote driver alertness."

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