Assistant Editor

May 9, 2019

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Driver safety

Driver fatigue: ‘Make sleep part of risk management’ says specialist fleet broker

McCarron Coates, a specialist fleet transport insurance broker, puts emphasis on the significance of road transport fleet operators giving their drivers sufficient rest, and how driver fatigue should be a key factor added to risk assessments.

Fleet managers are unaware of the significant penalties that both carriers and drivers could be faced with, if they do not give their trans-European drivers a required 45-hour resting period away from cab. Spain has become the latest European country to introduce penalties for breaking European Regulation 2006/56/EU, whilst in Brussels attempts to overcome the ban on drivers spending rest periods in the cab failed. It’s claimed that this approach will help increase safety and lower risk, leading to a reduction in insurance costs. But according to the Leeds-based broking expert, there are still very few operators that include sleep in their risk assessments.

In France and Germany, a fine of €30,000 is possible, with the potential addition of a one-year prison sentence in France. A potential fine of up to €2,700 for a driver and €8,100 for a carrier is levied by authorities in Germany, where the fine is calculated on a per-hour basis, according to the duration of the infringement.

In the UK, fines can be given for up to five driver-hour offences committed in the past 28 days. A fine of £300 for each offence, which could be increased to an on-the-spot fine of £1,500, can be given to drivers especially in laybys and other locations where they can cause issues to the public. Vehicles can get immobilised if drivers fail to pay the fine.

Driver fatigue

Statistics show that 40% of sleep related accidents involve a commercial vehicle, which may suggest that very few drivers are taking the necessary amount of rest and sleep that is required. A minimum of seven hours sleep is required, anything below that could increase the likelihood of being involved in an accident. Therefore, McCarron says operators should view providing drivers with quality sleep as an integral and essential part of their risk management.

For example, drivers with five-six hours of sleep are 1.9 times more likely to be involved in accident, and drivers with only four hours or less are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident, than those who have the required minimum of seven hours, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic.

Paul Coates, Co-Director at McCarron Coates, said that, “a sleep debate needs to be waged in the commercial transport sector, because turning a blind eye is all too frequent an occurrence. Lorry drivers and hauliers, in particular, seem to push the boundaries too far and too often, hoping they will not be fined, at home and abroad, for cab-based sleep. Sometimes, no other option presents itself to the driver and at other times it’s purely about saving the pennies. Either way, they take a huge risk by bedding down for the night in their vehicle, in more ways than one.”

“Trying to sleep in such conditions leads to serious sleep deprivation and that is the enemy of risk management on the road. Trying to cut corners by not paying for accommodation for a driver can easily lead to incidents that destroy an operator’s claims history and wipe out any cost benefit derived from having drivers sleep on board the vehicle.

“Additionally, operators taking this huge risk can be faced with other implications, such as prolonged sickness absence as a result of drivers suffering from mental health and physical conditions.

Heart disease, type-2 diabetes and a weaker immune system are just three of the physical issues that can be caused by not getting enough sleep, but when you add mental health problems to this, operators are creating longer-term issues for themselves by not sticking to what the law expects to see happen with regard to driver sleeping conditions and the duration of sleep.”

McCarron Coates advises fleet managers to plan routes and schedule in accommodation for drivers to encourage them to rest.

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