A recent survey carried out by the workers’ union Unite has found that an alarming number of HGV drivers have been so tired on the job that they’ve actually fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point.
Out of more than 4,000 drivers asked, almost 30% had admitted to dozing off while driving before, with many indicating long shifts and limited resting time as the reason. This result has led Unite to call upon employers to review shift management and to make driver welfare a top priority.
Tiredness among drivers
In many cases, commercial drivers are often pushed to the maximum legal limit of working hours to get the most out of their time. This often means that drivers will work 15-hour days – up to 10 of which involve driving – with just 9 hours of rest between working days.
60% of drivers also noted that they have faced many nights of poor quality sleep caused by staying inside their cab while parked at a service station or lay-by. As drowsiness affects these drivers, it creates a knock-on effect on productivity levels, health concerns and awareness on the road.
Unite’s National Officer Adrian Jones stated: “People’s lives are being put at risk due to a lack of welfare facilities and workers being forced to work excessive hours … This can inevitably lead to tragic consequences.”
Using the hard shoulder
Sleeping has also been revealed by Highways England as one of the main reasons why motorists – commercial or otherwise – stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway. While stopping is often necessary in cases of breakdowns and emergencies, Highways England is urging road users to not rely on the hard shoulder as a resting space.
A statement from the Road Haulage Association suggests that there is often nowhere for commercial drivers to go as the current capacity of rest areas doesn’t match the number of HGVs on the road. This results in tired drivers travelling for longer to find a facility that isn’t full.
The RHA calls on the government and local authorities to ensure that drivers have the necessary resting facilities, which could eventually lead to more locations being constructed on a nationwide scale.