10 tips to beat driver fatigue and tiredness

If you work as a courier, you’ll likely be driving for hours at a time, trying to meet tight deadlines: this makes you particularly vulnerable to drowsiness behind the wheel.Tiredness and fatigue play significant roles in many road traffic accidents in the UK; commercial drivers are involved in roughly 40% of crashes related to fatigue, so it’s vital to combat tiredness when your job’s on the road.

Accidents caused by drivers nodding off are more likely to result in serious injury or death, as drivers don’t hit the brakes before making impact. Even when they manage to stay awake, drowsy drivers are less alert and therefore face a higher risk of crashing.

There are plenty of smart moves you can make to avoid fatigue while driving. Of course, you can take every precaution and still face risks: from other drivers, other vehicles and hazards such as unforeseen weather conditions.  

The Insurance Factory offers reliable courier insurance tailored to you and your vehicle. Our policies include features such as goods in transit cover up to £10,000 and liability insurance up to £2 million, with extensions available up to £5 million.

We’re committed to helping working drivers stay safe at work, so take a look at our 10 tips to combat tiredness and fatigue on the job.
  1. Get plenty of rest before you hit the road

If you work as a courier, you’ll spend a large portion of your day driving, so it’s vital to get a good night’s sleep before you go to work – less rest decreases your chance of remaining awake throughout your shift. It’s recommended that drivers get between 7-8 hours of sleep before hitting the road.

Your schedule might call for night shifts, but, if you can, try to avoid driving at times when you’re most likely to become drowsy: for drivers with regular sleep routines, common times to fall asleep behind the wheel are between 2am and 6am and 2pm and 4pm, as this is when the body clock experiences a ‘dip’, triggering sleepiness and fatigue.
  1.  Know your rights

Your employer should have a road safety policy in place that upholds health and safety legislation, prioritising your wellbeing over targets. The policy should include rules designed to eliminate the chance of fatigue-related accidents occurring, making time in drivers’ schedules for frequent breaks.

You should never be asked to prioritise deadlines over the safety of yourself and others.
  1.  Have regular breaks

If your schedule fails to factor in frequent breaks, insist that it is adapted to do so. Brake recommends taking a 15-minute break after every two hours spent behind the wheel.

Even the most seasoned HGV drivers are barred from driving for more than 9 hours per day, and a break gives you a chance to have a snack, refresh yourself and stretch your legs, taking a nap, if necessary.
  1. Don’t ignore sleepiness

If you start feeling drowsy, it’s time to take a break – turning the heat down or listening to the radio won’t fight your urge to sleep: rest is the only answer.

Find somewhere safe, pull over and take a 15-minute nap. If you still feel drowsy after this, you need to stop off and get a full night’s sleep somewhere – you shouldn’t resume your journey until you feel fully rested.
  1. Have a caffeinated drink

If you need an extra pick-me-up, drink one or two cups of coffees (or a caffeinated equivalent) in the morning. Having a caffeinated drink before a 15-minute nap may also help to combat fatigue, but this is not a long-term fix.

Avoid caffeine after lunchtime, as this could interfere with your sleeping schedule.
  1. Plan your journey in advance

Planning ahead makes your journey smoother and safer. Mark out where and when you’ll pull over for breaks on your route, booking overnight accommodation if necessary. Make sure you have dependable courier insurance secured before you go anywhere – protect yourself and your vehicle.
  1. Monitor your health

You could be fined as much as £1,000, if you fail to inform the DVLA of any medical conditions that affect your ability to drive. You could even be prosecuted if your condition contributes to your involvement in an accident.
Watch out for symptoms of conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). Often going undiagnosed, research suggests that up to 41% of UK truck drivers suffer from some type of sleep disorder. If you have OSA, you may struggle to maintain a regular sleep pattern – the condition is one of the most common issues behind excessive daytime sleepiness. OSA is treatable, but you must inform the DVLA if you’re suffering from it.

Certain medications can also cause drowsiness – even ones you can purchase over the counter. If you work as a courier, make sure you check the side effects of any medications you’re taking before driving.
  1. Avoid heavy, filling meals

Try to eat a light meal before you head out for a shift. Large meals can often lead to increased drowsiness, so these are best avoided.
  1. Don’t do strenuous exercise

While regular exercise helps to regulate your sleep schedule and boosts health, avoid doing a strenuous workout before heading out on the road. You want to conserve your energy for the day ahead, and vigorous exercise could make you sleepy.
  1. Don’t believe the myths

If you’re tired, you must find somewhere safe to pull over and sleep. Listening to loud music, opening the windows or turning the heat down will not keep you awake, so don’t believe the myths that they do.

Protecting yourself on the road

Even the most responsible drivers can never predict what’s around the corner. If you work as a courier, you’ll be transporting valuable goods along a variety of roads on a daily basis, facing increased exposure to risks such as road traffic accidents.

The Insurance Factory is here to help. Courier insurance is designed to fit around your business and vehicle, so you’re covered each time you head out on the job.
Don’t put it off, get a quote today.