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Fatigue management programs

Fatigue management programs



Fatigue management programs

'Fatigue management systems' aim to prevent fatigue-related crashes by introducing a set of interrelated measures, at different levels of the organization. These measures are directed at the management, the planning section, and the drivers. Typically, the measures include special driver training, new procedures, improved trip planning and feedback on crashes. Information about the effectiveness of these systems is still scarce. "Fatigue Management" programs in Australia and the United States are based on several starting points (SWOV Factsheet Fatigue in traffic: causes and effects):

  • First of all by supporting the application of maximum driving and resting hours companies may take the human need for rest and sufficient night-time sleep into account.
  • As a consequence, haulage companies have to plan the work so that drivers can really keep to the rules.
  • Compliance control of these rules remains important. In addition, haulage companies should also have a certain responsibility for informing their drivers about the causes and results of fatigue.
  • If possible company programs should pay attention to the influence of personal living circumstances (life style) of individual drivers and their own responsibility.
  • Another possible task of haulage companies is screening drivers for sleeping disorders, especially sleep apnoea.

Expert opinion identifies a number of factors that determine the success of these systems [54]:

  • Management and drivers have a positive view on the importance and usefulness of the fatigue management system;
  • Somebody actively steers the process and takes responsibility for progress;
  • Management clearly points out the importance of several fatigue-related measures in reducing risk;
  • Clear company procedures and guidelines regarding safe behaviour;
  • Feedback on crashes is used to increase insight into the problem of fatigue;
  • Driver training is part of a progressive learning cycle.

The ideas about a Safety Culture for haulage companies clearly also fit in to this. The ERSO web text "Work-related road safety" provides further information on Safety Culture

A Driver Fatigue Management Plan (DFMP) sets out the requirements and procedures relating to how a company will schedule trips; roster drivers; establish a driver's fitness to work; educate drivers in fatigue management; manage incidents on or relating to commercial vehicles; and establish and maintain appropriate workplace conditions.

In relationship to driving and rest schedules, research may provide valuable information. Driving schedules should be planned to minimise exposure to prolonged driving under monotonous conditions during the more vulnerable times of the day and night [51]. A study among professional long-haul drivers showed that a 3-hour napping opportunity in the afternoon preceding a nightshift has beneficial effects on driving performance and alertness, measured up to 14 hours later [66]. A study among long-haul truck drivers indicated that single drivers were more frequently involved in critical incidents while exhibiting extreme drowsiness than were team drivers by a factor of 4 to 1 [58].

Fatigue management as part of safety culture

The importance of organizational culture for safety programmes is not just an idea, but has been supported by empirical research. Bomel Ltd [13] showed how organisational culture in the workplace is important in terms of levels of work-related road accidents. Cross-company comparisons showed that the lowest accident rate (and highest positive scores on a driver attitude scale) were shown by a company with 'clear driving standards and rules, excellent driver training and a policy to report and try and learn from all driving incidents'. The company with the worst accident rate (and most negative driver attitudes) had 'no formal driver training, unclear rules/reporting requirements, and relatively ineffective lines of communication'. Corbett [22] also regards organisational culture as a key component in road safety, and points out that there is a general societal tendency to 'blame working drivers for crashes rather than seek root causes that may be connected with the safety culture of organisations'.

Although the ideas of safety programmes are inspiring, practical implementation may proceed less than optimal, partly due to economic imperative. For example, Arnold & Hartley [3] interviewed 84 managers of transport companies in Western Australia on the implementation of fatigue management programs. Key results were the following. Few companies had a formal fatigue management plans or policy. More than two-thirds of companies either set daily driving limits of more than 14 h or did not set a limit at all. Half of the companies either set weekly driving limits greater than 70 h or did not set a weekly limit at all. Many of the companies that had limits for work hours did not communicate those limits to drivers but relied upon word of mouth. Many companies relied upon drivers' self-regulation for the management of fatigue. The authors conclude that promoting better fatigue management in the road transport industry requires first of all a cultural change.