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August 28, 2019

Common risks for commercial drivers

Because many people drive every single day, they tend to forget how dangerous it really is. But just because people are accustomed to driving does not mean they are safe while doing so. For commercial drivers especially, driving involves regularly travelling at high speeds on congested motorways.

Many drivers make the mistake of believing they are invincible behind the wheel. Commercial drivers spend so much time on the road that driving begins to feel like second nature. But be careful—complacence begets carelessness.

As an employer or manager of commercial drivers, you must ensure your employees stay alert behind the wheel and avoid the numerous and varied risks on the road. Educate yourself and your employees on the following dangerous everyday driving risks.

Driver fatigue

Tired drivers are lethal. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency estimates that one-fifth of accidents on motorways may be caused by drivers falling asleep while driving. Although commercial drivers often feel they are able to drive for long stretches without a wink of sleep, they will eventually need to stop and rest.

Your employees can beat fatigue and increase their efficiency by following these simple safety tips:

  • Plan ahead. Chart your routes ahead of time to estimate where and when you can stop for the night or take regular break periods. Planning your breaks and sleep schedule will allow for adequate rest and may even expedite your journey by eliminating all unplanned stops.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Neglecting to sleep for the average six to nine hours means your sleep schedule will seep into your day, hampering your ability to focus and making you tired all day long.
  • Take regular breaks. All drivers should take a break every two hours on long journeys. However, if you feel tired before your scheduled two-hour break, stop. You can adjust your schedule later. Never try to push yourself to keep driving.
  • Wait 20-30 minutes after waking up before you start driving. Our bodies need time to properly wake up. If you drive immediately after a night’s sleep, you could still be stuck in a post-sleep haze. Groggy drivers are dangerous drivers.
  • Avoid temporary solutions. Relying on temporary solutions to invigorate you while driving is ineffective and will eventually put you to sleep. Drinking caffeine, rolling down the window and turning up the music are all temporary solutions that cannot replace much-needed rest.

Distracted driving

Despite the obvious danger and, in the case of mobile phones, illegality, drivers continue to operate vehicles while distracted. According to the Department for Transport, drivers are four times more likely to crash if they use a mobile phone while driving, and reaction times for those drivers are about 50 per cent slower than normal driving.

Without a concerted effort to stay focused on the road, drivers’ attention can be easily led astray. Urge your employees to follow these recommendations to avoid becoming distracted while driving:

  • Use your mobile phone only when stationary. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. But hands-free mobiles can be just as dangerous—do not use any gadgets while driving. You can check your mobile during your scheduled breaks.
  • Program your satnav before you leave. If you rely on satellite navigation, program your device ahead of time to prevent adjusting it while driving. That way you can focus on the road and let your satnav worry about directions.
  • Eat and drink only on your breaks. Although not illegal, some studies suggest that eating or drinking while driving distracts drivers as much as talking on the phone. When you eat or drink while driving your attention is divided and your hands are full. Save your meal or snack for your scheduled breaks.
  • Focus on the road. Driver distractions do not need to be tangible—stress, excitement or anxiety can all absorb your attention until you are so engrossed in personal matters that you are barely watching the road. Clear your mind while driving so you can focus on the road. Any matters that feel pressing will still be there when you stop for your break or reach your destination.

Ergonomics – Back injuries

Back injuries afflict many commercial drivers. They stem from poor posture and remaining in a fixed position for extended periods of time while driving. Back injuries caused by driving can persist for years—even the rest of your life.

Back injuries do not just harm the drivers who suffer them—they can exacerbate driver fatigue and distracted driving. Share this guidance to help your employees care for their backs:

  • Position the height of your seat so your hips are parallel with your knees. Your back is under too much pressure when your knees are higher than your hips. Make sure they are always parallel.
  • Adjust your seat so your elbows are comfortably bent at 20-30 degrees and your hands rest on the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the steering wheel. Proper posture is essential for preventing back injuries. Once you adjust your seat to allow optimal posture, keep it that way so every time you are in the driver’s seat you know your posture is correct.
  • Move your mirrors so that you can easily see all around without craning your neck or twisting your back. Frequent, prolonged twisting and turning to look into your mirrors can quickly inflame your back and induce an injury. Ergonomically tailor everything in your vehicle to discourage any unnecessary movement.
  • Take a break before lifting cargo. Wait a few minutes before unloading cargo after a long drive. Stretch and walk around to loosen your muscles. A tight back can be aggravated easily.

Plan for safety

It takes constant planning to avoid these common driving risks. The insurance professionals at Thompson Brothers have the resources to ensure your employees are prepared for whatever comes their way. Contact us today for more help assessing and eliminating your business’ risks and putting comprehensive insurance in place. Call us on 0161 480 6444 or fill in our online quote form.