Overnight truck driving can be a hazardous occupation and driver safety is under threat. In Australia, an estimated 40% of all crashes occur at night, even though only 25% of driving is done after dark. Overnight drivers tend to be more fatigued and distracted than daytime drivers. They also deal with hazards like low visibility, black ice, and wild animals.
Still, overnight trucking is a fact of life – especially in Australia, where trucks are relied on to get supplies to remote, rural locations. Today, successful trucking companies are deploying AI tools and training strategies to support driver safety and ensure their deliveries arrive on time.
Let’s explore some of Australia’s best safety strategies for overnight trucking.
Combatting Driver Fatigue: 5 Actionable Strategies
Driver fatigue is one of the biggest problems for overnight truckers. An estimated 20 to 30 per cent of all fatal accidents in Australia are caused by driver fatigue. Fatigue often leads to slower reaction times, poor judgment, and reduced hand-eye coordination. There are a few ways to combat this problem to support driver safety.
Strategy #1: Taking Regular Rest Breaks
Australia’s National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) requires all truck drivers to take breaks at fixed times in their schedules. Driver safety compliance is not only the law, it’s also a good way to ensure that drivers are well-rested and alert.
According to the Australian standard hours of service rule, drivers must take:
- at least one 15-minute break after 5.5 hours of work
- at least 30 minutes of break time (in 15-minute increments) before completing 8 hours of work
- at least 60 minutes of break time (in 15-minute increments) before completing 11 hours of work
Drivers may also not work more than 72 hours in a 7-day week.
See our article, Strategies to Manage Workplace Fatigue.
Strategy #2: Screening Drivers for Fatigue
The New South Wales Government has created an online tool to test driver fatigue levels to encourage driver safety. The test checks drivers’ reaction times, their ability to pay attention, and their alertness.
Having drivers take the test before getting on the road can be a useful way to screen for exhaustion and ensure that fatigued drivers don’t get behind the wheel.
Strategy #3: Use AI Tools and Smart Technology
Truck drivers spend long hours alone in their cabs, with no one to help keep them alert. Today, smart technology can fill the gap and support driver safety, monitoring them for sleepiness and alerting them before they drift off. Here are some of today’s best tools:
Modern fatigue detection tools track signs of driver sleepiness and alert drivers before they fall asleep behind the wheel. Many of these systems use in-cab cameras and AI-driven facial analysis to spot changes in pupil dilation and other fatigue markers. The system can “see” drivers closing their eyes, yawning heavily, and nodding off.
Wearable technology can spot signs of sleepiness and wake drivers up. Bracelets and caps analyse bio-markers like heart rate and head position, to figure out when drivers are on the verge of falling asleep. The wearable can then vibrate, buzz, or light up to wake drivers.
Forward collision warning and mitigation systems warn drivers when they get too close to the vehicle in front of them. Most systems use cameras or LiDAR (laser technology) to measure the distance between vehicles or objects.
Strategy #4: Incentivise Safe Driving
Sometimes, a reward-based incentive is the best way to encourage driver safety on the road. That can mean giving safe drivers a bonus check, a trophy, or even extra time off. The specifics will depend on your team and their preferences.
Managers can use GPS tracking and telematics systems to monitor drivers’ behaviour for speeding, swerving, or other unsafe driving practices. Only safe drivers qualify for the incentive.
Strategy #5: Refresher Training for Driver Safety
Drivers need to understand the risks associated with the work that they do to ensure driver safety. One way to do this is to have them complete regular refresher training around driver fatigue management. Tap into Safety offers specific courses in Driver Fatigue Management that train how to correctly calculate work and rest time hours and schedule rest breaks.
These safety training courses can be completed in 15 minutes and can easily be added to your existing induction, onboarding and refresher training courses via a simple URL integration.
Overnight driving doesn’t have to be hazardous. Encourage your drivers to get plenty of sleep before their shift and use rest stops mid-drive. Harness technology to keep drivers alert and give managers peace of mind. Conduct regular refresher training to support driver safety. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever before to stay safe on the road, at any time of day or night.
This article was written together with Graham Perry who is an Automotive Logistics and Supply Chain author.