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The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recently released the results of the 2012 Sleep in America poll. The poll is the first of its kind to ask transportation professionals, including pilots, train operators, truck, bus, taxi and limo drivers, about their sleep habits. The results of the survey provide insight into the effect of sleepiness on truck drivers’ job performance.

In general, truck drivers are not getting the quality sleep they need to perform their best the next day. Fifty-four percent of truck drivers responding to the survey said they experience sleep problems every night or almost every night and 44 percent said they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on workdays. Additionally, 19 percent reported they are getting less sleep than needed on workdays.

Not getting enough sleep will impact a driver’s mood and job performance. Driving while fatigued could have serious consequences, including fatal accidents. In the study, 15 percent of truck drivers said their sleepiness affects their job performance at least once a week. Fourteen percent experienced a “near miss,” a situation where they were almost involved in an accident, and 6 percent committed a serious error due to on-the-job sleepiness.

To combat sleepiness, 19 percent of truck drivers reported using caffeine five or more times in the previous week to help stay awake and alert on the job. While caffeine can help keep drivers awake, it dehydrates them, which can also have adverse effects on their ability to perform their job well. Drivers should drink at least one serving of water for every serving of caffeine to counteract dehydration.

About half of the truck drivers reported working the same schedule each day while only 27 percent said they work the same number of hours each day. It’s no secret that truck drivers typically don’t follow the standard 9-to-5 schedule, but consistency is a major factor in getting a good night’s sleep. As much as realistically possible, motor carriers should try to schedule drivers at the same time and on the same days week to week. It is then the responsibility of the drivers to maintain a regular sleep routine as much as possible, even when they are off duty for several days.

Also of note in the findings is that 10 percent of truck drivers have been diagnosed with a sleep disability. The most common disability is sleep apnea, with others including shift work sleep disorder, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. Sleep apnea is dangerous to drivers and those they share the road with because it causes long periods of repeated fatigue and drowsy driving throughout the day, which prevents the brain from focusing on safe driving and working.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends sharing the following tips with your drivers to help them get a good night’s sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
  • Use bright light to help manage your body clock. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
  • Only use your bedroom for sleep. Remove computers, televisions and other distractions.
  • Select a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calm music.
  • Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Exercise regularly but avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.
  • If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
  • If you are experiencing excessive snoring or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.
  • Categorized in:
  • Driver Management
  • Transportation Safety
  • Hours of Service & Fatigue