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Truck Expert Witness:
Driver's Age & Its Affect on Fatigue.

by Don Asa - 2008

Evidence Solutions, Inc. Heavy Truck Expert Articles

Fatigue, as we all know, is always going to be a factor regardless of the job type, but even more of a factor when involving moving equipment, driving.  It would be very important to a safety department to realize that many, many aspects of living have an affect on whether or not drivers become fatigued.

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How does age affect Fatigue?

I can certainly verify after millions of miles of driving that lots of activities of various types affected my levels of control over vehicles and situations that I might have gotten into to develop fatigue.  Like all young drivers, when I was a young man, I felt like I could do anything, drive anywhere, and haul anything.  Then I would have to prove it –not only to the company but to myself.  On any new route, the lack of knowledge of that new route (and they were all new) would cause a great deal of stress,worrying about whether I was doing the right thing at any given time on that route.  Therefore, fatigue would develop much more quickly due to stress than on a route that I was familiar with.  New equipment would develop the very same thing.  I would question myself whether I was handling the equipment correctly.Once I got familiar with the equipment, it was far less stressful to drive.  It was the same thing with new loads and delivering to new customers.The point here being that stress even though you could be well rested can develop fatigue in a driver, and very quickly.

The need to prove as a young driver that you could do the job as well as anyone, will often cause the driver to press on even though fatigue and tiredness is recognizable.  So,pressing on is the decision so often made to show you can, indeed, do the job.  Often it’s not the hours that a driver puts in but it’s that stress attached to the driver’s thinking that causes fatigue to develop.  A driver may well have lots of sleep but becomes fatigued very quickly because of those stressful thoughts about doing the job right and proving oneself.  Later, when one becomes a little older, has a little more confidence in their driving abilities, stressful thinking can come in a variety of ways involving job positioning, payroll, family problems as more responsibilities develop and any number of related things.

One of the unique things about driving is that drivers often have many hours to chew (think) on their many problems as they drive down the road.  They carry the burden of trying to solve the problems while they’re in a position that they can do nothing about the problem (they’re driving.)  It is a rare person, indeed, who has a worry free existence.Truck drivers have even a more worry type world when you consider that they not only have to carry all their personal problems with them, they also have to carry with them the responsibilities of being the captain of the ship and worry about the operation of the truck, the safety of the people in close proximity of the truck, the cargo, delivery time, and all other related aspects of being the captain of the ship.  Is there any more stressful position to be in?I would say there would not be many.And, the driver is alone.  Every single decision can affect the driver’s livelihood and safety, including the decision to park the machine when feeling tired.  Companies can do a lot for their drivers by realizing that the drivers are indeed the captains of the ships (the drivers) and they need a supporting mechanism and the companies need to categorize drivers.

The categories suggested would be related to the level of knowledge.  Since the accidents (90% or more) are mostly driver error, the more knowledge the drivers have, the less likely the errors, and thus categorizing drivers based on their knowledge should be a critical part of the safety department’s job.  The more knowledge transferred by the safety department,the safer the drivers are and the better chance the driver has to do the job and combat fatigue.

Companies need to study the factors of fatigue.  The companies need to make an effort, always,to recognize that various categories of drivers have various capabilities,whether a driver is 20 years old or 70, they have specific capabilities.  Some drivers need more attention than others.  A driver that is 20 years old can become more quickly fatigued than a driver who’s 70 when it comes to hours of driving.  When the safety department takes the time,makes the effort, and spends the money to help the drivers understand why fatigue takes place, then the company has made a giant step forward in the realm of safety.

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Companies Can Help Control Fatigue

 

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