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How to Combat Driver Fatigue and Sleep Apnea

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When asked what keeps fleet managers up at night, some might say it’s protecting the health and wellbeing of their drivers and the public. Many have adopted GPS fleet tracking software to alleviate some of this stress, as it provides an accurate measurement on driver hours of service (HOS) and helps avoid extended workdays, which are a regulatory violation as well as a danger to drivers’ health. The data available in these solutions offers insights into driver behavior and provides the information necessary to reward safe driving habits.

Some managers are taking this a step further, complementing their fleet management solutions with programs to combat driver fatigue and sleep apnea, two very real issues in the trucking industry. They’re using data from these systems to track the results of such programs, seeing if they result in fewer accidents and violations. Programs can take many forms, but often incorporate two common initiatives:

Testing For and Supporting Drivers with Sleep Apnea

Almost one-third of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FMCSA. That is a staggering statistic when considering the impact fatigue has on a driver’s ability to stay alert. Not only can fatigue increase the chances of falling asleep at the wheel, it also reduces a driver’s ability to react quickly. Regardless of where you stand on the FMCSA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on obstructive sleep apnea, it’s an issue worth addressing in your workforce.

Fleets can educate drivers on and encourage the testing of sleep apnea. Just because a driver is diagnosed with sleep apnea doesn’t mean they’re not qualified to do their job. It simply means they must be treated accordingly before they’re able to resume their duties. Therefore, it’s important to offer the appropriate support, from recognizing the symptoms of sleep apnea, to diagnosis and treatment. If managed correctly, drivers can enjoy a long career on the road and managers can rest easy knowing they’ve done everything possible to protect their drivers and those around them.

Instituting Wellness Programs to Encourage Healthy Habits

In addition to testing for and treating sleep apnea, fleet managers can institute wellness programs to encourage healthy habits. Driving is a physically demanding job, and with long hours on the road, drivers often find it difficult to eat well and maintain an exercise routine. In fact, a recent report found 21 percent of drivers leave due to health issues – a stat that does not bode well for the ongoing driver shortage.

So what can fleet managers do? They can offer incentives to improve driver health, whether it’s benchmarking a driver’s current health during a physical, and then tracking against those goals provided by their physician, or providing access to smoking cessation programs. Managers can even give drivers fitness trackers to encourage exercise and create competitions for the most steps taken in a week.

By offering drivers incentives to improve their health, managers can increase retention and employee satisfaction – and they’ll show they care about their workforce’s wellbeing.

Check out the FMCSA’s driving tips to avoid fatigue.

Don’t yet have a GPS tracking solution? Learn the many benefits of adopting one here.


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