Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #4 - 1989
Authors: N. Haworth & C. Heffernan
Full report in .pdf format [2.2MB]
This report provides information for the development of a
heavy vehicle driver education package regarding fatigue.
Driver fatigue is recognised as a contributory factor in some
accidents. It is more likely to be associated with long hours of
driving, without adequate rest periods, loss of sleep, food or
drug intake and night driving.
Various methods are recommended to counteract fatigue. They
include limitation of total driving hours, regular rest stops
before fatigue sets in, avoidance of alcohol and drugs (although
moderate use of caffeine is not harmful), use of radio to
maintain alertness and adequate cabin ventilation, as well as
introducing variation in the driving environment.
This report is one of several to be produced as part of a
study of driver fatigue in heavy vehicle accidents. It provides
information for use in developing a program to educate heavy
vehicle drivers about the role of fatigue in crashes, factors
which contribute to its onset and measures to counter it. The
study was commissioned by the Victorian Road Freight Transport
Industry Council and funded by the Road Construction Authority in
The report comprises two sections. The first section addresses
issues relating to the provision of education programs, including
the need for such programs. The second section presents
information about driver fatigue which has been gathered to
provide the background material for development of the
In the first section, which provides information for
educators, the following main points are made:
- The road transport industry and government authorities
perceive a need for both general education and specific
fatigue educational programs for heavy vehicle drivers.
- An educational program specifically addressing driver
fatigue would aim to provide heavy vehicle drivers with
skills to recognise fatigue and methods to counter it.
- In any one year of driving there is a one in 200 chance
of a semi-trailer being involved in a fatal accident.
- Semi-trailer accidents are more likely to be severe and
involve fatalities, as compared with car accidents.
- Fatigue-related accidents are a major occupational hazard
for truck drivers, especially long distance drivers.
- A NSW study reported that "articulated trucks have a
high involvement fatigue accidents in comparison with
their involvement in other accidents".
- A recent Victorian study reported that car or truck
driver fatigue was a contributing factor to between 9.1 %
and 19.9% of fatal accidents involving trucks, with
fatigued car drivers being involved at least as much as
fatigued truck drivers.
- In interviews of owner-drivers in NSW 94 per cent stated
that a low accident rate was important in getting and
keeping regular work.
- Owner-drivers often face a range of problems (including
economic factors, oversupply, ease of entry into the
industry and poor business skills) which can potentially
add to the likelihood of driving while fatigued.
Resistance to implementing fatigue countermeasures may
arise as a result of these additional work pressures.
- In overcoming this resistance educators need to
acknowledge the reality of such constraints, the current
attempts by the road freight industry and the government
to minimise these constraints, and the role heavy vehicle
drivers may be able to play in effecting changes in the
industry which could improve safety and other working
In the second section, which details information regarding
driver fatigue and ways to counter it, the following main points
- Fatigue has proved difficult to define precisely and some
researchers view fatigue as arising from conditions of
over-stimulation while others view it as arising from
conditions of boredom or under-stimulation.
- Factors which have been shown to contribute to the onset
of fatigue include inadequate sleep or rest (long- or
short-term disturbance to sleep patterns, certain phases
of circadian rhythms, sleep disorders), prolonged hours
of service (prolonged driving periods, night-time
driving), and food and drug intake (eating patterns,
intake of alcohol and other drugs).
- Driving behaviour while fatigued can include zigzag
driving within the permitted lane, crossing the centre
line, and running off the road.
- Accidents in which fatigue is involved are often severe.
Examples of actual fatal accidents involving heavy
vehicles, in which the Coroner found fatigue to be a
contributing factor, are presented in Appendix 1.
- Methods of counteracting fatigue include: compliance with
hours of driving regulations including regular rest
stops, using CB and AMIFM radio, avoidance of driving if
narcoleptic, or under the effects of alcohol, depressants
or amphetamines, using moderate amounts of caffeine, and
introducing variation into the environment. Further study
of the effects of adequate cabin ventilation and reduced
cabin vibration is needed before these methods can be
Sponsor: Road Construction Authority and the Victorian
Road Freight Transport Industry Council