A study which was put in place by the Unite workers’ union surveyed over 4,000 HGV drivers asking whether they have ever fallen asleep at the wheel with results showing an appalling number of 29% who have fallen asleep while at the wheel. Out of the drivers who dozed off, 64.4% blamed their workplace’s demands while out on deliveries. With long shifts and little provision for resting periods.
Unite national officer: Adrian Jones spoke regarding the matter saying “The findings of this survey are profoundly shocking, People’s lives are being put at risk due to a lack of welfare facilities and workers being forced to work excessive hours. Companies are continually forcing drivers to work longer, as they are obsessed with the ‘just in time’ delivery model. This can inevitably lead to tragic consequences.”
Jones continued: “Driver welfare should be a company’s first priority, not just an afterthought.”
Accidents that involve lorries are double as likely to lead to fatal casualties than other incidents due to the size/weight of the vehicle. During 2015, 24% of injuries whilst in a collision with a lorry were severe or even fatal, while only 13% were the case in cars/vans. Data collected from the Loughborough Sleep Research centre found that an estimated 20% of serious road accidents are due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel, this rose to 50% of collisions from 2AM-6AM.
Many of the drivers involved in the survey said that employers are looking to stretch deliveries to the maximum limit of working hours that is legally allowed. In many cases, this can lead to a driver working a 15 hour day with 10 hours of driving, leaving 9 hours for rest before they have to do it all over again.
60% of the drivers also stated that many nights were poor for sleep because they had to stay in the cab, leading to drowsiness the following work-day. Whether parked on a road-side, a lay-by or at a service station, which is often the case for a HGV driver.
The Union also stated awareness that the policies and standards have been set by the Department for Transport, but that those standards are not being met by local governments which remains to be a concern for lorry drivers.
Representing the drivers, the RHA (Road Haulage Association) stated: “Every day truckers across the country are forced to park in laybys and industrial estates so they don’t exceed legal hours because there is nowhere else for them to go.
“The Government and local authorities are still not doing anywhere near enough to ensure drivers have the facilities they deserve to rest properly and safely before getting back on the road.”
Could this mean more locations for lorry drivers to rest will soon be constructed on a nationwide scale?
Considering they have nowhere else to park and quite often areas like service stations become full, meaning drivers could have to travel even further. In many regions, there simply aren’t enough facilities for the amount of HGV drivers on the roads.