Van drivers can spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Courier and delivery drivers especially can be affected by long hours driving the UK’s roads.
If you’re leasing a van for the first time, or looking to start a business that requires a lot of time in the driver’s seat, you may not be aware of the issues fatigue could cause.
Sitting in the same position for 11 hours a day and maintaining the levels of concentration required to drive safely can have a detrimental effect on your health. Fatigue is a major cause of road crashes in the UK, as it dulls reaction times and impairs decision-making.
Causes of Fatigue
Many factors could contribute to driver fatigue. What can you do to mitigate these effects and stay healthy while driving your van lease?
Long Driving Hours
According to recent research, it takes around two hours of continuous driving before your concentration starts to deteriorate. You will be less aware of the road situation and slower to react to hazards, which increases the risk of an accident. Stopping for breaks every 2 hours will help to keep you alert and aware on the road.
We also recommend getting out of the van during breaks to give your muscles a stretch.
Stress is well known to cause tiredness and issues with concentration. Mitigating stress can be difficult, but it can help to plan your route and set off early so that you aren’t rushing to reach your destination. Taking advantage of the van’s radio or music system can also help you stay relaxed in the driving seat.
Lack of Sleep
Low or interrupted sleep will leave you tired before you start your day. There are many reasons for poor sleep, including busy schedules, sleep disorders, or a new baby in the family.
Time of Day
Research has shown that van drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel in the early morning (between 2am and 6am) and early afternoon (between 2pm and 4pm). Night driving in general can be tiring if you are not accustomed to it. Be aware of this and try and plan a rest stop during this time.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, having a van with a lot of added features can contribute to tiredness. Modern lease vans are now fitted with a lot of comforts and labour-saving devices (lane-assist, cruise control, and so on) that make driving a lot easier than it used to be. This can relax you a little too much, in that your attention could wander from the road.
To counter this, a lot of vans have a driver attention alert system that monitors your activity and lets you know if it thinks you aren’t paying attention.
How to Spot Fatigue
What are the signs of fatigue? Fatigue usually occurs gradually, and there are plenty of warning signs to let you know that you are beginning to feel its effects.
Some warning signs include yawning, heavy eyelids, difficulty concentrating, and drooping head due to relaxed neck muscles.
Microsleeps are an issue for drivers. A microsleep is when someone falls asleep for less than 30 seconds ands wakes without remembering doing so. Commonly, this occurs when someone is tired but trying to stay awake, and can occur in driving situations. While it may not seem like a long time, it only takes a few seconds to slip out of lane into the path of another vehicle, or into the central reservation.
If there are passengers in your van, if you are driving a crew cab van for example, then it may be beneficial to alternate driving duties to stay fresh.
If you experience any of these symptoms, then you should stop as soon as possible for a break. Continuing to drive your lease van while feeling the effects of fatigue greatly increases the chance of an accident occurring.