Sunday, April 22, 2012

Time to Execute the Three Truck Driver Killers That Haunt the Road Haulage Industry

Scourge of the Highways Must be Stopped Now
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Anyone reading this attracted by the salacious headline might be disappointed but there are three killers stalking the road haulage industry, taking the lives of innocent and guilty alike, all of which have been ignored by the freight and shipping sector for years, principally through ignorance and stupidity and the time has surely come to educate and act to ensure there are no more fatalities caused by hauliers who have neglected to train staff and apply sensible standards.

So what are these three factors that cause so much anguish? Fatigue; driver distraction (principally texting whilst driving); and sleep apnoea (or apnea if you are reading this in the States), a condition often associated with obesity. The first is of course well documented and is simply a case of common sense; if you’re tired – stop. There really isn’t much more to be said other than the responsibility for this one rests (pardon the pun) firmly with the driver, and operators should ensure that staff are fit for work, not headed out after a night on the town and little sleep.

According to the US National Sleep Foundation there are 100,000 reported accidents every year in the country directly resulting from driver fatigue causing over one and a half thousand deaths (not to mention over 70,000 injuries of varying severity and costs to insurers and individuals exceeding $12 billion) and this is of course an international problem, even more prevalent in some other countries.

Meanwhile texting whilst driving is something which Ray LaHood at the Department of Transport in the US has made almost a personal vendetta using his to berate any and all who will listen as to the dangers, and by way of the dedicated Government website. The subject is a key component of the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign currently under way in America. Again it’s the common sense of the driver which really matters here but training and suitable in cab equipment supplied by road haulage operators can be a vital part of the equation.

The campaign also touches on other principals relevant to both private and commercial truck drivers such as programming sat navs and planning routes before pulling away, limiting conversations, even with passengers and on hands free devices, having everything you need to hand etc.

The problem which remains undetected however in literally thousands of cases, is that of sleep apnoea, a condition which afflicts many people who simply aren’t aware that their symptoms’ are indicative of what may prove a lethal condition. Fortunately more drivers are learning to recognise the problem. This month David Simon, newly re-elected chairman of the Australian Trucking Association, announced he would dedicate efforts this year to raise the awareness of sleep disorders in the country. In the US there are several initiatives to affect the same result such as American football stars Derek Kennard and Nate Newton hosting free to attend events in April to educate people with the former Cowboy’s players appearing in their old Dallas stamping ground.

The Dallas event is part of a drive by manufacturer’s, which despite obviously having a vested interest, have a useful sleep analysis test on their site. Regular readers may remember a typically irreverent piece on our own Black Pig blog site two years ago explaining the relevance and use of the various machines now easily available which completely alleviate the condition meaning that afflicted drivers can resolve the problems associated with the problem such as permanent tiredness, serious morning headaches, depression, disturbed sleep patterns and the like.

The message for any drivers who feel they may have the condition is that they should take steps to immediately improve their health and well being by being checked out. Obesity seems to run hand in hand with apnoea and, despite UK press reports this week regarding a lady who the daily newspapers have delighted in reporting lost 15 stones when the condition was diagnosed, our editor (a long time sufferer) insists in his personal opinion that this is probably the reverse of the truth, losing the weight is likely to help resolve the apnoea, rather than the other way round.

Photo: National Lampoon might have taken a light hearted look at sleep deprivation but it made a serious point.