The dangers of festive season fatigue

NRMA Motoring & Services

Thursday, 01 November, 2018

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As the year draws to a close, businesses are working hard to deliver their customers everything they need. For those that rely on fleet drivers, there’s often a push to get everything done before the holiday break, which can result in resources being stretched too thin.

Fatigue-related fatalities rose a staggering 49% from 2015 to 2016, highlighting the importance of employers to understand how many hours drivers are spending on the road and whether they’re taking unnecessary risks. This also includes being aware of the dangers of fatigue and the impacts it can have on employees.

It may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it’s important to note that the only solution for tiredness is sleep. It can be tough knowing whether or not your drivers have rested before they show up to work. However, highlighting the benefits of a simple power nap could do wonders. A power nap of 15 minutes can significantly reduce the risk of a crash on the road1.

Indicators of fatigue

  • Constant yawning
  • Sore or heavy eyes
  • Micro-sleeps
  • Difficulty remembering the last few kilometres
  • Drifting in the lane
  • Changes in speed
  • Daydreaming or zoning out
  • Slower reaction times

In 2017, our NRMA corporate driver training instructors surveyed nearly 450 participants to better understand the threat of driver fatigue, with startling results. It showed that 65% of people surveyed admitted they had driven for more than two hours without a break within the last six months.

View larger image here.

What does fatigue mean for your business?

If your drivers aren’t taking regular breaks at least every two hours, the consequences could be disastrous. In 2016 alone, 82 people lost their lives in fatigue-related crashes2. Employee safety is not just a priority, it’s a WHS obligation for any employer. By ensuring your drivers are well rested and taking adequate breaks, they’re able to carry out their roles properly and safely.

Creating a fatigue policy

While not mandatory under the law, an effective way to communicate to employees — and begin developing a culture of safety in the workplace — is with the implementation of a fatigue policy.

Potential fatigue policy inclusions:

  • Roles and responsibilities of supervisors and workers
  • Maximum shift length, average weekly hours, and total hours over a three-month period
  • Work-related travel
  • Control measures for specific tasks, jobs and operations
  • Self-assessment checklists
  • Procedures for reporting potential hazards and fatigue risks
  • Procedures for managing fatigued workers, including task re-allocation

Developing a culture of safety

A workplace that consistently places and promotes value on safe practices will, over time, effectively create a strong culture of safety. The culture of an organisation contributes not only to employee happiness, but also to their faith in management to make decisions that are best for their welfare. By fostering a culture of safety, leaders create a forum of support, allowing open dialogue about fatigue between employees and management. It’s as simple as allowing tired employees to take a break and acknowledging requests for downtime without being dismissive. This approach can be legitimised through integration in a company’s WHS policy, for example, in a no-blame attitude towards hazard reporting.

Taking action on driver safety

If you need to strengthen the driving habits of your employees and promote a safer driving culture in your workplace, it might be time to consider corporate driver training for your staff. The NRMA runs comprehensive corporate driver training programs, with an entire module focusing on fatigue awareness and management.

Participants learn about the impacts of fatigue through evidence-based learning, drawing upon statistics from ‘Dead Tired’, a report from the Road Safety Series. Prepared by the NRMA, the Road Safety Series aims to identify the main factors involved in road crashes, and to develop initiatives that may help reduce injuries and loss of life.

For your copy of ‘Dead Tired’, email the NRMA at

Enrol in corporate driver training today

Call 1300 070 722 or visit

  1. Watling, C., Smith, S., Horswill, M. (2014). Stop and revive? The effectiveness of nap and active rest breaks for reducing driver sleepiness. Psychophysiology 51, no. 11: 1131-1138.
  2. Transport for NSW. (2017). Fatigued and distracted driver trauma trends. February 2017.
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