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Effective scheduling to effectively reduce driver fatigue

Tuesday 17 December 2019 Data Insight & Analytics

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By Ollie Watson

An alarming number of drivers admit to driving whilst tired – how can operators avoid this?

Fatigue in bus drivers isn’t a common concern amongst members of the general public or, perhaps, those responsible for managing the schedules of drivers. In a service centred on delivery, considerations such as fatigue can slip down the pecking order of importance and drivers can be required to conduct more hours, at more anti-social times, than perhaps they should.

The results of this are stark: 21% of bus drivers in London say they have to fight sleepiness at the wheel two to three times per week and 36% have had a close call whilst driving a bus due to sleepiness in the past 12 months. This is according to a study conducted by Loughborough University’s Transport Safety Research Group.

These numbers are alarming, especially to someone who uses busses in London frequently, and it’s safe to assume that this isn’t a problem isolated to the capital. The causes, however, are altogether curable, cited as they are in the report as shift work and shift irregularity, sleep quantity and quality, and a disciplinarian culture giving rise to stress and mental overload.

Scheduling

The most important point is around scheduling. This is something that can be grasped immediately and have a positive impact on the problem. In a paper-based or manual environment where drivers check in at the depot to discover their shifts and routes, extra hours and unreasonable shift patterns can easily occur.

By bringing more transparency to driver scheduling, bus operators can enable their schedulers to deliver more efficient shifts to their drivers. In being able to more closely monitor shift patterns, operators can gain a far greater understanding of where fatigue is most likely to occur, leaving them in a stronger position to educate drivers and schedulers, thereby introducing a shift in culture which will reduce the risk of driver fatigue.

Technology

If this sounds straightforward, it’s because it can be. Efficient scheduling sits at the very heart of running a transport network and the tools exist to run scheduling in an online environment whereby scheduler and driver have complete oversight of their shift and shift patterns. Where schedulers can share rotas with drivers online instantly, drivers have a more efficient means of discovering their working patterns and schedulers have the means to take factors such as fatigue into consideration, offering them far greater control of the situation.

Once the scheduling element is sorted, company policy can be expanded upon to ensure fair and reasonable scheduling of those shifts which are most likely to induce fatigue, namely early morning and late-night shifts. These are the one that drivers most struggle to adapt their own sleeping patterns to, resulting in lower quantity and quality of sleep prior to and following certain shifts.

Management

Schedulers and management can also then easily identify where drivers are taking on too much work and/or have been taking insufficient breaks from their work, another red flag signposting potential driver fatigue. These breaks in driving are crucial in enabling drivers to maintain a balance in their work, whilst remaining properly hydrated and fed, thus helping to combat the onset of fatigue.

Scheduling of bus drivers is a complicated business with many factors to be considered. Delivery of a service to the public sits at the forefront of this but delivering this service in an appropriate manner is paramount. The cost of an accident can be incalculably high when all factors are considered and the risk is heightened by fatigue, yet fatigue is something that can be managed and mitigated with the correct scheduling tools and procedures.

If schedulers are properly equipped with the technology and knowledge to effectively schedule driver rotas, then the tools will be in place to begin to combat driver fatigue. Where 36% of drivers have experienced near misses in the past year as a result of fatigue, implementing the correct software to effectively and efficiently manage driver scheduling is hugely important. Is it a change that operators can afford to ignore?

An alarming number of drivers admit to driving whilst tired – how can operators avoid this?

Effective scheduling to effectively reduce driver fatigue