About limits

Driver fatigue

This section should be looked at in conjunction with the section about logbooks.

As a driver of a heavy vehicle, it is particularly important for you to avoid fatigue and be aware of the warning signs. Common transport industry work practices - such as long and irregular working hours, night work and early starting times - can interfere with getting quality sleep, which is the major cause of driver fatigue.

Many fatal crashes are caused by people driving when they are tired. If you feel tired, don't drive. Don't risk your life or those of other road users.

Tips to help you avoid driver fatigue

  • Get a good amount of quality sleep before driving, preferably eight hours.
  • Make sure that following a period of sleep you are fully awake before driving.
  • Don't drink even small amounts of alcohol. It will make the effects of fatigue much worse.
  • When taking long trips, plan your journey to include rest breaks.
  • Learn techniques to help you manage stress.
  • Stay fit and healthy.
  • Snack on light, fresh foods. Avoid consuming fatty, sugary or carbohydrate-filled foods, which can make you tired.

Recognise the warning signs

Some warning signs are:

  • having trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or holding your head up
  • daydreaming, wandering or disconnected thoughts, loss of memory
  • yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
  • drifting from your lane, tailgating and missing signs or exits
  • feeling restless and irritable.

Stop to revive, then drive

If you start feeling sleepy:

  • don't keep driving – pull over immediately in a safe place (as far off the road as possible)
  • move to the passenger seat and take a 15–20 minute power nap. A short sleep is very refreshing – try not to nap for a period longer than 40 minutes otherwise you may feel groggy and disoriented when you wake up and for quite some time afterwards (this is called sleep inertia)
  • wait at least 10 minutes to make sure that you are completely awake before you start driving again.

If you still feel sleepy don't drive, find a place to sleep for an extended period or for the night.

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Last updated: 27 September 2010