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Crash investigators said driver fatigue played a key role in a bus accident in Utah in 2008 that killed nine people returning from a ski trip. (NTSB photo)
ASHBURN, Va. — Robert Crescenzo, vice president of safety and loss control at Lancer Insurance, speaking at the United Motorcoach Association annual Safety Management Seminar here last month, provided a series of sobering facts and observations about what driver fatigue is costing the industry.
Fatigued driving is the primary “uncontrolled risk” in the bus and motorcoach industry and is the primary cause of most severe accidents. Fatigue likely is the cause of up to 15% of all motorcoach industry crashes, but is responsible for 80% of total claim costs.
The accident rate for motor coaches starts to increase at 9 p.m.and increases by a factor of five until it peaks at 4:30 a.m., until it declines again at 8 a.m. Therefore, warns Crescenzo, “if your drivers are on the road between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. there is a much greater risk of a crash.”
For the bus industry, Lancer Insurance estimates the costs stemming from fatigued-driver accidents to be one-to-two cents per mile, reducing total industry revenue by 1-2% annually But, with an understanding of the body’s natural rhythms, companies can adjust schedules and adopt policies — possibly even rejecting certain jobs — to minimize the risk of fatigued driving, Crescenzo said.
“Fatigue management is really about how you manage schedules and manage drivers,” he told seminar attendees.Because of the body’s circadian rhythms, it’s most difficult to function between midnight and 7 a.m., and between 1 and 4 p.m. That’s when the body most wants to sleep, and drivers are not excepted from these natural schedules, he noted.
But neither customers nor schedulers necessarily take this into account when making driver work schedules. Of course, there are some people whose natural predilections are slightly different and are natural morning people and night owls. As a partial mitigation, during the hiring process companies should ask candidates if they are more comfortable driving in the morning or at night, and assign accordingly.
Even taking that into account, requiring drivers to work irregular hours, including late night or early morning hours, will nevertheless interfere with the body’s natural rhythms and will lead to fatigue, which increases the risk of driver mistakes and catastrophic errors. Schedules that increase the risk of fatigue-related accidents include any: