Specialist fleet transport insurance broker, McCarron Coates, is reminding passenger and road transport fleet operators to not cut corners and urging them to pull out all the stops when it comes to giving their drivers sufficient rest.
Taking up this advice will not only keep fleets legal, but also help reduce insurance costs through enhanced safety and a significant lowering in risk, according to the Leeds-based broking expert, which says too few operators include sleep in their risk management thinking.
McCarron Coates says some fleet managers are still unaware of the significant penalties that both driver and carrier can be forced to pay, should they allow their trans-European drivers to spend their required 45-hour rest period in the cab.
Spain has become the latest European country to introduce penalties for breaking European Regulation 2006/56/EU, whilst in Brussels attempts to overcome the ban on drivers spending rest periods in the cab failed.
Breaking the regulations in countries like France and Germany can be extremely costly, with a fine of €30,000, and even a one-year prison sentence, the possible punishment in France. A potential fine of up to €2700 for a driver and €8100 for a carrier is levied by authorities in Germany, where the fine is calculated on a per-hour basis, according to the duration of the infringement.
On home soil, inspectors can now issue fines for up to five driver-hour offences committed in the past 28 days. Drivers are being targeted in laybys and other locations where they can also cause issues for members of the public. With a fine of £300 for each offence, that can tot up to an on-the-spot fine of £1500 and the vehicle can also be immobilised until the fine is paid.
Whilst fines and possible prison sentences are one reason to not rest easy on this issue, McCarron Coates says operators should also view providing drivers with quality sleep as an integral and essential part of their risk management.
The experience-rich fleet transport brokers point to statistics that show that 40 per cent of sleep-related accidents involve a commercial vehicle, suggesting far too few drivers enjoy the necessary amount of rest and far too many nothing more than low-quality sleep. Additionally, the likelihood of being involved in an accident increases according to how far below a seven hour sleep line the driver sits, before taking to the wheel.
Those drivers who only had 5-6 hours of sleep were proved 1.9 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who had managed to get seven hours or more of shut-eye, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic. Shockingly, those drivers who only benefited from four hours sleep or less were 11.5 times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Paul Coates, co-director at McCarron Coates, says: “A sleep debate needs to be waged in the commercial transport sector, because turning a blind eye is all too frequent an occurrence. Lorry drivers and hauliers, in particular, seem to push the boundaries too far and too often, hoping they will not be fined, at home and abroad, for cab-based sleep. Sometimes, no other option presents itself to the driver and at other times it’s purely about saving the pennies. Either way, they take a huge risk by bedding down for the night in their vehicle, in more ways than one.
“Trying to sleep in such conditions leads to serious sleep deprivation and that is the enemy of risk management on the road. Trying to cut corners by not paying for accommodation for a driver can easily lead to incidents that destroy an operator’s claims history and wipe out any cost benefit derived from having drivers sleep on board the vehicle.
“Additionally, operators taking this huge risk can be faced with other implications, such as prolonged sickness absence on the part of drivers suffering from mental and physical health conditions caused by insufficient sleep. Heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and a weaker immune system are just three of the physical issues that can be caused by not getting enough sleep, but when you add mental health problems to this, operators are creating longer-term issues for themselves by not sticking to what the law expects to see happen with regard to driver sleeping conditions and the duration of sleep.”
McCarron Coates points to the Truck Parking Europe app from www.truckparkingeurope.com that can help find places for drivers to stay and also assist with route planning. Taking time out to plan drivers’ routes is something it advocates for both coach and HGV operators wishing to avoid the issues cited.
“Fleet managers often fail to regard sleep as part of their risk management strategy,” says Ian McCarron. “McCarron Coates will be working with all of its commercial transport clients to ensure this is not the forgotten piece of the puzzle. Operators need to be awake to the fines, punishments and possible catastrophes that forcing drivers to sleep in their cabs, or not taking enough time to consider where they are sleeping, brings.”