One of the main enemies of professionals at the wheel is fatigue, caused by the lack of rest and sleep, no breaks during long journeys, heavy meals and even inappropriate clothing and heat. If we also add the bad state of the road or adverse weather conditions, then the risk of accident increases..
In the 24 hours following the end of their previous daily or weekly rest period, drivers must take another daily rest period.
This daily rest period may be normal or reduced.
• Normal daily rest period: any rest period of at least 11 hours.
Alternatively, the normal daily rest period can be taken in two periods, the first of at least three hours without interruption and the second of at least 9 hours without interruption.
• Reduced daily rest period: any rest period of at least 9 hours but less than 11 hours.
Drivers cannot take more than three reduced daily rest periods between two weekly rest periods.
In the case of a team of drivers for a vehicle, drivers must have taken another daily rest period of at least 9 hours within the space of 30 hours as from the end of their previous daily or weekly rest period.
The normal daily rest period of a driver accompanying a vehicle transported on a ferry or train may be interrupted at most twice to carry out other activities that do not exceed one hour in total. During the normal daily rest period, the driver must have access to a bed or bunk.
A weekly rest period must start before six consecutive days of 24 hours have concluded since the end of the previous weekly rest period.
This weekly rest period may be normal or reduced.
• Normal weekly rest period: any rest period of at least 45 hours.
• Reduced weekly rest period: any rest period less than 45 hours that can be reduced to a minimum of 24 consecutive hours.
Within the course of two consecutive weeks, the driver must have taken at least:
• two normal weekly rest periods, or
• one normal weekly rest period and one reduced weekly rest period of at least 24 hours; however, this reduction shall be compensated by an equivalent rest taken all together before the end of the third week following the week in question.
Rests taken as compensation for a reduced weekly rest period must be taken together with another rest period of at least nine hours.
When the driver so chooses, reduced daily and weekly rest periods outside the company's work centre may be carried out in the vehicle, providing this is suitably equipped for the rest of each driver and is parked.
Irrespective of these obligatory breaks, the driver should be able to spot symptoms of fatigue and should not try to drive as long as is permitted if such symptoms appear, such as the need to move and change posture constantly while driving, the arms and legs going to sleep, constantly touching the face or neck and noticing discomfort and general tiredness.
Other symptoms of tiredness are a tense neck, stinging eyes, constant blinking, buzzing in the ears, a heavy head, difficulty in changing gear or in concentrating on the road, carrying out manoeuvres almost without thinking.
The ideal situation is to become accustomed to resting every two hours, doing stretches and drinking liquids (without alcohol). Not doing this increases the chance of having an accident by 10% to 14%. Moreover, after 17 hours of being awake and active, our reflexes slow up as much as if we had 0.5 grams of alcohol in our blood.
For safety reasons, it is important to inspect the vehicle as sorting out any defect in good time might avoid problems later on, such as a breakdown on the road that involves time and money or, even worse, accidents caused by a faulty or badly working part of the vehicle.
The following should be assiduously checked: tyres, wheels and hub caps, brake drums or shoes, steering, suspension and exhaust, lights and reflectors, as well as the emergency equipment (extinguishers, spare fuses and reflective warning triangles for stopped vehicles).
It is also very important to check the load to make sure the vehicle is not overloaded and that the load is level and well secured before each journey. If the load contains hazardous materials, you must make sure you have the appropriate documentation and signage.
You should pay attention to the general condition of the vehicle and check for any damage or leaning to one side or the other. You should look under the cabin and search for remains of oil, coolant, grease or fuel. It's also a good idea to check the area around the vehicle to make sure there is no hazard in the way when it sets off (people, other vehicles, objects, low wires, tree branches, etc.).
Attention should also be paid to the levels of: engine oil, radiator coolant; hydraulic steering liquid, windscreen wash, battery liquid, automatic transmission liquid (this last check needs to be done with the engine running).
The ergonomic design of the driver's position is also important in preventing risks as it avoids any excessive physical overload. The cabins must have well designed seats, fully adjustable and with appropriately placed controls. Special situations should be considered, such as overweight drivers or those with very long or short limbs.
The adjustments for the seat and steering wheel must also allow all professionals who are going to use the vehicle to find a comfortable and ergonomically correct position for their arms, legs and trunk. The back of the seat should be at an angle of approximately 20º.
The dashboard must be adjustable to optimise access to the controls and instrument visibility. The adjustment of the dashboard must be coordinated with that of the steering wheel. Reducing the size of the steering wheel improves the relations between spaces. The seat suspension systems must be adjustable according to the driver's weight.
In modern vehicles, the tension resulting from body vibration in the driving seat is moderate and, with good maintenance, the level of noise in the driving seat is not normally hazardous for hearing. However, it's a good idea to eliminate high frequency sounds as these are irritating and make it difficult to concentrate.
The quality of air in the driving seat is important, a factor that largely depends on the outside atmosphere. When traffic is dense, high concentrations of carbon monoxide and emissions of from diesel engines can easily occur temporarily, so that it is advisable to drive with the window shut under such circumstances. In any case, ventilator grilles located where there is the most space in front of them, such as in the roof rather than on the dashboard, and the installation of air filters substantially improve the cabin's atmosphere.