Van Driver Fatigue: Avoid Being Asleep at the Wheel

Van Driver Fatigue: Avoid Being Asleep at the Wheel

Research has shown that van drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel in the early morning (between 2am and 6am) and early afternoon.  We look at some of the causes of driver fatigue and the tools and techniques to keep your fleet moving safely.

Whilst the gig economy and the move to shopping online has been a massive boost for van fleets and their drivers, the downside is that delivery times have been slashed and the pressure on van operatives to deliver to even tighter deadlines has been immense. This can be a tricky area for those involved in commercial liability insurance and fleet van insurance as it relies upon the continuous flow of its workforce and its goods.

The survey also found that nearly one in three road deaths involves a driving-for-work trip, that 39 percent of pedestrian deaths involve a working driver and one in five casualties involves a driving-for-work trip. 

Tiredness: Insurance and Fines

The changing economy has triggered a rapid increase in use of vans, placing an even greater pressure on drivers, often resulting in tiredness and fatigue through long hours and changing shift patterns.

For fleet managers concerned about their commercial liability insurance, it is imperative that driver welfare be placed front and centre to maintain safety standards and avoid excess premiums. 

Lack of sleep can make you less alert and affect your coordination, judgement and reaction time while driving. This is known as cognitive impairment. Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive in the same way as drinking too much alcohol. According to the Sleep Foundation, a staggering 20 percent of people have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.

There’s also a legal requirement for medical conditions related to sleep deprivation or drowsiness. As a driver you must tell DVLA if you have confirmed moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), excessive sleepiness (either narcolepsy or cataplexy), or any other sleep condition that has caused excessive sleepiness for at least three months. You must not drive until you’re free from excessive sleepiness or until your symptoms are under control and you’re strictly following treatment. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving and any claims on your van insurance may be voided as a result. 

Tips for Van Drivers

Consider whether you are likely to be drowsy or sleepy while driving. You’re most likely to feel sleepy when driving on long journeys on monotonous roads, between 2am and 6am or between 2pm and 4pm, and on journeys home after night shifts.

Your company or fleet manager should give guidance on the maximum number of hours you are allowed to drive. The following advice can help you to drive more safely.


  • Ensure any medicine you are taking does not cause drowsiness.
  • Check weather forecasts and traffic reports before you set off and try to avoid driving in poor conditions. If the emergency services are recommending that people don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary, consult your employer and if you cannot contact them, don’t make the journey.
  • Follow any limits set by your company on maximum driving distances and/or times. Plan where you can take a break about every two hours and build in enough time to do so. Take rest breaks as planned and resist the temptation to carry on.
  • Avoid driving when you would normally be asleep, and make sure that you get plenty of sleep before your shift.
  • Keep meals light before and during your shift; heavy meals can make you drowsy. If you are feeling tired, find somewhere safe to stop, drink two strong cups of coffee and take a short nap for between 15-20 minutes.  Remember, sleep is the only true cure for tiredness. If necessary, find somewhere to sleep overnight.

If you are concerned about your driving hours, journeys, or schedules, or if you find yourself driving when you feel too tired to do so, discuss this with your employer.

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