We all know that proper maintenance is important, as well as the rest! These two things are just as important for vehicles, as they are for their human drivers - especially when it comes to accident prevention.
Proper vehicle maintenance along with driver fatigue prevention are the two most critical contributors to vehicle accidents on the road across the nation.
The most current reports from AAA indicate that up to 50% of such accidents can be attributed to unsatisfactory vehicle maintenance and fatigued drivers.
If a tow truck is not maintained properly, the following dangerous situations could arise:
Brake Failure: The most common cause of truck accidents, especially rear-end collisions, is brake malfunction. The brakes of a trailer/standard tow truck can succumb to wear and tear from the long distances that these vehicles travel and their cargo weight. It is vital that the brakes of these vehicles are consistently inspected and repaired.
Cargo Disconnect: A heavy duty tow vehicle can weigh upwards of 20,000 pounds, and another 6,000 pounds for an average SUV being towed. If not inspected, the mechanism that holds the trailer and or the vehicle being towed in place can fail and cause the trailer to disconnect from the cab. This can lead to serious damage to people and property.
Tire Blowout: If the tires of all types or tow trucks are not repaired or replaced, the tire can become worn and a tire could blow while the truck is on the road. This could cause the vehicle to lose control and lead to a SERIOUS accident.
Any and all of these dangerous situations can be prevented with proper equipment maintenance.
Fatigue on the other hand, is often overlooked, or not well understood; and is often a more relevant contributor to this industry’s vehicle accidents.
Fatigue is a symptom of a lack of sleep, as well as poor health habits. When a person is fatigued, their judgment and decision-making is compromised. As a result, they have slower reaction times and lose situational awareness.
If a driver falls asleep while operating their tow truck with a loaded tow bed traveling 65 miles per-hour, the damage can be catastrophic.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, fatigue contributes to 30-40% of all truck accidents, including tow vehicle accidents, in the United States. When truck/tow drivers force themselves to stay awake to meet deadlines or unexpected service calls after a full day of driving, their performance behind the wheel suffers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if a person is awake for as much as 17 hours, and attempts to drive, they are as impaired as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.05.
Nearly 50% of all drivers surveyed admitted to “drifting off” behind the wheel. This statistic is alarming, and shows that tired truck/tow driving is a big problem in the industry.
With such a large number of truck/tow vehicles on the road, there are increased opportunities for accidents between trucks and passenger vehicles.
Fatigue can be prevented with some very basic health practices that not only contribute to accident prevention, but to general improved physical and mental health. These tips to improve overall wellness when adopted on a routine basis can be a game changer in every first responders, roadside service and tow/truck drivers around the globe!
Dietary suggestions for fighting fatigue.
Have a good look at your diet – it’s very important if you want more energy in your daily life. Suggestions include:
- Drink plenty of water – sometimes you feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated. A glass of water will help do the trick, especially after exercise.
- Be careful with caffeine – anyone feeling tired should cut out caffeine. The best way to do this is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (that includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less tired without it.
- Eat breakfast – food boosts your metabolism and gives the body energy to burn. The brain relies on glucose for fuel, so choose breakfast foods that include protein, like eggs, yogurt, and protein shakes, along with healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates like sweet potato hash browns or whole grain oatmeal.
- Don’t skip meals – going without food for too long allows blood sugar levels to dip. Try to eat regularly to maintain your energy levels throughout the day.
- Eat a healthy diet – increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, whole grain foods, healthy fat dairy products and lean meats in your diet. Reduce the amount of high fat, high sugar and high salt foods.
- Don’t overeat – large meals can drain your energy. Instead of eating three big meals per day, try eating six mini-meals to spread your kilojoule intake more evenly. This will result in more constant blood sugar and insulin levels. You’ll also find it easier to lose excess body fat if you eat this way.
- Sleep suggestions for fighting fatigue
A common cause of fatigue is not enough sleep, or poor quality sleep. Suggestions include:
- Get enough sleep – two-thirds of us suffer from sleep problems, and many people don’t get the sleep they need to stay alert through the day. Some recommendations on getting a good night’s sleep include: go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time every day, avoid naps through the day, and have a warm bath or shower before bed.
- Limit caffeine – too much caffeine, particularly in the evening, can cause insomnia. Limit caffeinated drinks to five or less per day, and avoid these types of drinks after dinner.
- Learn how to relax – a common cause of insomnia is fretting about problems while lying in bed. Experiment with different relaxation techniques until you find one or two that work for you – for example, you could think of a restful scene, and try some slow deep breathing.
- Avoid sleeping pills – sleeping pills are not a long-term solution because they don’t address the causes of insomnia.
Lifestyle suggestions for fighting fatigue.
- Don’t smoke – cigarette smoke contains many harmful substances. There are many reasons why smokers typically have lower energy levels than non-smokers – for example, for the body to make energy it needs to combine glucose with oxygen, but the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen available in the blood.
- Increase physical activity – physical activity boosts energy levels, while a sedentary lifestyle is a known cause of fatigue. Physical activity has many good effects on the body and mind. A good bout of exercise also helps you sleep better at night. Seek professional advice and encouragement regarding the steps you can take toward a more active lifestyle and talk to your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a long time, are obese, are aged over 40 years or have a chronic medical condition.
- Move more, sit less – reduce sedentary behaviors such as watching television and using computers, and break up long bouts of sitting. Take driving breaks every two hours and take a brief walk in between road service calls.
- Seek treatment for substance abuse – excessive alcohol consumption or recreational drug use contribute to fatigue, and are unhealthy and potentially dangerous.
Psychological issues and fatigue
Studies suggest that between 50 and 80 percent of fatigue cases are mainly due to psychological factors. Suggestions include:
- Talk about it – There’s some evidence that talking therapies such as counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy might help to fight fatigue. See your doctor for a referral for ‘talking’ treatment.
- Reduce stress – Stress uses up a lot of energy. Try to introduce relaxing activities into your day. This could be working out at the gym, or a gentler option such as meditation, yoga, listening to music, reading or spending time with friends. Whatever relaxes you will improve your energy.
- Assess your lifestyle – for example, are you putting yourself under unnecessary stress? Are there ongoing problems in your life that may be causing prolonged anxiety or depression? It may help to seek professional counseling to work out family, career or personal issues.
- Learn to do nothing – one of the drawbacks of modern life is the pressure to drive ourselves to bigger and better heights. A hectic lifestyle is exhausting. Try to carve out a few more hours in your week to simply relax and hang out. If you can’t find a few more hours, it may be time to rethink your priorities and commitments.
- Have more fun – maybe you’re so preoccupied with commitments and pressures that you don’t give yourself enough time for fun. Laughter is one of the best energy boosters around.
How to cope with the mid-afternoon energy slump
Most people feel drowsy after lunch. This mid-afternoon drop in energy levels is linked to the brain’s circadian rhythm and is ‘hard wired’ into the human body. Prevention may be impossible, but there are ways to reduce the severity of the slump, including:
- Incorporate as many of the above fatigue-fighting suggestions as you can into your lifestyle. A fit, healthy and well-rested body is less prone to severe drowsiness in the afternoon.
- Eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates for lunch, for example a tuna sandwich. Carbohydrates provide glucose for energy. Protein helps keep your mind attentive and alert.
- Get moving. A brisk walk or even 10 minutes of stretching outside of your truck improves blood flow and boosts energy.
Do your part to prevent unforeseen vehicle accidents while driving! Stay safe and be well.
These statistics and health habits have been provided by Betterhealth.vic.gov.au.
Authored by Liz Bates