Fitness to drive – fit drivers, better business performance
Physical fitness, good nutrition and proper hydration are all essential elements of ensuring that an individual is fit to drive.
All the elements of driver wellbeing reinforce and enhance one another – both positively and negatively. Physical fitness, proper nutrition and good hydration all play into alertness, good sleep functions, and better driver mental health. Equally, poor nutrition, dehydration and poor fitness levels can contribute to poor focus and a lack of energy, which in turn negatively affects an individual’s ability to feel good and sleep well.
Fleet managers – driver fitness
It is important that drivers follow a healthy diet, which can be hard out on the road. Too much carbohydrate can lead to dips in blood sugar which can make drivers sleepy. Equally, too little sleep creates a craving for carbohydrates.
Educating drivers about healthy eating, providing healthy options at canteens or encouraging stops at services which offer healthy menu options can be useful in improving driver health.
Obesity is also a specific risk factor for drivers as it can lead to type 2 diabetes and sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea.
Dehydration affects the chemical balances in the body. It can cause dizziness, headaches, tiredness and poor focus.
Drivers should be encouraged to drink plenty of water, and to avoid heavily caffeinated or sugary drinks.
It’s important that driver routes include plenty of available toilet facilities, as sometimes drivers forgo drinking water in order to avoid needing a toilet when none is available. It can be helpful for fleet managers to ensure that delivery or customers sites are prepared to make hygiene facilities available to visiting drivers.
Driver breaks should include getting out of the vehicle and moving around. Drivers could be encouraged to stretch and walk for a few minutes. This helps ease the muscular strains of sitting behind the wheel, improves circulation and improves alertness.
Fleet managers need to be aware therefore that drivers cannot be so burdened with paperwork or admin between tasks that they fail to actually take a break from work, even if they are taking a break from driving. Adequate time to stretch and move should be built into work schedules.
A focus on driver wellbeing, ensuring that the ability to eat well, drink enough water and exercise is built into driver schedules, means that drivers are more likely to remain healthier, happier, and more productive. They will also be safer because their focus on the road will not be impaired by the effects of poor self-care.
Fleet managers can use the free resources provided in the Van Drivers Toolkit for toolbox talks or information leaflets covering driver wellbeing.