Heavy Vehicle Drivers and Driver Fatigue

To prevent driver fatigue, you cannot rely solely on legislation governing driving and off-duty time. Your lifestyle also plays a major role! The North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP) could be very helpful to you.

Driver fatigue, in brief

Fatigue is a gradual decline of physical and mental alertness that can lead to drowsiness or sleepiness.

Fatigue impairs our faculties, and we often do not even realize it. Just like alcohol, accumulated fatigue reduces our ability to concentrate, affects our judgment and reflexes, and thus our ability to drive.

Although heavy vehicle drivers are not the only ones to be subject to fatigue at the wheel, they are particularly concerned by this problems due to:

  • long work hours
  • irregular schedules
  • night shifts
  • the long distances covered
Useful information

Did you know?

Fatigue is one of the leading causes of death on our roads, along with alcohol, speeding and distraction.

Recognizing the signs of fatigue

  • You yawn often
  • Your eyes are burning
  • You have trouble keeping your eyes open
  • You have trouble:
    • finding a comfortable position, e.g. shifting around in your seat
    • concentrating and staying attentive, e.g. missing an exit
    • maintaining a steady speed and keeping the vehicle on a straight course
  • Your reactions are slower
  • You have memory lapses, e.g. you can’t remember the last few kilometres driven
  • You are seeing things that are not there, particularly when there is fog or on monotonous stretches of highway, e.g. you think you see an animal on the road

What to do at the first signs of fatigue

When fatigue sets in, the only way to counteract it is to pull over in a safe location to:

  • take a 15- to 30-minute nap
  • take a break
  • stretch your legs and perform a few simple physical exercises
  • notify your manager of your state of fatigue

To manage your fatigue on a daily basis

Fatigue cannot be controlled, that is, you cannot simply "decide" to be less tired. The only solution is to sleep.

You must make the most of the time provided to recover so you can function well at work. You need to:

  • plan your free time so that you get enough sleep
  • exercise and eat healthy meals
  • plan your itinerary by factoring circadian "low points"
  • consult a physician if you think you have a sleep disorder

Risk factors

In general, the risk of a driver being involved in a fatigue-related accident depends on a number of factors:

  • the number of waking hours
  • the time of day
  • the biological clock
  • the sleep debt
  • alcohol, drug or medication use
  • a sleep disorder

A combination of factors considerably increases the risk. Know and respect your limits!

The effects of a long period of wakefulness: similar to the effects of alcohol

A laboratory study (Williamson and Feyer, 2000) compared the effects of a long period of wakefulness to the effects of alcohol (blood alcohol concentration):

  • Between 17 and 19 hours of wakefulness: Physical and mental capacities are comparable to those of a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 50 mg of alcohol/100 ml of blood (0.05)
  • After 24 hours of wakefulness: Physical and mental capacities are comparable to those of a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 100 mg of alcohol/100 ml of blood (0.10)

In the long run

Inadequate or poor sleep can have adverse effects on your overall health.

North American Fatigue Management Program

This program is designed to address the issue of driver fatigue with a comprehensive approach that includes:

  • information on how to develop a corporate culture that facilitates reduced driver fatigue
  • fatigue management education
  • information on sleep disorders screening and treatment
  • driver and trip scheduling information
  • information on fatigue management technologies

NAFMP goals

The main goal is to understand fatigue and the importance of proper sleep hygiene and a healthy lifestyle.

The program also aims to:

  • reduce fatigue among drivers
  • improve their quality of life
  • lower the rate of accidents caused by fatigue and the related costs

Who should take the training

  • Driver spouses and family
  • Motor carriers (regardless of the size of the business or the type of activities carried out)
  • Dispatchers
  • Shippers
  • Receivers
  • Carrier safety managers
  • Owners and operators

How to take the training


You can take the training online free of charge on the Web site of the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP).

Program participation is voluntary, so you can still take the training even if your carrier does not.

At a training centre

In collaboration with the SAAQ, the Centre de formation en transport de Charlesbourg and the Centre de formation du transport routier Saint-Jérôme offer training sessions based on the program’s material.