More than a quarter of lorry drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, study finds

Motors | Published:

Unite workers’ union calls for improvements to truckstops and shorter working hours for hauliers


A confidential survey of road hauliers and HGV drivers has found that 29 per cent admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel while driving.

The study, conducted by the Unite workers’ union, questioned over 4,000 lorry drivers and found the shocking number who admit to having fallen asleep on the road. Of those who admitted to nodding off, 64.4 per cent blamed their work for their fatigue, citing long days and insufficient provision for rest.

“The findings of this survey are profoundly shocking,” said Unite national officer Adrian Jones. “People’s lives are being put at risk due to a lack of welfare facilities and workers being forced to work excessive hours. Companies are continually forcing drivers to work longer, as they are obsessed with the ‘just in time’ delivery model. This can inevitably lead to tragic consequences.”

Jones added: “Driver welfare should be a company’s first priority, not just an afterthought.”

Accidents involving lorries are almost twice as likely to result in fatalities as other road collisions. In 2015, 24 per cent of injuries resulting from collisions with HGVs were serious or fatal, compared with just 13 per cent for smaller vehicles. The Loughborough Sleep Research centre notes that falling asleep at the wheel accounts for around 20 per cent of serious collisions on motorways and similar roads – rising to almost 50 per cent of collisions on UK motorways between 2am and 6am.

Drivers reported that employers are increasingly looking to extract the maximum working hours legally permissible. In most cases, this means drivers can work a 15-hour day with 10 hours of those driving. This means they have just nine hours of rest before starting work again.



Unite’s drivers, responding to the survey, said they often had a poor night’s sleep when forced to remain in the cab. Respondents said they still felt drowsy, tired and exhausted after a night in the cab at the side of the road (65 per cent) in a layby (67 per cent) or in the car park of a service station (62 per cent).

The Union notes that while policies surrounding truck stops are created by the Department for Transport, building and maintaining them falls to local governments.

The Road Haulage Association, which represents lorry drivers, said: “Every day truckers across the country are forced to park in laybys and industrial estates so they don’t exceed legal hours because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

“The Government and local authorities are still not doing anywhere near enough to ensure drivers have the facilities they deserve to rest properly and safely before getting back on the road.”

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