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Fatigue impacts on driving for work

Each year, fatigue related crashes are responsible for around 31 lives and 462 serious injuries on Queensland roads. While there’s no doubt long-distance travel is clearly impacted by fatigue, over half of fatigue related crashes occur within 25km of the departure point.

Workplace fatigue refers to mental or physical exhaustion that reduces the ability to perform work effectively and safely. If your workers are required to drive, fatigue is a key road safety and work safety consideration—and the risks must be managed.

Work-related driving has increased in recent years, especially when it comes to small and medium size vehicles used for online deliveries. Organisations should ensure work schedules are reviewed, driving requirements are considered, and journey plans which incorporate driving times and breaks are agreed and written up.

Fatigue is four times more likely to contribute to driver impairment than drugs or alcohol. Being awake for 17 hours is the same as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 – the legal limit over which you would receive a penalty. A fatigued driver will have reduced reaction times, impaired decision making and make riskier choices. Loss of attention and focus (drifting over lanes or changing speed without intention) are signs of fatigue, as are the more obvious signs like yawning and heavy eyes.

If you’ve ever been sitting down and suddenly felt your head snap back as it unintentionally dropped down, this is called a microsleep. Microsleeps can last from a fraction of a second up to 10 seconds. If you are driving at 60km/h, this means your vehicle will travel up to 33m in just two seconds!

The only way to prevent fatigue is sleep – caffeine, fresh air and loud music are only temporary masks and do not address fatigue.

When you get behind the wheel, it is important to:

  • get a good night's sleep to allow your body to recharge
  • be aware of the effects medication can have on your body and mind
  • avoid long drives after a day's work and plan rest stops in advance.

If you start to feel fatigued while driving, pull over somewhere safe like a driver reviver or rest area. It is recommended you rest for at least 15 minutes every two hours of driving and never drive more than 10 hours in a day. If possible, share driving with someone else who is well-rested.

Further information

For more information, contact or read the new Queensland Road Safety Strategy 2022-31 which seeks to address road trauma on Queensland roads and sets ambitious ten-year targets to reduce fatalities by 50 per cent and serious injuries by 30 per cent, by 2031.