No amount of risk management or driver training is designed to allow company car drivers to travel for longer distances at a time without a break. The RAC gives the following advice on fatigue:
- Carry out any necessary packing of the car the night before you travel. That way you will begin the journey in a more relaxed frame of mind.
- Get a good night’s sleep before setting off on a long trip – and make sure you are properly awake before setting off.
- Try to avoid departing on a long journey during the ‘post lunch dip’ – a period of decreased alertness that strikes between 1 and 4pm.
- Plan long trips carefully so that you allow for plenty of stopping-off points where you can relax and maybe have some food and drink. Caffeine does help – but it takes between 15 and 30 minutes to revive you. Heavy meals and certain foods in particular – such as turkey, warm milk and bananas – induce sleep.
- Don’t be embarrassed to pull over and take a short nap once you have stopped until you can get some proper sleep.
- You should plan to stop – or to swap drivers – every couple of hours. Bear in mind, though, that getting out of the vehicle and walking about will only have a limited effect.
- Two hours’ continuous driving is the maximum recommended by RAC Risk Management. Don’t drive any more than a total of 8-10 hours in a single day.
- Set the car’s ventilation controls so that they draw in cold, fresh air from the outside. Aim the air at your face. Winding down your car windows is not as effective and neither action will have a direct effect on tiredness.
- The steady hum of white noise from a vehicle engine can lull you to sleep. irregular or variable sounds, such as conversation, help stimulate alertness.
- Don’t drive at night if you can avoid it. Internal biological ‘clocks’ encourage most people to be awake in the daytime and to sleep at night and they will find it difficult to concentrate and maintain alertness between midnight and 7 am.
Finding and maintaining a correct seating position is vital for your safety and to avoid mental and physical stresses. Car seats have improved greatly in recent years and your owners manual should detail how to use these improvements to achieve a best posture. Some general advice as taken from the book ‘Drive Alive’ by Frances Taft is detailed below:
- Remove coats, jackets or thick jumpers before driving. Bulky clothing can crumple up making you uncomfortable.
- The seat should be as high as possible without your head touching the roof, or feeling that you must slouch down to avoid it. This will give you maximum visibility and leverage for depressing the pedals.
- Recline the seat back slightly so that the whole of your back is supported. Your arms should be slightly bent. If the arms are very bent you are too close. If arms are straight you are too far away. Both of these positions will cause tension and fatigue.
- Many seats now have adjustable lumbar support. To find the best position start with the seat as flat as possible and then slowly increase the level of support until you feel a slight pressure in the back. It should not feel like a big lump pressing into you.
- Where possible, tilt the steering column so that your hands are resting comfortably a little lower than the shoulder.
- The head restraint should be adjusted to the correct position in case of an accident. The base of the headrest should be level with the base of your skull.
- Remember to check your seating position after others have been driving your car.
Road rage is on the increase. Company car drivers are most at risk from either suffering from it themselves or being on the end of someone else’s anger due to the amount of hours spent behind the wheel and the pressures of arriving on schedule. The RAC suggests the following tips to help you avoid potential road rage:
- Watch your speed
- Drive defensively
- Set off for your meeting 20 – 30 minutes earlier than scheduled if you can and arrive comfortably and in time, rather than frustrated and late.
- Adhere to all traffic signals. Don’t try to cut corners along your journey.
- Don’t drive too close to the vehicle in front
- Avoid using a mobile phone whilst driving if possible – even hands free
- Tune in the radio to something relaxing
- Always signal before switching lanes
- Don’t speed up to ‘protect’ the space in front of you
- Be courteous to other road users at road junctions or road works – letting them in front of you into the traffic queue will not make any difference to the length of your journey
- If a driver lets you in front of them, acknowledge this with a ‘thank you’ hand gesture
- Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver and ignore harassing gestures
- If you do make a mistake that annoys another driver, make sure that you make an apologetic gesture which usually diffuses the situation
- Be ready to report an aggressive driver to the authorities; be prepared to give details of the vehicle and remember that reporting that individual might save someone from suffering the same or worse in the future.
The average company car driver spends up to two weeks per year in stationary traffic jams. Add to this the fact that a large proportion of the day generally can be spent in the car and it is easy to see how tension and muscle ache occur when drivers are forced to sit still for long periods of time.
It is essential to try and keep mind and body active before, during and after a long journey and the RAC recommends taking five minutes in isolation before you set off n your journey or alternatively, after a long journey, in order to exercise, stretch and relax the body.
These exercises are recommended only when the car is stationary. Before commencing the exercises, open the window, partially or totally depending on weather and individual preference. Remember it is normal to feel slight pain throughout the stretch. Remember to breathe out upon execution of the stretch. If you experience excessive pain or shortness of breath, then stop immediately and consult your doctor for advice.
Breathing deeply, gently tense the shoulders and then Let them relax as you exhale. Rotate each shoulder in turn in a clockwise then anti-clockwise motion and then lift each shoulder, holding for five seconds.
Bow your head slowly forward, stretching the neck muscles and hold this position for 10 seconds. From this position slowly circle your head 360° clockwise and then anti – clockwise.
Then lift your left arm onto your right shoulder and with you right arm supporting your left elbow, slowly pull towards your right shoulder, exhaling as you go. Alternate the arms and then relax.
Take one arm across the front of your body and use the other arm to perform the stretch. Push the arm into the chest at a point just to the side of the elbow joint. Aim to keep the arm straight and breathe comfortably.
Hip and Back Stretches
To open and Loosen the hips, outstretch one leg and fold the other leg into the back of the knee of the outstretched leg.
Then gently bounce in your seat. Repeat with the other leg.
Leaning forward towards the steering wheel, cup you hands together behind your back and lift, slowly stretching the arms, exhaling during the stretch.
Hip and Arms
Sitting back in to the car seat, put you legs up onto the dashboard and place your hands on the seat.
Lift the pelvis and rotate the hips, then tilt the pelvis backwards and forwards whilst tightening and holding the muscles in the rear.
Biceps and Triceps
Extend the right arm from the elbow at approximately 90 degrees and place the back of the right hand into the palm of the left hand. Try to press the back of the right hand into the palm of the Left hand, whilst at the same time pushing the back of the hand upwards with the palm of the left hand. This resistance will help to exercise the triceps muscles in the right arm.
Conversely, with the same arm extended from the elbow, change the position of the hands, so that the right palm is below the Left hand forcing upwards, with the Left hand pressing downwards. This will help to exercise the biceps. Repeat both exercises with the Left arm and then relax.
Place the hands on the steering wheel and firmly squeeze and hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
This will help to exercise the muscle groups in the hands, fingers and forearms.
Sit upright and place your hands on the small of your back.
Slowly bring in your eLbows, until you feeL the stretch on your chest. Aim to keep the elbows high during the stretch. Remember to breathe comfortably throughout the stretch.