ETF report reveals eliminating fatigue in professional drivers is critical to road safety

3 Jun 2021

Fatigue in professional drivers is the norm on European roads and directly linked to their notoriously poor working conditions, according to a new study by the European Transport Workers’ Federation, the first EU-wide study in 15 years, on driver fatigue in passenger and freight road transport.

Everyone wants to get their parcels delivered on time, their supermarket well-stocked and to get their destination in comfort and safety. But what do we know about the drivers who make it all happen?

2861 truck, bus and coach drivers in freight and passenger road transport gave the ETF direct insight into their harsh reality:

  • 60% of truck drivers and 66% of bus and coach drivers said they had to drive while fatigued on a regular basis
  • 772 drivers said they nearly crashed and caused a major road accident due to driver fatigue
  • Nearly 1/3 of truck drivers and 1/4 of coach drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel while driving
  • 57% of bus and coach drivers and 52% of truck drivers reported wanting to pull over and take a break when feeling tired, but being unable to

Fatigue is never the driver’s fault: poor working conditions create fatigue:

Long hours for low wages, unpredictable working time, virtually no real breaks, bad sleep and rest facilities, inadequately equipped vehicles, all while slaloming buses full of passengers and trucks filled to the brim with goods through heavy traffic.

All this adds up to driver fatigue, endangering the safety of drivers and other road users, increasing the risk of accidents on EU roads.

While it is a well-known fact that driver fatigue poses a major risk to the road safety of all road users, measures taken among employers and at the European policy and legislative level to tackle this issue for professional drivers are insufficient.

Eliminating driver fatigue is becoming even more urgent by the minute, especially as the EU embarks on its Road Safety Policy Framework 2021-2030 – Next steps towards ‘Vision Zero’.

In the face of inaction, the ETF is raising the issue of driver fatigue, its impact on road safety and the effective enforcement of the Mobility Package and calling for action from policy makers and employers:

  • to guarantee fair wages – current extremely low wages force drivers to work longer hours to make a decent living
  • to ensure that drivers are remunerated for all work-related tasks, which is not always the case
  • to stop plans to make driving and rest time rules more flexible in freight and passenger transport
  • to put eliminating driver fatigue at the core of the EU road safety strategies
  • to ensure that professional drivers’ pay, working time and rest conditions are properly enforced
  • to ensure that derogations from rules are done by the book, and not to permanently extend drivers’ hours, keep them away from home and worsen rest conditions.

The ETF is also recommending a range of other measures to increase drivers’ well-being and road safety overall.

Europe has no time to lose. Given that road accidents involving heavy vehicles tend to be more serious than other collisions, because of the sheer size and mass of the vehicles, further delay will throw a spanner in the works and be detrimental to achieving “Vision Zero” and result in fatal consequences for road safety.