The Health and Conduct of a HGV Driver

The Health and Conduct of a HGV Driver

Accidents, generally occur due the lack of concentration and distraction of a driver, along with failure to observe the rules of the road. To find out more about the rules of the road, read the latest version of the Official Highway Code.

To minimise the possibility of accidents happening a well qualified HGV Driver should have sufficient knowledge of what specific health issues are a hazard when driving their vehicles.

Main Health Issues that Affect Driving

You will be surprised that even simple illnesses can affect a driver’s reaction. If you have or feel that you are likely to suffer from the following, please think how they will affect your driving skills and awareness:

  • Hay fever
  • A common cold
  • Tiredness
  • Flu symptoms

There has been numerous studies that have been undertaken by the Department for Transport that have examined the effects of fatigue and sleep related vehicle incidents (SRVIs). Evidence has shown that SRVIs are prevalent in 40% of incidents and are normally with commercial vehicles. SRVI are more likely to result in serious injury than an average road incident, simply because they normally involve running off the road or into the back of another vehicle and are worsened because of the fact that there is no pre-emptive braking involved beforehand.

Studies have shown that the peak time for an incident is between 2am and 7 am, as this is when our body’s natural body clock is in its daily trough. Although there is a smaller window where drivers have shown to be less alert and that is between 2pm to 4pm (this is the ideal time for a nap to occur).

If you feel yourself feeling sleepy on a long journey, try to find a safe place to stop before you get to the stage whereby you are fighting sleep and take a nap. The most effective countermeasure known is actually to consume 2 cups of coffee, then take a small nap if you are feeling sleepy. The caffeine in the coffee will take about 30 minutes to work into your blood stream and by that time your brain  will had have had a short nap. Remember this should be only considered as a temporary measure and the best way would be to pull over and find somewhere to sleep for the night.

NB – fatigue can lead to reduced reaction times and will impair your concentration. Before you start your shifts make sure you have had plenty of sleep and make sure you take your scheduled breaks  and try to take more rest time on a journey than is required by law.

Falling Asleep While Driving

A high proportion of vehicle accidents occur when drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, especially when driving on a motorway that resonates monotonous driving conditions.

When driving an HGV on motorways, be aware of boredom when driving at night. Always:

  • Try to keep fresh air circulating in the driving area
  • Avoid driving when less than 100% fit.
  • Avoid driving after a particularly heavy meal
  • Take planned rest breaks
  • Try to stop the cabin area of your HGV getting too warm

The introduction of the following into Heavy Goods Vehicles

  • Air suspension on vehicles
  • More widely adapted soundproofing materials
  • Smoother and quieter diesel engines
  • Air-suspension driver’s seats
  • Floating cab suspension

Has effectively made the drivers cabin of most modern HGV drivers a perfect environment to doze off when driving, which can easily cause tiredness.

Shift work has been shown to be blamed for an increase in the tiredness of found in truck drivers, in the long term working shifts will damage your natural body clock, so try and take all precautions to avoid continuously working in shifts with insufficient rest time in between each shift.


If you are driving for well-known multi-national companies you may find that you will be subjected to random drug tests and that if any of the following drugs are found in your blood stream there will be instant dismissal:

  • Amphetamines
  • Methaqualone (sleeping pills)
  • Propoxyphene
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Phencyclidine (angel dust)
  • Benzodiazepine (tranquillizers)
  • Methylamphetamines (MDMA)
  • Barbiturates (sleeping pills)
  • Morphine/codeine

If these drugs had been taken for medicinal purposes, be aware that it may take at least 72 hours for the drugs to leave your blood stream.


This rule is so simple when driving all vehicles, as it should now be treated as law:

If you plan on driving anywhere, then you do not drink any alcoholic substance

The current law states that it is an offence to drive with:

  •  A breath alcohol level greater than 35µg per 100ml.
  • A blood alcohol level greater than 80mg per 100ml.

Remember that if you are caught driving an ordinary motor vehicle and your breath or blood levels of alcohol breach the current laws, then you will be banned for driving both normal cars and any heavy goods vehicle and this will mean your losing your job.

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