Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Are Professional Drivers Less Sleepy Than Non-Professional Drivers?

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Are Professional Drivers Less Sleepy Than Non-Professional Drivers?

Article excerpt

It is well known that many drivers experience driver fatigue, a condition that causes crashes and results in severe injuries and fatalities (1-3). Increased risks have been reported when driving at night or in the early morning hours (2, 4, 5) for young drivers (6, 7) and shift workers driving home after a night shift (8, 9). Driving when sleepy impairs driving performance and causes deteriorated lateral and longitudinal control of the vehicle (10-13). With increased levels of sleepiness, these deteriorations become increasingly severe and will eventually lead to lane departures (14). However, even in the case of known risk groups, there are large differences between individuals (13, 15).

One individual factor may be status as a professional driver. It is generally believed that professional drivers can manage quite severe fatigue before routine driving performance is affected (16). There are also results indicating that professional drivers can adapt to prolonged night shifts and may be able to learn to drive without decreased performance under high levels of sleepiness (17). Susceptibility to acute sleep loss has been found to be systematic and trait-like, with some people being more resistant to the effects of sleep loss than others (18). If this is true, individuals choosing to work in industries requiring shift work or long work hours may be less susceptible to the effects of sleep loss, whereas those who are more vulnerable to sleep loss choose to leave the industry (19). Still, both truck and bus drivers show high risks of sleepiness-related crashes (20-22), but this may mainly be due to extreme conditions with combinations of sleepiness inducing factors such as long work hours, chronic partial sleep deprivation, shift work, and sleep disorders (23, 24). In a laboratory study, professional and non-professional drivers were kept awake for 24 hours, showing the same susceptibility to sleep deprivation for both groups (19). Very little research has been conducted to compare professionals and nonprofessionals when controlling for differences in hours being awake and time driven looking at the consequence of sleepiness and performance.

The overall aim of this study was to use a driving simulator to investigate whether professional drivers are more resistant to sleep deprivation than non-professional drivers, but also to see if the former perform better under high level of sleepiness. The differences in the development of sleepiness (self-reported, physiological, and behavioral) during driving were investigated among young professional and non-professional drivers. This includes differences in performance (speed and line crossings) between the groups on the same level of self-reported sleepiness. The two groups were prepared in the same way 72 hours before arrival, kept awake for the same number of hours, and experienced the same time driving during both the day and night.



In total 30 participants (15 professional and 15 nonprofessional drivers) were randomly selected from the Swedish register of vehicle owners. In order to avoid confounding with known factors sensitive to sleepiness the following inclusion criteria were used: age (young drivers 19-25 years old), gender (males), not working only night shifts, chronotype (preferable self-reported evening types), body mass index <30, no hearing aid, no sleep disorders, no extremes in terms of self-reported personalities (extrovert or introvert), self-reported normal sensitivity to stressful situations. Professional drivers were classified as those driving a heavy vehicle as a profession. Taxi drivers were excluded. Due to practical problems, 4 professional drivers were excluded, leaving a total of 11 professional drivers and 15 non-professional drivers for analysis. The reason for exclusion was that one moved, one divorced and two did not manage to come all six visits due to working in another city.

The drivers answered a background questionnaire describing their health and sleepiness status, where answers were given on a 5-graded scale from 1=never to 5=always. …

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