Overtime: To do it or not to do it?

Lorry drivers are urged to give extra thought about doing overtime in the run up to Christmas. Many companies have admitted they have a driver shortage and a number of major retailers have already publicly admitted that they will struggle to meet demand over the Christmas period. Therefore, overtime seems a very lucrative proposition.

The well publicised driver shortage will force many companies to offer or ask drivers to do overtime in the run up to Christmas. However, is the extra money worth it?

Andrew Drewary CMILT, Consultant Accident Analyst, working on behalf of 3Sixty Fleet Solutions says; ‘That is the question that many lorry drivers have to ask themselves when their employer asks them to do overtime; given the additional pressure and health & safety risks involved in working the extra hours. No matter how lucrative it may be.’

The offer of overtime provides numerous obvious benefits to both the driver and the employer at this time of year. However, how much consultation is there between the drivers and their employer before the overtime schedule is agreed, in order to mitigate the obvious risks presented?

With most drivers working a ‘4 on and 4 off’ shift pattern, deciding when to work overtime within their normal shift pat-tern is the single most important decision to make. The drivers likely to be affected the most by doing overtime are those who work night shifts.

If there is a break in their shift pattern the risks increase considerably. A driver having a night off following their ‘4 nights on’ before going back on the road to work a fifth night out of six has a dilemma. How do they manage their routine for the night off and ensure they are fit to work the extra shift? Al-so, when they attend for their extra shift, how does their employer know they are fit for work?

Although they will have had an ex-tended rest period between shifts, get-ting enough and a proportionate amount of sleep during this period is paramount.

Drewary says: ‘Driver tiredness is the single biggest risk presented by doing overtime. This is not only a risk to the driver themselves but to every other road user. The consequences of this are massive and cannot be understated. The are driver and their employer should always have an overtime plan in place weeks; if not months in advance so when the time comes everyone is properly pre-pared.’

So when is the best time to ask a driver to do overtime when working a week of nights? The night preceding or the night succeeding the driver’s normal shift pat-tern should work best. This allows the driver to continue with their normal personal routine without any difficulty and ensure they have enough sleep between shifts to stay alert.

Drewary continues: ‘Overtime presents numerous opportunities and benefits for all parties but the employer has to take overall control of the situation. Meeting the demands of their customers is essential at this time of year. However, they have a Corporate Responsibility too. This does not only extend to their employee but to the wider public. Failing to meet these responsibilities could have catastrophic consequences and would be devastating for all involved.’

Regardless of the length of the overtime period and fitting the additional shifts into the driver’s normal shift pattern; what else can be done to mitigate the potential risks? Employers should encourage drivers to report issues of tiredness immediately and carry out ‘Driver Tiredness Surveys’.

The surveys should be carried out regularly and on a ‘without prejudice’ basis to understand the causes. There are a number of reasons that could cause tiredness. They could be work related or personal issues and understanding the reasons will help employers under-stand their drivers better. Any issues highlighted can then be tackled reactively in the first instance and then lead to pro-active measures being implemented.