EXPERT VIEW: RTITB – Deliveries in the Darkness

Richard Brewer, National Register of LGV Instructors (NRI) Manager at RTITB looks at the issue of night time deliveries in this Expert View article.

The consumer market demands their goods with haste. Next day deliveries and even same day deliveries are no longer a privilege or a ‘one off’, but are instead becoming the norm. But how many of us consider the work going on behind the scenes that makes these superfast deliveries happen?

Without drivers working through the night, these high demands would be impossible to meet. But there are many positives to night time deliveries that extend beyond customer satisfaction. In the main, the environmental and financial benefits are the real positives that come out of night time deliveries; the more delivery drivers at night, the less there are during the day which contributes to less traffic congestion, fewer emissions, and better fuel efficiency for both commercial and private drivers. But we must ensure that these benefits don’t come at the cost of the driver’s safety.

Whilst humans are incredibly adaptable, research shows that we are not designed to be permanently nocturnal, and no matter how much a night-shift worker tries, they will never fully adjust. Sleeping during the day is not as restorative as sleeping at night. Light exposure, warmer temperatures and daytime noise are all contributing factors to this. And fatigue, as we know, plays a huge part in road accidents in the UK. In fact, about 40% of fatigue-related crashes involve commercial vehicle drivers. This statistic alone is surely evidence enough that our industry must consider the causes and effects of fatigue before we put our drivers out on the road at night.

We know that our eyesight is impaired in darkness; our abilities to see colours and into the distance are reduced, and our ability to judge speed and distance is also impaired. This, coupled with an already exhausted driver creates an even higher risk, not just to the driver’s safety, but to other road users’ safety too. These longer reaction times increase the risk of collisions, particularly with vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, whose lights are often small, and in some cases, non-existent.

Driver and other road users aside, noise pollution is another factor that both the industry and consumers should take into consideration. Would we compromise on our next day deliveries if we knew we would be woken up to the sound of trucks loading and unloading at 4am? Perhaps, but it’s important to remember that noise pollution isn’t just an annoyance, it’s a serious issue with the potential to impact our long-term health – stress, fatigue, hearing loss and vertigo are but a few examples.

Thankfully, manufacturers are always producing new technology to help us reduce noise pollution, such as quieter tail-lifts and silent doors. Any haulage firm looking to implement night time deliveries should make working with manufacturers and local authorities a priority in order to help manage their operational noise pollution.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, and as discussed earlier, there are many benefits to night time deliveries, but to combat the risks we impose on our drivers we must communicate with them. The driver is at the heart of the night time delivery debate and it is up to our industry to work with them to establish safer procedures in the future. Ultimately, the drivers know better than anyone what’s at risk during night time deliveries.

RTITB will be discussing this topic further in the Motor Transport Workshop at 8:30. 

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