So I had this extremely interesting discussion with Dean Croke, VP of Omnitracs Analytics, about a month ago regarding how sleep, fatigue, regulations, and operations strategy all impact trucking safety.
And one of the simple yet most surprising points he made to me centered on this salient fact: every hour of the day is decidedly “unequal” in terms of human productivity, but it rarely gets factored into the metrics guiding this industry.
“We have this unrealistic 24 hour clock that assumes 100% performance efficiency for each hour; that’s just ludicrous,” Croke (seen above) stressed to me.
“The reality is that people need to decrease performance expectations during many of those hours, especially the nocturnal ones,” he explained. “When the sun goes down, our bodies are primed to sleep, because the human brain is designed to sleep at night. Yet most fleets especially assume that every hour is the same in terms of driver productivity, whereas during certain hours – again, especially those at night – there’s increasingly low productivity.”
Even in the office environment, where the most dangerous thing workers do all day is pilot PCs on desks, there’s widespread acknowledgement that productivity waxes and wanes on an almost hourly basis.
For example, a recent survey of office workers by JobBuzz.in – billed as an “employee-to-employee” web community operated by India’s TimesJobs.com – found that 65% said they were the most productive during the first two hours after reaching office, while 70% the two-hour post-lunch was the least productive.
Gender can impact hourly productivity as well, JobBuzz found.
Out of all the respondents to this survey, 56% were male and 44% were female. Yet while 88% of men said the first two hours of their “work day” proved the most productive, only 37% of the women concurred – largely because another 32% of those women said they were most productive in the two-hour period before lunch.
And while 70% of male respondents said the two hours after lunch were the least productive period, nearly 50% of female respondents said they were least productive during the last two hours of the office day.
Productivity waxes and wanes based on the day of the week, too, JobBuzz found. Take a look at some of these findings:
- Monday was the most productive day for 45% of respondents to JobBuzz’s survey, while for 19%, Wednesday is the most productive day. The least productive work day? Thursday.
- While 44% of the respondents worked five days a week, some 56% worked six days a week; and of those working six days, 17% said Saturday was the most productive day for work.
- For 50% of male respondents to JobBuzz’s poll, Monday is the most productive day while for 17% it is Wednesday. For 42% female employees, Monday, too, is most productive working day while for 21% it is Wednesday.
- Overall, 80% of employees in JobBuzz’s poll with 5 to 10 years as well as 10-plus years of experience said they are most productive on Monday. Yet there is a 50-50 split for entry-level employees, who felt either Monday or Wednesday were the most productive.
"While there are individual variations as far as productivity is concerned, the point is that more hours don't mean better work,” noted TimesJobs.com COO Vivek Madhukar.
“Everyone has 'that time of the day' when everything seems to fall in place and things just seem to flow,” he added. “To capitalize on this productive period one needs to prioritize strategically. The workplace environment, ergonomic factors, zeal and passion for the job all help to push up the duration of this productive period.”
Back in the trucking world, Omnitracs’ Croke echoes that view by calling for more “bio-compatible scheduling” in trucking.
“We actually need to ‘engineer in’ more specific human physiology to trucking operations not only to better manage productivity but more importantly to improve safety,” he explained. “Just because a driver gets 10 hours off does not necessarily mean they are rested and fully alert.”
Interestingly, Croke believes that a well-rested driver – one by fiat who obtains good, restorative sleep on a regular basis – can actually cover more miles during their given on-duty drive time versus a driver who isn’t rested.
“They can do more miles because they are not stopping at a rest area to get a nap because they fell tired, or pulling into a truck stop for coffee,” he noted.
Those are details worth considering as the industry continues its efforts to make the truck driving profession more attractive and more physiology friendly to the folks behind the wheel.