Just as contractors and truckers in Northern B.C. are gearing up to deliver their inventory, another January thaw interrupts their plans. With the warmer winters we have experienced over the past few years, it’s a scenario that can occur just about anywhere in Canada’s North. It results in the need to move millions of metres of wood, but in fewer days than originally scheduled. It’s a situation that may tempt some log haulers to test their resilience and push the limits of fatigue. Before you consider travelling that road, there are a few things worth knowing about fatigue, its effects, ways to recognize it, and what you can do to manage it.
What is Fatigue?
Fatigue is a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, task monotony, boredom, or lack of sleep. Log haulers put in long, hard days (and nights), often according to irregular schedules and frequented by a number of physical and emotional stressors, so it’s quite reasonable to expect there are a number of ways fatigue can figure in a trucker’s world.

Acute and Cumulative Sleep Loss:  Everyone’s sleep needs are unique, but 90% of us require 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep per day to perform optimally. Acute sleep loss occurs when an individual receives less than their usual 7.5 to 8.5 hours within a 24-hour period. Cumulative sleep loss occurs over several days. For example, if you lose one hour of sleep each night, after five days, you have a sleep debt of five hours. Recovery from sleep debt does not require hour-for-hour pay back – two nights of good rest will often reduce accumulated sleep debt to zero.

Continuous Hours Worked:  Studies indicate that 16 to 18 hours of continuous wakefulness is associated with significantly reduced performance and alertness. So, if you’re pushing along a 13- or 14-hour shift, you also need to add in commuting time to and from work, wrenching time and other lifestyle commitments that are part of your day.

Circadian Rhythms: Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to key environmental stimuli – primarily light and dark. Circadian rhythms describe the cycles of our internal clock, which controls the timing of physiological activities such as thermo-regulation, immune function and digestion, as well as performance, alertness, and mood. We function best with traditional patterns of daytime wakefulness and nighttime sleep, with periods of reduced activity (i.e., decreased performance and alertness) between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., as well as 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. To the extent that your driver is working during darkness, and trying to sleep in during daylight hours, they are confusing their natural body rhythms, accumulating fatigue and reducing human performance.

Sleep disorders: Sleep apnea, insomnia, bruxism (grinding of the teeth), night terrors, and others – impact quality of sleep significantly. Poor quality of sleep is directly linked to fatigue and the associated decreased alertness.

What Does Fatigue Do?
On the statistics side, The Canadian Trucking Association reports that 30% to 40% of collisions in the heavy truck industry in North America are related to fatigue. The National Transportation Safety Board has estimated that fatigue is related to 31% of fatal truck crashes. The fall-out from fatigue damages many truckers and their families, and it incurs huge costs to employers and the log hauling industry as a whole.

On an individual basis, fatigue contributes to the following:

  • Decreased awareness, reduced alertness – Mental alertness is a measure of our ability to perceive – see, hear, smell – a stimulus.  Fatigue dulls our senses, and slows our ability to take in and process critical information.
  • Diminished judgment – As we continuously receive stimuli, we need to select which ones to pay attention to, and what to do about them. Fatigue reduces our ability to “make the right call.”
  • Impaired ability to respond to stimuli – Fatigue simply results in a slower reaction time; it’s the difference between a thankful near miss and a costly fender bender.  In worse situations, fatigued operators have totally failed to respond to a stimulus – didn’t see it, didn’t hear it, and made no reaction to avoid the moose, or the school bus.
  • Reduced human performance in the areas of problem-solving abilities, mental arithmetic, cognitive reasoning and manual dexterity.
  • Reduced ability to judge distance, speed, and time.
  • Forgetting or ignoring normal checks or procedures, and inaccurate recall of operational events.

A recent study found that fatigue depreciates one’s ability to correctly comprehend situations. It can cause us to be physiologically unable to conceive a negative outcome. Drivers can be so tired they can’t see the hazards and can’t understand how they can translate to an incident.  Seeing no possibility of a negative consequence causes further erratic behaviour. It can be like invincibility... on Red Bull. And that can be a lethal driving attitude.

How Can You Identify Fatigue?
There are a variety of clues that provide physical evidence of a fatigued driver.

  • Frequent yawning, heavy eyelids, long blinks, head nodding, slumping or leaning posture.
  • Fidgeting, feeling irritable, bored or depressed, and daydreaming.
  • Inability to remember the last few kilometres.
  • Difficulty concentrating or carrying on a conversation.
  • Tailgating, drifting over the centre line or on to the shoulder.
  • Varying vehicle speed for no apparent reason.
  • Misjudging or miscalculating traffic situations.
  • Seeing things “jump out” along the road, being surprised by roadside events or features.

Increasingly, there are electronic devices employed to identify and monitor fatigue. Most use one of two approaches – measuring eye, eyelid or head movements plus other physiological changes (for example, gaze tracking), or driver performance as measured by vehicle movements (for example, track steering inputs, lateral movements, following distance, etc.). Some larger fleets are using a few of these products and finding them helpful particularly when linked to GPS technologies – letting a dispatcher in Calgary know when their driver in Fort St. John seems to be nodding off, and enabling them to send the driver a message.

Seeing Machines offers one such product, the DSS suite, which uses face tracking techniques to deliver information on operator fatigue and operator distraction.

How Can You Manage Fatigue?
About now you’re probably thinking, “So what, I am like every other trucker. Fatigue is simply part of my world.” You’re right. In one survey of B.C. truckers, including log haulers, 100% acknowledged they have driven their truck while fatigued. But they also recognized that it was a key variable that’s in their control. Here are a few of the tools you can use to manage fatigue.

Optimize Sleep Opportunities
Managing your sleep schedule around the clock will make an enormous difference to your susceptibility to drowsiness. Tips for sleeping better include:

  • Aim to achieve seven or eight hours of quality sleep out of every 24-hour cycle.
  • Catch up on sleep during the weekend.
  • Try to maintain consistent wake-up and bed times each workday.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and the curtains closed to keep out light.
  • Create a consistent pre-bed routine during which you wind down and relax.
  • Create a quiet and comfortable sleep environment.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day.
  • Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid.

Nap When You Need To
Napping is one of the most effective ways to combat drowsiness. When planning a nap during your shift, remember:

  • Power naps of 15-30 minutes seem most helpful in overcoming drowsiness.
  • Don’t exceed this duration unless there is time for a full sleep cycle, in which case a 1.5- to two-hour nap is recommended.

Allow at least 10-15 minutes after waking up to fully recover alertness before starting to drive.

Work With Your Natural Circadian Rhythms
These are physical, mental and behavioural changes – body temperature, hormone secretion, metabolism, and sleep patterns – that occur on roughly a 24-hour cycle. Each of us is more or less hard-wired around a 24-hour cycle and is stimulated by environmental cues – primarily light and dark.

Inattention due to fatigue occurs more frequently when drivers work through the night in opposition to their body’s normal circadian rhythm. If we are “programmed” to be more active and alert during daylight hours, it makes sense to try to arrange your day to make the most of available daylight. There are only about eight hours of daylight during northern winters. Getting up at 10 p.m. and getting done at noon means you’re doing more than 70% of your work when your body thinks it should be asleep. Sure, someone has to load first, and being lead dog has its benefits, but if the scales were open a couple hours later to accommodate the last truck, would that enable you to sleep in until midnight, and then do only 50% of your job in the dark?

Identify and Manage Sleep Disorders
If your significant other is complaining about your increasingly loud snoring, it’s probably time to check with your doctor for a second opinion. Sleep apnea is common. A 2002 study of 3.4 million U.S. truckers found that about 26% of them were suffering from some form of sleep apnea. A more recent Pennsylvania study found that sleep apnea impacts some 35% of those truckers. 

Fortunately, there are effective techniques to identify and overcome sleep apnea and other disorders. A few large trucking companies have funded significant internal initiatives, and found the investment is paying back big dividends – particularly “reduced crash frequency and severity” in their fleets. Insurance companies are also beginning to pay attention to the relationship between sleep disorders and crashes, and are considering both positive and negative incentives to urge truckers and trucking companies to grapple with sleep disorders.  

If you would like to learn more about sleep disorders, talk to your doctor. You can also check out a variety of organizations or websites such as the BC Lung Association (http://www.lung.ca/diseases-maladies/apnea-apnee_e.php).

Healthy Lifestyle
Like your rig, your body needs a good supply of quality fuel to be at its best. That means a well-balanced diet of wholesome carbohydrates, proteins and a few fats delivered over the course of your day. Start with a good breakfast. Feed the machine during the day. A small snack of fruits and vegetables every two hours has been shown to help log haulers avoid fatigue and speed their reaction time (learn more about this study and the Fit to Drive program through the BC Forest Safety Council).  

Although it’s far better to get required vitamins and minerals through a healthy diet, if you are coming up short, consider a multi-vitamin supplement to maintain the balance. Keep hydrated, and choose water over energy drinks laced with sugars and other nasty chemicals that leave you feeling crashed out. Find a way to squeeze in exercise each day – a few sit-ups when you check your brakes, a stroll while you wait to load or unload, a few stretches as you get in and out of the truck, a few flexes as you drive down the road – it all helps avoid fatigue, and keeps you sharp.

Run Quality Equipment
When your days are already long, time spent fixing things at the shop or on the side of the road usually translates to a missed trip, or fewer hours of sleep.  Checking your equipment daily provides the opportunity to identify and repair little things before they become costly big things. And when you are running an effective preventive maintenance program, you will probably sleep better knowing your equipment is consistently up to the demands of hauling logs.  

Flexible Scheduling
Try rotating the loading order. Because it seems the first few trucks have a smoother day than the last few trucks, this gives everyone a shot at finishing their 13-hour day in 13 hours, rather than 15, or 16.  If the last few trucks are always the same drivers, their longer days translate to rapid fatigue accumulation. And that can
become your problem – what if that tired driver misses your “Down at 13” call, and you both wind up in the weeds?

Be Realistic
Hours of service rules and regulations are based on study after study that suggests 14 hours is a long enough day. Beyond that the likelihood of a costly error increases significantly. Plan your work so you can maximize your productivity without exceeding your limit. 

Knowing the signs and consequences of driving while fatigued seems to not be enough for all drivers and employers to manage it effectively – there are plenty of knowledgeable operators who still choose to drive while drowsy. Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators research found that perhaps the largest determinant in making that decision can be traced back to the macro-ergonomics of the industry – the pay structure, shipper requirements, receiver requirements, company policies ­ which seem to work against truckers getting a good night’s rest. Surely there are things that individual truckers can do to manage fatigue in their work day, but there are also ways industry can demonstrate its safety leadership, and contribute to a resilient and reliable log-hauling industry.

Consider ways in which your shipping or receiving requirements can be adjusted without detrimentally impacting your facility’s needs. Can adjusting scale hours help?  Lengthy delays in the mill yard are probably not passed directly on to your firm. But, over time, drivers recognize they are incurring time and effort for which they are not being paid, and the eyes of high-calibre drivers start to wander to other employers eager to attract and retain them. Can your competitive advantage be superior planning that helps your contractors achieve adequate phase separation so that they don’t have to load out first round before the processor starts at 5 a.m.? Can we help co-ordinate trucks among contractors so that everyone gets a 12- to 14-hour day, rather than some working a nine-hour day, and others working a 16-hour? Can an integrated dispatching system be employed to help truckers do what they do best without compromising their fatigue limits? The forest industry has done an admirable job of optimizing sawmill processes, so it is highly likely that we can co-operate to realize similarly advantageous efficiencies in the fibre procurement side.

An effective fatigue management strategy has responsibilities and rewards for each of us – drivers, owners, licensees, shippers and receivers.  It’s not realistic to place the responsibility only on the shoulders of log haulers. Certainly, there are key steps that truckers can and should take to manage their workday to ensure that fatigue does not contribute to a costly error. There are also opportunities and accountabilities for industry leaders to search for ways to design, or redesign, the systems within which log haulers operate, to contribute to their individual success, and to ensure a log-hauling community that will deliver logs safely, and sustainably ... in spite of the January thaw.


Rick Walters is director of transportation safety at the BC Forest Safety Council. He researched and produced this article for Canadian Forest Industries.

The great popularity of pickup trucks in Canada can be traced directly to the nature of business we do in this wide, vast country. Primary industries like forestry, mining, farming and construction, and the businesses affiliated with these sectors, are widespread and demand the use of trucks – but we all know it goes deeper than that. For so many people over the decades, pickups have been both work vehicles and a means of personal transportation and Canadians have grown to love them for the flexibility they offer. 

This duality of purpose is the key reason the Canadian Truck King Challenge evaluates trucks under loaded, harsh conditions – because that’s the way you use them.

This Year’s Winner
So, first off, let me congratulate the folks at Ram, whose 2012 Ram 1500 was selected as the winner of the Fifth Annual Canadian Truck King Challenge.  Now, let me tell you why.

The Big Three all had trucks in this year’s challenge, along with entries from Toyota and Nissan.

What we concentrated on first for 2012 was evaluating those half-ton pickups that fill the bulk of the market. We had pickups from the veteran three – Ford, GM and Chrysler, as well as the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan, which are two trucks that very much want to be thought of as North American. Next we set up a full tow test to work the trucks. Now, we always tow, but this year thanks to partnering with Campkins RV Centre, we were able to secure five travel trailers, each with a net weight of right around 8,000 lb., and do all our towing back to back at the same time. To be dead fair to all of the truck competitors, we also borrowed five brand-new equalizing hitches from Equal-i-zer. These spread the load across the chassis of each truck and achieved a level attitude for each entire rig regardless of the various wheelbase lengths.  

This aspect of a pickup’s ability has become more and more important in recent years as (according to manufacturer stats) the number of owners who tow regularly has increased right across the country – in fact, most consumers will have noted that manufacturers regularly advertise the weight-bearing abilities of their vehicles; limits that also seem to go higher and higher each year.  I chose 8,000 lb. as I knew each truck could handle it (according to its published specifications), yet this weight approached the upper limits set by the truck companies. Four tons is not peanuts and how a truck tows reveals a lot about its overall chassis and powertrain performance.

The Challengers
Our five competitors this year were:

  • 2011 Ford F-150, Crew Cab, 4WD, Platinum, 3.5L EcoBoost V6, six-speed automatic – MSRP $64,449
  • 2012 Toyota Tundra, Double Cab, 4WD, TRD Off-road Package, 5.7L i-Force V8, six-speed automatic – MSRP $43,975
  • 2012 Nissan Titan, 4-door Cab, 4WD, SL CC, 5.6L V8, five-speed automatic – MSRP $52,228
  • 2012 Ram 1500, Crew Cab, 4WD, Laramie, 5.7L Hemi V8, six-speed automatic – MSRP $54,825
  • 2012 GMC Sierra 1500, Crew Cab, 4WD, SLE, Vortec 5.3L V8 (w/active fuel management), six-speed automatic – MSRP $52,915

These trucks were picked by the manufacturers. They chose engines, transmissions, trim packages and the drivetrain. They also chose how they were equipped and what price range they fell into. They know what tests we run and spec the trucks to their advantage (however they see that advantage).

All of our test trucks were 2012 models, except the Ford, which was a 2011; though a 2012 would have had no substantial changes from the truck we did test.

Our Judges
The judges for this year’s competition were average Canadian truck owners. Men and women just like our readers. Ed C is a serving Royal Canadian Air Force warrant officer with years of pickup and towing experience. Ed D is a 30-year veteran Toronto Transit Commission driver with his own RV towing history.  Matt E, a 20-something driver for waste management has driven trucks and towed since he was first licensed. 

Of course, there is me (it is my event, after all) and Jil Macintosh, an automotive journalist for the Toronto Star newspaper. Jil has been helping me judge trucks since the first Challenge back in ’06.

We five drivers cycled through the five trucks and trailers over a 300-kilometre route that included a long portion of hilly terrain up through Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands, in torrential rain, no less (we call this the “Truck King Curse” as we have never had dry weather for the Challenge), and with grades of up to 9%.

A full day was spent towing these trailers on main and secondary roads – with a final section of highway where speeds of at least 100 km/h were maintained. After returning the trailers, we re-fuelled and calculated real-world towing fuel consumption. And that was just our first 10-hour day.

Something else new this year was the spreading of the pain during testing. Wives, girlfriends and one husband accompanied the judges and they were more than vocal in adding their opinions and observations to those of the drivers – plus they got stuck making all of the notes.  

The second morning, the rain stopped for a while and we headed to RoofMart in Oshawa, Ont., where we picked up pallets of roof shingles, supplied by IKO, and drove a 200-kilometre route with this 1,800-lb. payload on each of the trucks. We kept track of the fuel consumption during this test as well.  

Finally, we drove the trucks empty for 150 kilometres and finished with an off-road section that unfortunately was
interrupted by an Act of God this year. The abandoned Colonization Road I use, near Head Lake, Ont., was blocked by downed trees. Too bad, because it’s a very nasty, muddy bit of off-road terrain.

So as darkness closed in on our second long day of testing, the judges agreed that because we weren’t able to cycle everyone through the pickups in the equal time allotments needed, the off-road criteria would not be scored and we dropped the category from this year’s winning calculation. 

The following graphs reflect the actual scores awarded by the judges (three categories – 0-10), and their personal overall choices (first through fifth). We have our opinions and you’ll have yours, but we feel that we have come by these honestly, and we share them with our readers here.


 Howard Elmer is a truck and ATV writer living in rural Ontario. He produced this report for Canadian Forest Industries.

After being crowned the winner in the HD version of the Canadian Truck King Challenge in the fall of 2010, I asked GM to provide me with a truck for long-term testing and in January they obliged. This would be the 2011 HD Chevrolet Silverado, a truck that just last year was completely overhauled – starting with the chassis and working up to the engine packages. Over the six months, I put 14,000 km on the truck. It went back with 27,000 km on the engine. It had one oil change while I had it (now due for another) and I’ve had to add DEF (diesel emissions fluid).

In 2008, in the face of a global economic meltdown, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) made the decision to axe the Sterling truck brand. It also decided, after much scrutiny, not only to save Western Star from the guillotine but also to inject some cash into the brand and give it a dedicated team of engineers and marketers.

Sometimes small is beautiful. That certainly rings true when it comes to live logging events like DEMO International. The more action and gear you can pack into a tight loop, the better for everyone.

Maybe Kermit the Frog had it right when he said “it’s not easy being green.” Certainly, log haulers would have to agree after several rounds of government-driven, emissions-related up-charges have jacked up the costs of new trucks while offering little in return in the way of improved reliability or performance.
The first of three rounds with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-related technological changes came in 2002, when all engine manufacturers but Caterpillar adopted exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Caterpillar, for its part, came out with its own technology dubbed ACERT, and even though it spent several years and millions of dollars looking at EGR, the company decided to stay on its own path.

There are few applications, if any, that are more gruelling for commercial truck tires than logging. And so you could forgive a logger for being cynical about the reliability and practicality of retreads. But what highway fleets have learned, and some off-road fleets as well, is that there’s simply no more effective way to reduce your tire costs than by investing in brand name tires and getting multiple uses out of the casings.

For 2011, the Canadian Truck King Challenge was a heavy duty event that took advantage of the fact that three Detroit builders each unveiled a new Heavy Duty pickup truck in the past year: a rare occurrence. These trucks – the Chevy Silverado HD, Ford Super Duty and Ram HD – were each delivered as crew cab diesel-powered versions. The three were similar in most respects and the tests were conducted back to back and all on the same day. As always, we tested at our private IronWood test facility near Head Lake, Ont.

With a mandate to promote education within the forest industry, the PLC show in Oregon gave school kids a good look at career opportunities.

Not to diminish the difficulties Canada’s forest industry is currently facing, but if you think you’ve got it rough, talk to one of your truckers. In addition to dealing with all the recessionary challenges that are currently facing forest companies, truckers have their own issues to contend with.

Just under two months before the doors open for the Resources Expo in Prince George, B.C., all indications are that the three-day event will be a major success.
The show, which will run from June 3 to 5, is the first event to place all of the province’s central and northern major resource industries under one roof. The show will also include a face-to-face job opportunity and training component.

It takes just a few minutes of sitting across the desk from Deon Hamlyn in the circa 1920s building that houses the offices of Kruger’s Corner Brook Pulp and Paper (CBPP) mill in western Newfoundland to discover how passionate he is about productivity and machine utilization in the woods. A few more minutes with Hamlyn, who is one of the division’s logging operations superintendents, and he is pulling electronic components and mobile satellite devices out of a storage cupboard to illustrate the progression of electronic datalogger equipment that has been developed over the years by the FERIC Division of FPInnovations.

There’s something just a little different about Millson Forestry Service in Timmins, Ont. Maybe it’s the warm and friendly greeting you get from Nikita, the rescued shepherd cross who hangs out in the warmth of the office all day, or it might be the laid back, nothing is too much trouble sentiment you glean from Sue and Dave Millson, the husband and wife team who run the company.

The most stringent emissions standards ever for heavy-duty diesel engines are just around the corner, and they’ll be accompanied by a hefty price increase. Over the past couple of months, truck makers have been announcing 2010 pricing, and if you haven’t been paying attention you could be in for a real case of sticker shock when it’s time to replace your ride.

Canada’s forest industry literally consumes pickup trucks; they are tools and they have to work. That’s why truck buyers across the country have followed the Canadian Truck King Challenge with interest over the past three years – it tests trucks the way they are used – in the field. And that is always of interest to commercial and private buyers alike. Also many of these rigs do double duty. In fact, companies like Ford have estimated that as much as 25% of its SuperDuty trucks also serve as tow vehicles for RVers, boaters, snowmobilers and the equine crowd. Not to mention how many half-tons also haul groceries.

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