The impact of 7-hour and 11-hour rest breaks between shifts on heavy vehicle truck drivers’ sleep, alertness and naturalistic driving performance

Jennifer M. Cori, Luke A. Downey, Tracey L. Sletten, Caroline J. Beatty, Brook A. Shiferaw, Shamsi Shekari Soleimanloo, Sophie Turner, Aqsa Naqvi, Maree Barnes, Jonny Kuo, Michael G. Lenné, Clare Anderson, Andrew J. Tucker, Alexander P. Wolkow, Anna Clark, Shantha M.W. Rajaratnam, Mark E. Howard

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: An inadequate rest break between shifts may contribute to driver sleepiness. This study assessed whether extending the major rest break between shifts from 7-hours (Australian industry standard) to 11-hours, improved drivers’ sleep, alertness and naturalistic driving performance. Methods: 17 heavy vehicle drivers (16 male) were recruited to complete two conditions. Each condition comprised two 13-hour shifts, separated by either a 7- or 11-hour rest break. The initial 13-hour shift was the drivers’ regular work. The rest break and following 13-hour shift were simulated. The simulated shift included 5-hours of naturalistic driving with measures of subjective sleepiness, physiological alertness (ocular and electroencephalogram) and performance (steering and lane departures). Results: 13 drivers provided useable data. Total sleep during the rest break was greater in the 11-hour than the 7-hour condition (median hours [25th to 75th percentile] 6.59 [6.23, 7.23] vs. 5.07 [4.46, 5.38], p = 0.008). During the simulated shift subjective sleepiness was marginally better for the 11-hour condition (mean Karolinska Sleepiness Scale [95th CI] = 4.52 [3.98, 5.07] vs. 5.12 [4.56, 5.68], p = 0.009). During the drive, ocular and vehicle metrics were improved for the 11-hour condition (p<0.05). Contrary to expectations, mean lane departures p/hour were increased during the 11-hour condition (1.34 [−0.38,3.07] vs. 0.63 [−0.2,1.47], p = 0.027). Conclusions: Extending the major rest between shifts substantially increases sleep duration and has a modest positive impact on driver alertness and performance. Future work should replicate the study in a larger sample size to improve generalisability and assess the impact of consecutive 7-hour major rest breaks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106224
Number of pages13
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Driving
  • Ocular alertness
  • Shift scheduling
  • Shift work
  • Sleepiness
  • Vigilance

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