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Old 08-15-2019, 07:39 AM   #1
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Driver Fatigue

Before starting this thread I did a search of the forum and didn't come up with any discussions relating to driver fatigue. If I'm in fact duplicating or beating a dead horse, my apologies.

We (me, mostly) drive a 2012 Newmar Ventana 3433 and have been full time for around three months now. We've camped our way from Seattle to our current site in Interlochen Michigan.

We try to limit our days to two or three hours actual driving at the most. Even with that I find myself arriving at the campground fatigued and a bit wrung out.

So I started thinking about all that goes on while driving a 35 foot, 28,000 pound vehicle. A non-RV driver might think all one did was sit in big comfy leather seats while blissfully sailing down the road without a care in the world. I wish that were so...

Consider the multi-tasking involved:

Maintaining your scan of road, mirrors, gauges, navigation and back again. Maintaining lane position. Dealing with wind gusts, exits, turns, merging and "what was that sound?!?" Now add in small town streets. Traffic. Finding the campground entrance and finally getting parked.

No wonder fatigue becomes a factor.

My questions to the group are, what warning signs of fatigue do you notice? What strategies do you use to combat fatigue? Do you notice deterioration of driving skills?

We build in lunch stops at interstate rest stops or large empty parking lots. 30 minutes minimum. That seems to help, but still, by the end of the day its definitely martini time!


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Old 08-15-2019, 07:47 AM   #2
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Those are really short days, so you have some problem that most of us don't have. If your three months is the first experience you have had RVing, or driving large vehicles generally, maybe you are just in the learning curve. I'd say it took me a year or two before I really felt like a veteran. Things may get better with more experience. Maybe take a driving class?

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Old 08-15-2019, 07:55 AM   #3
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1) On days we know the drive will be worse, we shorten the planned distance/time.
2) We schedule 10-minute (minimum) rest stops every 60 to 90 minutes. We don't always take them, but they are in the plan.
3) My wife drives for at least an hour each day.
4) As far as signs of fatigue go. I find myself:
a) Shifting my hands on and off the steering wheel frequently (would be nice to have armrests that support my elbows, but they don't)
b) Shifting in the seat/slouching
c) Growing drowsy when not in traffic
d) Wandering (more than usual) in my lane
5) My wife has learned to interpret my body language and slight movements of the coach correctly, and will ask me if I am tired early in the progression. She's a gem in this regard!

Our metal box is only 31 feet long. I am glad we don't drive a longer one. It is definitely less fatiguing to drive without the toad.

The best guard against fatigue is not to schedule a long day's drive. Well, maybe second-best. The best is to get "real" sleep.
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:59 AM   #4
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It sounds like you have done a very good job of evaluating the responsibilities of driving a larger vehicle.
I certanly wish many that drive cars down the road were so attentive.

Keep enjoying your evening refreshment
And appreciate the full time 18 wheeler drivers responsibility 's

Keep doing what you are comfortable doing.
At least you want to be safe and keep others safe.

These drivers that are marathon drivers ???

14 to 18 hrs a day driving.

That can catch up with you.

Im not proud of it, but I drove those hours 40 some years ago.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:02 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by sbleiweiss View Post
Those are really short days, so you have some problem that most of us don't have. If your three months is the first experience you have had RVing, or driving large vehicles generally, maybe you are just in the learning curve. I'd say it took me a year or two before I really felt like a veteran. Things may get better with more experience. Maybe take a driving class?

I agree with above post. You should not be worn out after only 3 hours of driving your motor home under normal conditions. Learn not to be too apprehensive, and relax a little.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:05 AM   #6
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First and foremost, you drive this big beast different. My dad told me "Never take this rig somewhere you have not been before." This means preview the route with paper maps and earth view map software over breakfast and coffee with your nav. This alone alleviates lots of stress. Then relax, no hurry, right lane for the most part, passing few, being passed lots. Nav inputs are good, they should brief your big merges/exits/changes right before and as you make them. Trusting your nav is good. You don't exit much, you don't turn much, you don't merge much, you don't change lanes much. Follow that semi in front of you, leave a lot of reaction/brake space, if someone fills it, back off.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:05 AM   #7
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Hi Les,

A couple of thoughts for your consideration:

First, you mention that you've been full time for three months. How much prior motorhome driving experience do you have? If this is your "first rodeo", be reassured that mastering any new task demands much greater attention than performing that same task once it's mastered. The more you drive your coach, the easier and less fatiguing it will become.

Second, try to do as much drive preparation as possible the evening before your next drive. Thoroughly review your route. I've found Google Maps to be quite useful. For any of the "high anxiety" portions of the route, the Google Maps street level view gives you an opportunity to "pre-drive" any section of your route that might present a challenge. I find that helpful for seeing what the road looks like approaching fuel stops, campgrounds, etc. The next day, while driving, I almost have a feeling that "I've been here before."

Take care,
"A superior pilot is one who uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which might require the demonstration of his superior skills."
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:08 AM   #8
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Two or three hours just takes me to my first break, we tend to stop every two hours or thereabout. Our favorite place to go is 4 hours away, that's usually a non-stop trip (unless my bladder says otherwise), and we both arrive feeling fine and ready to go. A 6 hour day is 'nothing' for us, 12 hour days get kind of long, but I'm not worn out when we arrive or anything like that (I'm the only driver).
It seems to me that there is something else going on with your and/or your rig. Yes you need to be alert and watch all of the things you mentioned, but you shouldn't be TENSE doing it (you didn't say that you were). To me small town roads are effortless, somewhat enjoyable due to the things that can be seen (what I GET to see while watching out for the traffic).

You don't say how long you've owned our rig, or how long you've been driving one, but my GUESS is that you're fighting yourself, not the rig. Next time you're driving pay attention to how tense your muscles are, if you're not relaxed when just driving down the road with nothing going on, then you need to work on that. Consciously make whatever muscles are tense relax (I assume back, thighs and/or arms).
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:08 AM   #9
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How often are you moving from place to place? You might be “burned out” by moving too often. Are you staying at least 3 days at each campground? If so try week long stays....this usually gets you a cheaper “by the week” rate as well.

What time of the day are you on the road? 10 - 2 ? Maybe try earlier or later to see if you feel better. Our biological clocks are all different, and sometimes a few hours earlier or later could put you “in the zone” where you are most alert.

Could be the stress from packing up adds to the stress of driving that day. Try doing as much as you can the night before, so the next day you just disconnect electric, start and go.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:49 AM   #10
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If you're tired and sleepy, you become a prime candidate for brain freeze, specially if you were to experience a front tire blowout. Brain freeze and a blowout equals LOSE OF CONTROL, due to the fact that you need to properly work the steering wheel IMMEDIATELY.
Me? I stop and sleep for a couple of hours. The thing is, I don't much get tired of driving my Dutch Star Spartan/Cummins (really a nice ride). I do get sleepy when the sun goes down. I'm one of those people who believe nighttime was invented for sleeping.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:24 AM   #11
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Our family has the most trouble with 2-3 hour drives. You may be the same way. For whatever reason, the second and third hours of a drive are just the pits. I'm looking at the clock every 5 minutes, checking how many miles we've gone vs. how many we have left to go, and so on.

Once we get past that 3-hour mark, though, it's like our brains give in and accept the fact that we're going to be driving for a really long time. Then it becomes much easier and the time starts flowing by pretty easily. I'm not saying that time flies by, because it doesn't; it's just much more bearable.

So generally my mental fatigue increases rapidly until I've been driving for 3 hours, and then it more or less plateaus.

Right now, I'm still new to driving a big class A DP. It usually takes me about 15-30 minutes of driving before I relax. Because I'm comparatively inexperienced, a lot of situations are still pretty novel to me: twisty mountain roads, low clearances, narrow highway lanes, etc. Thus I occasionally get bursts of stress in the middle of a trip. And many of the controls are in unfamiliar places. This all adds up to extra stress, which causes fatigue. But I know that it's just temporary. The more I do it, the better I get; the better I am, the more comfortable I feel; the more comfortable I feel, the more I can do it. It's a positive feedback loop.

I recognize fatigue in myself because I start making mistakes. They are small ones at first, like forgetting to use my blinker, not knowing what cars are around me, and so on. Eventually it moves up to driving on the rumble strip and not noticing road signs (like "right land ends in 1000 feet"). I learned the warning signs when I worked 12-hour night shifts.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:44 AM   #12
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My congratulations on determining that for now you find a 3 hour drive physically and mentally tiring. Your analysis is spot on.
As you get more used to (I am assuming) your new mode of transportation it will get easier.
There have been many excellent tips from the posters above. My biggest concern is always new routes I have never been on. I prefer previewing my route then getting a good idea of what , hopefully, to expect.
Just finished a 12 hour , 640 mile trip and the next day I was a slug. Worn out. We made a 2 day trip 1 as we wanted extra time with the grandkids.
Driving a MH home was a lot easier , in my opinion, when I didn’t have a Toad. Now I seem to be a little , okay, a lot more attentive to the rear view camera. Only second trip with Toad and still nervous, apprehensive perhaps.

Make your journeys as you have and eventually confidence will follow then the trip will become easier and less draining.

Good luck,
Terry & Pat
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:49 AM   #13
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You are creating you own stress in your mind. You must relax.

Also the excessive stops are self defeating. All you end up doing is setting your mind to the next stop. You never allow your mind to get set that there is a long trip involves and you must manage your anxiety for longer periods.

"Are we there yet?"

"Are we there yet?"
"No son, It is a long trip, so settle yourself down, relax and get your mind in a place where it can survive the long haul!"
Its a marathon not a sprint. MENTALLY.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:31 AM   #14
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Reading through all the threads above, I also have to ask, is this your first Class A? From your description of what causes fatigue, a lot of that can be self generated. Typically, people driving Class A's for the first time, tend to oversteer them. Many try to look directly in front of the coach, steering constantly to stay within the lane. With a Class A, you need to look and guide the coach to a point much farther down the road. By doing this, you'll cut back tremendously on your steering input, decreasing fatigue.

Some more ideas......lower the steering wheel as low as it will go in your lap. The higher it is, the more it takes to steer. Lift the wheel all the way up and try to drive, you'll be steering like crazy.

You need to play with your driver's seat and get it set just right, especially the armrests. Rather than have a death grip on the wheel, adjust the arm rests so your forearms and elbows rest on the armrest while you hold the wheel with one hand or two. This way, your adjusting the wheel with your wrists, rather than your shoulders. Adjusting all the seat heights, including the arm rests can either jack up your shoulders or get them just right so the armrests aren't lifting your shoulders as you drive.

Move around in the seat every so often and stretch a leg under the dash and even the throttle leg with cruise on.

Your scanning your gauges correctly, but don't make it a head jerk from gauge to road to mirror. Get in a routine and comfortably look at all the things you need to watch. Don't forget to look at the scenery too! My wife often has her head down playing on her Ipad and misses a lot of things occurring out the view of the windshield, like interesting animals.

Mechanical issues.....make sure the tire pressure is correct. If your tires are overinflated, it can cause wander. Since you bought the coach used, it could possibly need an alignment. Ride height can also through off the dynamics of the weight distribution on a DP and can cause issues with steering if the coach is heavy or too light on the front end.

We like to drive about 250 miles a day on a trip, but have done 400-500 on many trips, especially the first day or the last day, before home. I know I'm done when my butt starts to hurt. As to actual fatigue (I take blood pressure medicine that can make me a little sleepy after a few hours) I keep Hershey bars in the refer. If my wife sees me getting tired, I'll either have a Hershey, a diet soda with caffeine or even a couple of Anacin that are loaded with caffeine. Usually, within 30 minutes, I'm good to go.

At some point, you'll get comfortable with the size and handling of the rig and the fatigue will disappear. I know you said you've been full timing for three months, but how much driving does that actually equate to?

Don & Mary
2019 Newmar Dutch Star 4018
2016 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab
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