Traffic on the A1 at night, near Leeds

Current eyesight test regulations for drivers may not sufficient to protect drivers against the dangers of night-time driving, according to the RTITB.

Speaking at the Microlise Transport Conference last week, RTITB lead technical executive Richard Brewer said that night time delivery is often a very cost-effective solution for transport businesses and their customers, but that it comes with risks that should be given due attention.

He said: “When I had my driver’s medical I had to look at a screen and read letters off it - a fairly standard eye test.

“But is that enough in regards to eyesight checks? It seems strange that we have people who work on visual display units, and we expect them to have checks every two years to make sure it isn't affecting their eyesight.

“But for drivers working in night-time operations, we have a minimal test. So that may be something you want to consider - is it enough?”

Brewer outlined numerous reasons why working at night can be more difficult and dangerous for HGV drivers.

Among these were reduced ability to see colours and not being able to see as far, which gives a driver less time to respond to a changing situation on the road.

Brewer cited research from Brake that showed that 40% of collisions take place at night. Given that only 15% of vehicle miles are travelled at night, he said, this is a significant portion.

Brewer also warned operators to be wary of the common advice to tired drivers to turn on the radio, as music played during the night is designed to be soothing rather than stimulating.

He said: “We are not programmed to be nocturnal,” he told delegates. “Our body clocks cannot fully adjust to it.

“If we educate our drivers on these issues then we can keep them safe in this growth area of our sector.”