Sugar And Watchstanding

You have been warned:


When I worked offshore we had a series of bad car (most were pickup trucks) accidents on crew change day. The incoming crew would wake up very early and drive to the heliport. Most of these guys arrived without incident but guys returning home were getting into accidents.

The company didn’t seem to care but our OIM did and asked all the supervisors to go easy on the guys the day before crew change. Problem was that I was already going easy on my guys the last day plus, anyone who is married knows that no wife goes easy on you the last day home so… being overworked didn’t make sense.

So I interviewed everyone who was in a car accident on crew change day and they all blamed falling asleep at the wheel. Maybe it was being overworked?

One guy had totaled 4 trucks. I sat with him for hours and basically reconstructed every crew change day in a log. When did he work? How much sleep did he get? What time did he get on the road? Did he nap in the helicopter (yes).

I didn’t ask him what he ate but I did ask him to when and where he stopped along the way. The guy knew he had a problem so he would stop every hour at a rest stop or gas station to move around and recharge.

So I asked what he did specifically to “recharge”? Well he walked around the gas station a few times then would buy a few cokes and some candy bars to help him stay awake! :flushed:

I went back and reinterviewed everyone who had a crash. They all had one common denominator: a sweet tooth!


I am glad to see we are having this conversation. It is long overdue. Hopefully, it will get some traction.

It’s sad that you worked for an enormous money making company who was too cheap to hire drivers for the safety of the crew. After 3 or 4 totaled cars, you would have thought that somebody would have come up with a different solution then a combination of 5 hour energy and a Red Bull.


When a company I worked for changed their travel pay policies, many of us found ourselves driving to and from work. Driving home was the worst after crew change. About a 12 hour drive for some of us.The hardest part for me was the hour and a half drive after getting off I-95 in the wee hours in the morning after driving 65 to 80 mph and slowing to a crawl on a heavily patroled road at 45-55 mph. I found a sugary extra high caffeine drink called “Jolt” along that infamous stretch. Not sure if it was the drink or the godsmack ugly waitress that kept me awake. Made a point to stop there on those drives. She saved a lot of people from accidents.

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My mother told me about this exercise she used to run for Air Force helicopter pilot trainees: It started with a hectic logistics exercise turning into night navigation, during which they were given no food. Then they would land on some pretext and be offered a table of sugary snacks, which the dog tired trainees devoured, and RTB. Not all of them actually fell asleep at the controls, but quite a few did, and the instructor would then quietly take control until they woke up in a panic. They all learned the lesson, though: Fatigue + sugar = sleepy time.

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I never actually thought about that but it makes sense. When I was working in the GOM on 2 occasions I drove from Florida. My plan was to buy a lot of relatively inexpensive LA shrimp and transport back to Florida both for the freezer and to sell at a slightly higher price to associates. I tried the Coke, Mountain Dew and candy but had a few close calls so next time I spent the night in LA before driving home.
On the other hand I was flying back home from Mexico and a compadre offered me a Viagra. I told him I sure didn’t need it but to be sociable I took one. I called my wife at the time and told her I was on the way home and to get prepared. She said she didn’t expect me so early and was visiting her family in Miami. I did not get sleepy on the plane at all and as a matter of fact by the time I changed planes in Tampa I could have pole vaulted home to my empty house. Then I remembered “seek immediate medical attention if problems arise” and Craig’s List. :grinning:


The European and Australian outfits in the oil patch fly you to the nearest airport and pay for a taxi to home. Driving a vehicle was prohibited in your contract.
A 12 hour drive even on our goat tracks of roads in NZ takes you a considerable distance. 12 hours on an interstate could almost take you through a couple of time zones.


Although I’ve seen plenty of places that have a bad attitude toward Mariners, and that treat Mariners as badly as they can get away with, no place has it down to an art form like the bayou boat companies.


Man, glad my crew changes never included long drives. Of course I never worked in the oil patch until I came ashore.