The road is like a two-way deathtrap when it comes to accidents - either you suffer from one or you’re the one to cause it. And if there is one profession in the world that is highly at risk in these circumstances, it’s a truck driver. While most truck drivers receive competitive salary packages, being a truck driver puts your life, business, and even other travelers in danger.
Additionally, the extended working hours, lack of focus, body fatigue, and erratic sleep schedules make it hard to maintain attentiveness while driving. Especially on long distance hauls, getting tired or sleepy is a common problem. Drowsiness decreases your reaction time to respond accurately, and exhaustion makes you less aware of your environment.
Although it’s tricky to keep yourself 100% focused, it’s essential to remain alert and awake. There are easy but effective ways to stay awake while driving, and, these tips will help you become a more productive driver.
Know the signs of driving fatigue
Fatigue results in inaccurate judgement, impaired decision-making, and slow reaction times, and avoiding these ailments is the ultimate key to reaching your destination safely. Drivers who lack quality rest and those who are awake for long periods of time are the usual victims of fatigue. If you are exposed to the above conditions, determining the early signs of fatigue will help you recognize when it’s time to stop hitting the road and keep yourself and others safe.
Symptoms of driver fatigue include but are not limited to: difficulty focusing, repeated yawning, inability to keep eyes open, head bobbing, wandering thoughts, zoning out, drifting to the shoulder, burning eyes, shallow breathing, and feeling restless or impatient. To avoid fatigue, make sure to:
- Get seven or more hours of sleep each night and consider having a solid rest before each shift.
- Be aware of micro-sleep, or falling asleep for just 4-5 seconds, which can lead to accidents.
- Consult your doctor if you have any sleeping disorder or are taking prescription medications.
Prioritize rest breaks
Getting to your destination on time is crucial to maintain a steady flow of clients, but delivering goods and arriving there safely is more important than anything else. Unavoidable circumstances and unwanted situations will certainly affect your road trip time, but taking breaks won’t. Taking rest breaks are essential to helping you stay awake when driving,and stretching your legs or having a simple change of scenery helps break the monotony of the drive.
It is tempting to avoid stops as much as possible to keep to the delivery time , but an accident, even a minor one, is more dangerous than just a few minutes of lost time. To avoid drowsy driving, take breaks when needed. They don’t need to be long, but they should be enough to keep your senses alert and bring you back to reality.
- Plan your trip accordingly, take longer breaks when the roads are congested.
- Use the restroom or take a short walk to fight fatigue and avoid tired spells.
- Power naps of just 20 minutes help boost your body to acquire more energy.
Eat well to stay alert and avoid dehydration
So how do truckers stay awake on the road? Simple, by avoiding dehydration. Constant sweating, especially during summer months, causes you to lose water that, if not addressed properly, will lead to dehydration. Dehydration results in tiredness, headache, and dizziness, which can impair your ability to drive safely. Truck drivers often steer clear from drinking water to prevent frequent bathroom breaks, but this won’t help keeping you awake while driving.
Likewise, ditch the fast food and snacks from convenience stores. Truck drivers or not, everyone is guilty of consuming snacks and drinking loads of coffee as well as soda during long drives. While this might help you stay awake for a bit, the effects of consuming unhealthy foods will make you sluggish in the long haul. Resist the temptation and opt for healthy meals such as proteins, vegetables, and fiber.
- Look for foods rich in magnesium and B12 to naturally fight sleepiness.
- A cup of coffee is good, but three or more will result in a caffeine overload.
- Always bring potable water and fruits that are rich in water when driving.
Minimize night driving
Daylight saving time has ended, and most of us now spend more time in the dark than in sunlight. Even if you have a good night’s sleep or your body is well prepared for tonight’s driving shift, it is still dangerous to hit the road during nighttime. Aside from indistinguishable road signs, dark environments change our depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision. Add to this the glaring headlights of oncoming vehicles, and all of these things can make truck drivers almost visually impaired at night.
If possible, schedule your trips during the day to avoid the risks associated with nighttime driving. But if you can’t avoid driving when the sun has already set, don’t forget to focus your headlights correctly and look away from strong incoming traffic to minimize perils. Also, try to avoid creating a high contrast environment inside your truck.
- Use soft interior truck lighting to create a mellow but lit environment.
- During road trips, dim your dashboard until it’s just bright enough to see the gauges.
- In situations where road visibility is limited, maintain a slow but steady maneuver.
Listen to podcasts or audiobooks
Finally, for the top ways to stay awake while driving, use the powers of technology to keep your eyes wide open. All trucks are equipped with radios to keep drivers fully entertained on the road. Whenever you feel tired or sleepy, it’s not a bad idea to crank up the music and dance to it once in a while to fight monotony, or tune in to your favorite radio show to make it a more interesting journey.
You could also listen to podcasts if there’s an internet connection available, or pre-download them on your smartphone before you hit the road. Listening to audiobooks will also help you stay alert. However, make sure to:
- Minimize the media volume to keep road warnings still audible.
- To keep you well engaged, choose a podcast or audiobook topic that grabs your attention.
- When turning the radio on, go for lively and upbeat music instead of soft relaxing songs.
Aside from keeping yourself active, awake, and coherent while driving, make sure to obtain the right trucking insurance policy to protect not just yourself but your business interest and other road users as well. Having the right insurance offers total protection from unwanted liabilities that you risk facing each time you hit the highway.