Top Tips For Truck Drivers To Reduce Driving Fatigue
It’s no secret that truck drivers spend long hours on the road, often under pressure to meet delivery targets over long distances. Add penalties for hours of service violations and long periods away from home, and it’s easy to see how mentally taxing this profession can be. Driving a heavy-duty vehicle is no easy task, so staying alert is of utmost importance for the safety of drivers, and everyone around them.
Reducing driver fatigue goes a long way towards making a journey safer. However, it can often be difficult to stay alert and energized. Fatigue can strike at any time, and it affects concentration and reaction time dramatically
Below, we’ve put together a list of tips for reducing fatigue in truck drivers. Each one requires very little effort, leaving drivers free to concentrate, and safely meet their delivery targets.
Plan Ahead As Much As Possible
There will always be some things on the road that cannot be anticipated, such as congestion from an accident, a burst water pipe, or roadworks. However, planning ahead as best you can will serve you well for several reasons.
Before you set off on your route, it’s advisable to plan your stops. Think about when and where you will rest, and determine where along the road it’s suitable for you to take a break. This will also help you set mental goals, as each rest point marks a milestone in your journey.
Next, look at the short-term weather forecast. Try to stay up to date with the weather reports in the areas you know you’ll be driving through. As long as you know what to expect, you’ll be able to plan accordingly. You don’t want to be taken by surprise by heavy rainfall, sudden high winds, or snow. Driving in poor weather requires extra concentration Being mentally prepared for this will reduce the chance of feeling drained from unexpectedly having to switch focus.
It’s also a great idea to share your location with someone, as this means they’ll be able to track the progress of your journey. It will alert them to any potential delays along the way too and have a good idea of what time you’re meant to reach your destination.
Not only does this work for logistical reasons, it adds an extra layer of safety to your task, as someone will always be aware of where you are while you’re driving. While large companies generally utilize GPS software with trackers in their fleets, driver-owned trucks may not. Having someone on the ground who knows where you are is an excellent safety precaution.
Eat Healthy Snacks
As tempting as is to reach for a delicious, sugary doughnut, or something else equally tasty and deep fried, try your best not to if you’re driving long distances.
As great as sugar-filled, carb-laden food may taste, it tends to leave you feeling lethargic. The carbohydrates and refined sugars found in such foods will give you an energy boost, but only a very short one. After that, your energy levels plummet, highlighting any feelings of fatigue you had prior to indulging in your snack.
Instead, try to stick to healthier foods while you drive, such as fruit, nuts, or vegetables. These will keep your insulin levels stable and help you stay more alert.
Get Enough Rest Before Departure
A good night’s sleep is one of the most powerful tools against fatigue. The night before you start your shift, make sure you’re in bed early, and can enjoy a good night’s rest. Eat at least two hours before you go to bed and steer clear of TVs or mobile devices that emit bright lights and can cause distraction. If you're on the road and sleeping in your berth, the same rules apply.
Not only will a good night’s sleep make you more alert on the road, but it will also eliminate any feelings of irritability or crankiness. This will keep you motivated during the long stretches where there’s absolutely nothing else in sight. These stretches can add to feelings of fatigue, so being well-rested is crucial.
Turn Up The Air-Conditioner
This might be the oldest trick in the book for staying awake when driving long distances, but it works. The colder you are, the more alert you’ll be. Warmer temperatures tend to make you feel sluggish and sleepy. If you happen to be driving somewhere with a cool breeze, roll the windows down so the air can flow freely.
Nothing is better than fresh air for staying alert, as it wakes the brain up. It can boost your mood too, as fresh air increases the oxygen levels in your blood. This means that more blood circulates to your brain, and this makes you feel energized and improves your ability to focus.
When you embark on a long-distance drive, dress as comfortably as possible. You’ll be sitting behind the wheel for hours at a time, and restrictive clothing will lead to agitation and exacerbate fatigue.
Make sure that every item of clothing you wear fits well, and that it breathes. Being too hot or too cold will increase irritability levels, so it’s important to dress for the journey ahead.
One of the easiest ways to stay alert is by staying hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids like water, juice and electrolyte-infused drinks. This will keep your hydration levels at their optimum, and prevent you from getting thirsty, cranky, and tired.
In the same way that you need to steer clear of overly sugary foods, you should avoid drinks that are heavily sweetened, or have a large amount of caffeine. Sugary, highly caffeinated drinks (like energy drinks or soda) will give you a temporary boost before dropping your sugar levels and leaving you feeling fatigued.
As important as it is to stay hydrated and feeling refreshed, you also need to apply sunscreen for any long-distance drives. Sunscreen will protect your skin from sun damage and sunburn. And it will go a long way to protecting you from sunstroke or heat exhaustion; both of which can be extremely dangerous for truck drivers.
Driver fatigue is a common issue amongst truckers, but with a little extra planning and know-how, it can largely be combatted. While long distance and heavy loads may be part of the job, being exhausted all the time shouldn’t be.