Truck driver fatigue is a big workplace safety issue in the trucking business. It increases the risk of driving accidents, with around 13% percent of all truck accidents involving fatigued drivers. This is a problem that should be tackled on all levels – including federal regulations and policies by companies that care about their company drivers. Still, there are some things that drivers can do themselves to try and minimize the risk of getting sleepy behind the wheel.

What are the Signs of Drowsy Driving?

Some signs are pretty obvious, like head nodding, falling asleep, or increased blinking and yawning. It’s understood you should immediately find a place to park and get some rest when this happens, but there are some more signs you might not notice right away. Impaired memory is one of the sure signs you’re in need of some sleep. Especially if you can’t quite remember the last few miles you have driven. There’s also irritability and moodiness, as well as distractibility. If you find your thoughts wandering, or experience daydreaming and difficulty focusing, it’s a possible sign of fatigue.

More serious symptoms of sleep deprivation are auditory and visual hallucinations. If you ever start noticing these happening to you, you should not only get some sleep immediately but also reorganize your whole sleep schedule.   

What Are The Signs Of Drowsy Driving 2Source: Freepik

Tips to Avoid Fatigued Driving

While recognizing signs of truck driver fatigue is crucial to avoiding accidents, the best way to stay safe is to try and avoid getting sleepy while driving at all. You should organize the time you spend on the road in a way that’s going to allow you to be well-rested at all times.

Organize Your Sleep Schedule

Sticking to a regular sleep schedule can be hard for a truck driver. Life on the road can be unpredictable, so you might have to improvise to get enough sleep. Still, if you decide on a schedule and do your best to follow through with it, it’s going to make a big difference. Ideally, you should get 6 – 8 hours of sleep in a stretch every night, but it’s not just the sheer quantity of sleep that matters. It’s best to sleep at times when your body is more prone to tiredness. For most people, this is between midnight and 6 am, and between 2 pm and 4 pm. Of course, your internal clock may differ from this, so you should find your own best timing. If you can’t sleep in the early afternoon, you should at least plan your coffee and food breaks at this time.

Take a Short Nap

Whenever you feel tired, you should find a spot to pull over and rest. This is one of the most important road safety tips. Short naps are known to give you energy, that’s why they are often called ‘power naps’. They should last between 10 and 45 minutes. After the nap, you should take around 15 minutes to wake up completely before you get back behind the wheel. 

Truck Driver Fatigue Take A Short NapSource: Freepik

Eat Healthy

Food is your main source of energy, so you should be particularly careful with what you eat while on the long haul. Fast food may be tempting, but it will provide you with little if any nutrients. This means in the long run, you lose energy and get sleepier every time you opt for a meal like this. It is also a good idea to keep a regular eating schedule and avoid making long pauses before two meals.

Bring Some Snacks

Bring Some SnacksSource: Freepik

Snacks are a great way of keeping your energy high in between meals. Always keep light snacks like almonds or protein bars handy, so you don’t have to go for a full meal whenever you feel a bit hungry. You can also take a light snack before going to bed, since sleeping hungry or after a heavy meal could reduce your sleep quality.

Drink a Lot of Water

Staying hydrated is crucial for your overall health. Drinking water helps regulate your body temperature, protects your sensitive tissues, lubricates and cushions joints. Dehydration leads to headaches and drowsiness, so it’s impacting your alertness directly.

Truck Driver Fatigue Drink A Lot Of WaterSource: Freepik

Limit Caffeine intake

Caffeine is pretty effective when it comes to keeping your sleepiness away temporarily, but in the long run, it can have serious negative effects. That’s why you shouldn’t rely on it entirely. Caffeine works by blocking receptors for a molecule that makes you feel tired, so you can stay wide awake for some time. This means it’s basically tricking your brain into thinking you’re not sleepy. Over time, your brain catches up and fights back by creating more receptors, so you will need more and more coffee with time to stay awake. If you limit your caffeine intake and only drink coffee (or other caffeinated drinks) when you really need a short-term boost, you minimize the risk of getting immune to caffeine’s positive effects.

Caffeine also increases your body’s adrenaline production, which can lead to headaches, increased blood pressure, and anxiety.

Avoid Medication

Medication is one of the most common causes of truck driver fatigue. You should check if any medication that you’re taking can interfere with your ability to drive. Such medicines always have warnings that state you should not drive or operate machinery when taking them. Aside from sleeping pills and muscle relaxers, these include some allergy and cold medicines. If there are medications like these that you need to take regularly, you should talk to your doctor before getting into the truck.

Avoid MedicationSource: Freepik

Have some Company while Driving

Bringing a friend or a family member with you while you’re on the road can have a huge positive impact on your overall driving experience. Boredom and loneliness can increase your need for sleeping, so having someone to cheer you up will help you stay alert, as long as they are not distracting you from driving. It is also easier for someone else to notice the first signs of your drowsiness, so they can warn you and advise you to have some rest.

Ask for an Advice from your Manager

Open communication isn’t always a given in the trucking industry, but it is the best way to fight the overall problem of fatigued driving. It is in companies’ best interest to find systemic solutions for this problem, and the first thing they need is input from the drivers. Smart companies will implement fatigue management programs that include organizing a driver’s schedule based on their (driver’s) needs. So, if you ask your manager for advice, they should be able to adjust your schedule and give you some tips on how to improve your lifestyle in order to avoid drowsiness.

With winter coming up and days getting shorter, it’s even harder to stay wide awake at this time of the year. That’s why we need all the help we can get to reduce truck driver fatigue. Check out our list of winter essentials for more advice on trucking in the coldest months. Follow us for more tips on our YouTube channel  Extra Mile International Inc Trucking Company and visit our Instagram profile @extramiletx.

Have a nice trip!