Exhaustion can be dangerous, especially for truck drivers. Studies show a driver who is tired at the wheel is just as dangerous as a drunk driver. Exhaustion will slow your reaction time and decrease your overall awareness, two very important things you need to be safe while out on the road. Exhaustion is a feeling of tiredness or fatigue because of lack of energy or strength. Exhaustion can be caused by many things including overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom or lack of exercise. Anxiety or depression can also cause exhaustion.
Some of the common symptoms of exhaustion are:  general tiredness; sleepiness, including falling asleep against your will; irritability; depression; giddiness; loss of appetite; digestive problems; and increased susceptibility to illness. Any of these symptoms could cause problems while on the road. Exhaustion has been known to increase risky driving behaviors such as speeding or tailgating. Any dangerous driving habits could lead to a citation and a higher CSA score. A bad CSA score could cause you to lose business, pay higher insurance premiums and make it harder to source capital for your business. Often, exhaustion can sneak up on you causing dangerous driving behavior before you realize how tired you are.

You don’t always have control over what is causing exhaustion, but there are ways to battle it and stay energized while on the road.

  • Avoid excessive consumption of caffeine or other stimulants. Drink water instead of coffee. Since caffeine is a stimulant, once it wears off you will be just as tired, or more, than before the coffee. If you drink water, you can avoid these artificial highs and be more aware of when your body needs rest. Also, nothing hydrates your body the way water does. Keeping your body hydrated can help with focus, memory and combat general tiredness. A hydrated body is a less exhausted body.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Nothing zaps energy like a steady diet of muffins, cookies, bread and pasta.  Simple carbohydrates wreak havoc on blood sugar, which will cause you to have less energy.  Eating some protein every day is important for keeping your energy up. Instead of pancakes or cereal, try starting out your day with lean sausage, turkey bacon, cottage cheese or eggs. 
  • Exercise regularly. It almost seems counter-intuitive to exercise when already tired, but it will actually give you more energy throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a high-intensity work out. Even taking a 20-minute walk or jog a couple times a week can increase your overall energy levels (http://www.acefitness.org/article/2742/). Exercising will also help you sleep better.
  • Avoid large quantities of alcohol, nicotine and antihistamines. Alcohol is a type of depressant that may provide some temporary relaxation. However, the consistent use of alcohol can dehydrate the body and disrupt sleep patterns. Nicotine inhibits the oxygen levels in the blood, and robs the brain and muscles of energy. When oxygen is reduced, your body tries to sleep to avoid being depleted and damaging vital organs. Antihistamines are in numerous medications, such as Benadryl and Claritin. The most common side effect of antihistamine drugs is exhaustion.
  • Make a mental list of the things that may be causing you to lose sleep. Are you using downtime to do paperwork or accounting?  Are there mechanical issues or problems with your truck preventing a good night’s sleep?  Are tax issues keeping you awake at night? Find a good business solution provider or a consultant who can help resolve your issues.  Professional help from an expert in the trucking industry can give you peace of mind, a key ingredient for a good night’s sleep. ATBS, for example, has helped over 120,000 owner-operators with their taxes, bookkeeping and provides business consultations.
  • Consult Your Doctor If you are already doing most of these things and are still feeling exhausted, there may be other underlying causes. One possibility is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while sleeping. This can cause you to still feel tired after a full night’s sleep. A common form of treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. This machine increases the air pressure in your throat so your airway does not collapse when you breathe. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, contact your doctor. It can lead to more serious diseases if left untreated. 

If your exhaustion is caused by something external such as stress or insomnia, these tips will help you stay alert while on the road. Following a healthy diet, exercising, and getting the sleep your body needs are the first steps in battling exhaustion and having energy for the day. By avoiding fatigued driving, you’ll be better able to maintain a good CSA score and stay safer during long hauls.  The consequences could be dire, so follow these tips to stay energized while on the road.
How do you stay energized on the road? Let us know in the comments below. 

Comments (5)

Kaitlin Cathey

Kaitlin works at ATBS with the sales team. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, from Thomas Edison State College in NJ. She was born in Colorado, but has also lived in Maryland and Illinois. Her favorite things to do are running, reading, and creative writing.

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Great stuff. I was a waitress for 23 years before I started driving a truck and the coffee addiction is my down fall. I will try to have 1 cup of coffee when I get up and try to drink water the rest of the night. I also think that doing all the paperwork and route planning before I go to bed will have to wait til I wake up. ATBS already does the bulk of our tax paperwork thank goodness, but I often have routing and fueling to do. I need to do only what is necessary at the begining of our loads and do any other paperwork after I have had a good days sleep.

March 05, 2013 20:56:03 PM

Irregular hours and rest. If only we could get them in line. Fighting wildland fires does not allow regular hours or great sleep. It is common for us to run 12 to 15 hours per day, 7 days a week while on a fire. All our miles are off road but the long hours sure wears one down. The food provided is healthy and we try to get as much rest as possible, typically around 8 hours per night or day depending on the shift we are assigned to. I try to stay away from the coffee and they do not provide soda type drinks which is a plus.

February 22, 2013 14:03:41 PM

Irregular hours are hard to deal with. A good consistant 8 hours of sleep energises me.

January 30, 2013 15:53:02 PM

This is a very important lesson on being staying energized. I happen to have experienced almost all of these different scenarios. I know the coffee one hits most truckers directly, as a lot of us think it will "wire" us through yet another dreary landscape. The crash you can get from a good cup of "mud" is not the first thing on your mind when your wanting it, but should be considered when thinking of getting some. If plain water is not your thing, try the naturally flavored water from some health stores that do not contain stimulants or articifial flavors, yet provide the very slightest hint of flavor.

January 29, 2013 20:45:08 PM

This article is right on, i grew up in a trucker family and drove drinking coffee and smoking. A few years ago I reduced coffee and smokes, I am feeling better now than I did at 25. Heed the words in this article and you will see a big difference

January 28, 2013 22:44:45 PM