Stay Awake and Stay Alive
I recently had to do a lot of early morning driving, which meant waking up around midnight and starting to drive around 1 am. This was after beginning the week with early to mid-morning starts. This got me thinking about driving fatigued or sick. I wondered how many drivers on the road with me were tired.
It should go without saying that one should never drive tired or ill. Yet we often hear of drivers falling asleep at the wheel or pushing themselves to drive while sick. While I understand the pressures to get freight delivered and make money, I also understand that driving fatigued or ill could lead to tragic endings. How do we, as professional drivers, avoid that?
Customer demands and Hours of Service regulations sometimes require us to drive odd schedules or worse, to change our schedule from driving during the day to driving overnight and then back to days. This can mess up our sleep rhythm and put us in a situation where staying alert is a task. Many times we ignore what our body is telling us and just push through. While our first inclination might be to just get the job done, it is dangerous to ignore what our body is telling us.
Don't Ignore the Signs
- There are signs that we are becoming fatigued. As professional drivers, we should be aware of what our bodies are telling us. According to the Transport Accident Commission, some of these signs are
- Sore or heavy eyes
- Slower reaction time
- Daydreaming and not concentrating on driving (ever find yourself miles down the road and not know where you are?)
- Driving speed creeps up or down
- Impaired driving performance such as poor gear changes
- Stiffness and cramps
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms you are probably becoming fatigued and need to take steps to become more alert. The best way to avoid this is to get a good night’s sleep. That can be challenging, so here are a few things we can do to help stay alert while driving.
- Get out of the truck every couple of hours. Even just stopping and walking around the truck or into a truck stop will help.
- Listen to something. Whether it be Audio Books, talk/sports radio or music, this can help you stay alert. I like to listen to something I don't usually listen to. Hearing the same music can get boring to me. Hearing something new keeps me engaged.
- Don't be afraid to take a nap. 15-20 minute naps can sometimes be just enough to help us feel refreshed.
- Don't rely on just coffee or energy drinks. The caffeine may wake us up for a while, but the effects wear off and can make the fatigue worse than it was before.
- Don't be afraid to just call it quits for the night. No load is worth your life or the life of someone else.