Fatigue is the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs one’s performance. Driver fatigue could be due to lack of sleep, long work hours, strenuous activities, or a combination of other factors. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 13% of CMV drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash. Driver fatigue can be avoided by staying healthy and well-rested. Here we have a few tips on how to do just that:
Hit the hay before you hit the road.
Make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep every night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults age 26-64. If it’s possible, try not to drive during times your body is naturally drowsy. These times are usually 12 AM to 6 AM, as well as 2 PM to 4 PM. If you can’t, or become drowsy while driving despite your best efforts not to, choose a safe place to pull over as soon as possible to get some rest.
A healthy diet makes a difference.
Skipping meals or eating at irregular times can cause fatigue. In addition, going to bed hungry or immediately after eating a heavy meal can interfere with your sleep, leaving you feeling not so well-rested in the morning. Having a light snack before going to bed could help you achieve a more restful sleep.
A healthy diet can be beneficial in other ways for CMV drivers, as well. Obesity is a major health risk that can come from not eating well and working long, sedentary hours. Diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart diseases, and other medical conditions that usually accompany obesity can put a CMV driver at risk of not being medically qualified to drive. You can check out this article from Heavy Duty Trucking if you’re looking for more information on how to manage a healthy diet on the road.
When in doubt, nap it out.
If it’s possible, you should take a nap whenever you’re feeling drowsy or less alert. Naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally last up to 45 minutes. Make sure to give yourself at least 15 minutes after waking up to fully recover before starting to drive again.
Avoid drowsiness-inducing medications.
Avoiding medicine that might make you drowsy is important if you’re going to get behind the wheel. Any medicine that includes the well-known warning label to “not drive or operate heavy machinery” should most definitely be avoided. If you have to take medication, be sure that it’s non-drowsy.
Cold medicine is one of the most common medicines that could induce drowsiness. If you absolutely have to drive with a cold, it’s safer to suffer from the cold symptoms than to drive under the effects of the medicine.
Know the signs.
Common indicators of drowsiness include frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision. Listening to your body is important, don’t write these actions off as no big deal. Did you know that the National Sleep Foundation found that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%? That’s legally intoxicated and leaves you at equal risk for a crash.
Don’t rely on “Alertness Tricks”.
Tricking yourself into being alert through common behaviors like smoking, turning the radio volume up, drinking coffee, or opening the windows don’t actually cure your drowsiness. The most they may do is give you a false sense of security, which can be just as dangerous.
Don’t let driver fatigue get the best of you. Always use your best judgement, common sense, and training in addition to these tips. Check out our other blog posts to find more useful tips and tricks for truckers!