As a professional long haul trucker, you understand all too well how staying awake behind the wheel can seem like a full-time job in and of itself. You also know that it can be a life and death matter. The balance between road safety and meeting deadlines can be precarious, and if you’re constantly fighting fatigue and exhaustion, it only makes matters worse. Fortunately, there are simple tweaks you can make to your driving routine that will help you avoid causing an accident so you can reach your destination safely and timely.
In order to pinpoint the problem, you need to know the signs first. Not all symptoms of fatigue are obvious, so remain aware of your actions and learn to discern them for what they are – signals that you need a rest. If you find yourself doing any of the following, you owe it to yourself, as well as those who are sharing the road with you, to pull over and take a break.
- Drifting into other lanes
- Yawning repeatedly
- Unable to remember last several exits
- Missing traffic signs
- Difficulty focusing your eyes
Of course, there are other signs associated with drowsy driving. The key is to remain diligent and educate yourself. When you do find that you’re having a hard time staying awake behind the wheel, consider the following tips to help keep you safe while driving.
The type of fuel you put into your body is just as important as the type of fuel you put into your truck. The quick-fix meal is enticing because it tastes good, it’s no hassle, and, most importantly, it’s fast. However, it’s also the worst choice you can make when trying to stay awake. The high levels of processed sugar, empty carbs and fat contained in fast foods will spike your insulin levels for a short period of time, and that will provide you with a boost of artificial energy. What your body needs, though, is leveled energy, because the short term burst of energy that fast food gives is followed by an unsettling energy crash that makes it difficult to focus and stay awake.
Instead, plan ahead and pack healthier meal and snack choices. Look for foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Smart energy foods, including nuts, hard boiled eggs, and cheese are infinitely better choices for your body, and they help you sustain your energy levels more evenly and long term than any junk food ever could.
On the same note, limit your soda intake, because the high level of sugar and caffeine in many sodas will yield the same extreme energy fluctuation results as with junk food. Instead, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Yes, you will have to stop more often, but that can be a good thing when you’re trying to stay awake. It also leads to the next tip.
When you find yourself tailgating other drivers, becoming easily distracted, or responding too slowly to road conditions, those are dangerous indicators that you should take a break. Pull over and do a truck safety check, use the restroom, engage in simple stretches, or go for a short walk. The pressure of reaching your destination on time may lead you to feel inclined to push through it, but don’t. 640 truck drivers lost their lives on the job in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Reasons for this include fatigue, distractions, and inadequate surveillance, among others. You only need ten minute breaks to wake yourself up, and to help yourself avoid becoming a statistic.
Listening to music will help keep your brain stimulated while driving, and that will help you stay awake. Avoid slow tempo music, though, as this will lull you and make you even more tired. Choose up tempo songs instead. Mind the volume, and make sure that the music is in the background and not creating an even further distraction for you.
Music will help you maintain focus longer, but if you listen to comedy your mood will improve as well. Download comedy routines and take them on the road with you. Not only will you stay alert, but your laughter will also make it easier for you to handle the hassles created by road conditions and other drivers.
By instituting these easy habits into your work routine, you can help yourself stay alert and awake, and you won’t end up involved in one of the large truck accidents that takes the lives of over 3,750 people every year. Yes, that includes truck drivers. Avoid becoming a statistic. Drive refreshed and drive responsibly.