If you are a long-haul or commercial trucker, you are probably very familiar with the expression, “driver fatigue.” It is even likely that you have battled driver fatigue at some point during your career.
Driver fatigue is due to physical or mental exhaustion from being on the road. It is not just being tired from traveling the same old roads for hours. Drivers who experience fatigue are at an increased risk for getting into an accident. Fatigue can lead to slower reaction times, as well as, a decreased ability to quickly assess situations. There are several factors that can contribute to driver fatigue such as lack of sleep, long work hours, etc. Driver fatigue is a significant issue and it is important to know how to prevent it.
It is vital for truck drivers to be alert behind the wheel, not only for their safety, but for the safety of others as well. It is the driver’s decision when it comes to choosing what is the best way for him/her to fight fatigue, but here are a few ways in which it can be done.
Tip #1: Get a good night’s sleep beforehand
It is recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep a night to function at their best. This will allow you to be as alert and responsive as possible while driving. Getting enough sleep will also help you to be mentally and physically prepared for any incident that may occur.
Tip #2: Maintain a healthy diet
A career in truck driving presents numerous challenges for the driver when it comes to maintaining good health, however, it can be done. It will take determination. Drivers should forgo fast food and eat healthier alternatives. Try packing and bringing food from home. Avoid eating heavy meals as it takes lots of energy to digest them. Eat lightly or eat smaller proportions throughout the day. Try snacks like almonds and apples.
Tip #3: Take regular breaks – approximately every 2 hours
In order to remain alert, take regular breaks from the road approximately every two hours. This will allow you the opportunity to stretch, go for a short walk, get some fresh air, and/or get change of scenery.
Tip #4: Take a pre-drive/mid-drive nap
If you do not think you got a good night’s sleep the night before, make time to fit in a nap before you head out on the road. Even an hour-long power nap can do the trick! If you do not have time for a pre-drive nap, make sure to visit a rest stop to fit in a short nap. It is dangerous to try and fight your fatigue.
Tip #5: Limit Caffeine
Caffeine drinks can be helpful in moderation. However, it can lead to a “caffeine crash” or becoming more tired than before consuming the caffeinated beverage. So, have a caffeinated drink sparingly because it can help, but do not overdo it.
Tip #6: Stay hydrated
Drowsiness and headaches can be a result of dehydration. Water has natural properties that will help you feel awake. So, drink water throughout your trip.
Tip #7: Adjust your environment
There are several things you can do within the cab or tractor to combat fatigue. These can include keeping the temperature cool, listening to talk radio instead of music, placing the seat in a new position, rolling the windows down for fresh air, and playing mental games.
Tip #8: Make use of new technology
According to The Legal Examiner, there are five new anti-fatigue technologies being used in the trucking industry. These include:
- Fatigue meters – use service logs to predict fatigue levels by estimating the driver’s sleep pattern on actual duty periods and uses the estimate to predict fatigue
- Wearables – wristwatches, eyeglasses, and other Fitbit-like devices.
- Anti-fatigue headwear – smart hats with sensors on the forehead to detect head movement and measure brain waves for signs of fatigue and then this information is sent to a unit in the cab wirelessly
- Smartphone tests – psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) measures the cognitive alertness of truck drivers
- Facial mapping – systems capture images of the driver’s face to find symptoms of fatigue, such as head nodding, gazing, drooping eyelids, yawning, and head orientation
Driver fatigue is not something that can just be brushed off. It is a major issue and it is important to know how to combat it. As you have read, there are several tips for truckers battling driver fatigue – from getting enough sleep the night before to using various ant-fatigue technologies. Make use of some or all of these tips to stay safe out there!