The trucking industry is a serious business. When you’re behind the wheel, you’re taking your safety and the safety of the people around you into your own hands. No one ever means to get into an accident, but driving at night raises the risk. The good news is that there are a number of tried and true strategies to help. Here are six truck driving tips to stay awake and sharp no matter the hour.
- Take a nap before you get started.
A quick, 20-minute nap can clear your head and stave off sleepiness. The trick here is to keep it down to 20-30 minutes. That’s because a longer nap will let your body slip into a different stage of the sleep cycle, and you’ll wake up groggy. Remember to set your alarm before getting some shut-eye, and stick to it.
- Keep the cab temperature down.
A balmy, 80-degree cab will lull you to sleep. Be proactive and keep the temperature down to somewhere between ‘cool’ and ‘chilly.’ Wherever this is will depend on your preferences. If you’re shivering or your fingers are stiff, you’ve gone too far. Not enough? Crack the windows. The icy air blasting over your head will wake you up fast.
- Dim the lights.
High contrast lights can make you tired and disoriented. This is especially true when you’re driving in rural areas. Long stretches without civilization and streetlights will make you notice the darkness outside the cab and the intensely bright gauges and other lights inside. Try to turn your dashboard lights down, although keep them bright enough to see.
- Mix up quiet with radio time.
Driving with the radio on all the time may sound like a good idea to help keep you awake. However, a steady stream of music, talk shows, or books on tape can become exhausting. The more your brain needs to think about what it’s hearing, the more it will get tired. That’s why it’s good to take regular breaks from the radio. Just be sure to turn it back on when the steady hum of the tires makes you sleepy.
- Watch what you eat and drink.
Big portions of rich, heavy food will make you sleepy; just think about what happened last Thanksgiving. Instead, break up the night with several small, healthy snacks that keep your blood sugar steady. While we’re at it, energy drinks and coffee can help you … when used in moderation. Chug the whole 40 ounces at once and you’ll experience an energy surge, followed by a deep crash. Instead, space it out over the night.
- Get out of the cab.
When you can, pull over and hop out. Even a few minutes of walking around, looking at the sky or checking out the rest area can really help your brain kick into gear. The trick here is to stay moving and actively look around you. Don’t just lounge against the door checking your phone. If you want to multi-task, use the time to inspect your truck.
Being a truck driver is seriouse business, and means taking care of yourself, and those around you.