Driving a big rig for hours at a time can impact your alertness if you are not careful. Knowing the warning signs that you need to rest can protect you from danger.
Equally as important is knowing strategies to help you maintain energy when driving long hours. Understanding the impact of the time of day on your alertness may incentivize you to opt for daytime driving as often as possible.
Daytime vs. nighttime
By nature, your body expects to rest and sleep when it is dark outside. According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there is a stronger correlation between the time of day you drive and your alertness levels rather than the length of time you drive and your alertness levels. Your risk increases if you have already driven for a long time and continue driving into nightfall.
Out of the people surveyed, results verified that a substantial number of people were less alert at night, but especially after midnight. Another study found that your risk of sleep inertia grows if you begin driving immediately after waking up. This is truer if you rest in the sleeper berth of your truck and then immediately resume driving. Behaviors associated with sleep inertia include impairment in the form of reaction times, vigilance and memory.
The most important thing you can do to stay alert during your drive time is to get a full night of restful sleep prior to your shift beginning. Your employer should allow you ample time between shifts to rest and recover. They should also provide flexible delivery deadlines to account for unexpected circumstances including inclement weather and road construction. Other things you can do to optimize your energy include the following:
- Eat a balanced diet and multiple smaller meals throughout the day
- Take frequent breaks and stay active
- Exercise and sleep between shifts
Refrain from relying on energy supplements, loud music or snacking to take away fatigue. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.