Keep On Trucking: How to Stay Alert on Long Hauls
Even if you’re new to the world of long haul trucking, it’s easy to understand that long hours on the road can wear you down. The monotony of extended driving can lull you into a kind of trance if you’re not careful, and driving tired can sometimes be as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
So how can you combat the annoying and dangerous effects of fatigue without resorting to energy drinks or coffee, and still stay alert on a long drive?
Eat Right on the Road
You’ve heard it before: eat healthy, stay healthy. But it’s easier said than done on the average trucking route, when stops are rare and places to buy healthy food are few and far between. This is where a mini fridge in your truck’s cab can come in handy.
Planning ahead can help you eat better on the road. Stock a healthy meal or two in your mini fridge if you have one, and try to get your fare at the grocery store instead of a fast food restaurant. Choose high protein, low carb foods to keep your energy levels consistent.
Snacking on its own can help keep you alert, but greasy or sugary foods can actually make you more tired. Try to keep things like fresh fruits and vegetables with you, avoid foods heavy in salt, and see this guide for eating better on the road.
Listen to Things That Stimulate You
Keep your mind active by listening to exciting, engaging programs. If you enjoy talk radio, be sure to avoid shows that use a monotone or soothing voice. Comedy routines that make you laugh out loud are a great way to stay alert and functional, as are compelling discussions about current events or entertaining interviews.
Listening to audiobooks is another good way to stay alert on long hauls. Thrilling stories that build suspense and keep you guessing are a favorite choice for many, as it's fairly hard to fall asleep when you're still wondering "who did it?"
There's a trick to listening to music on the radio when you're feeling a bit drowsy--the key is choosing loud music you can sing along to while on your drive. Singing along, even badly, really helps with waking you up and keeps you in that active state of mind.
Take Breaks, Take Naps
When you're on the road for hours at a time, your body can suffer--particularly your back and legs. Take a break every few hours to stretch your muscles and get your blood circulating again, even if it's just long enough to do a quick inspection on your truck or walk to the restroom and back.
A power nap can work wonders for your energy levels. When you feel them dipping, pull off and snooze for a bit – no less than 20 minutes, no more than 26 – and you'll feel as rejuvenated as if you'd had two cups of coffee. The difference is that the natural energy you regain from the power nap stays with you, but when the artificial energy from caffeine wears off, it can leave you feeling more tired than before.
Take some time to make new acquaintances when you stop for meals. A simple conversation at a truck stop can make you feel energized and give you something to think about when you get back on the road, and who knows? You might encounter the same people on your way back and be able to pick up where you left off.
Recognize the Signs of Driving Fatigue
It's important to know when to pull off and take a break or sleep before it becomes dangerous to yourself and others on the road. Learn to recognize the early warning signs that you're becoming drowsy or need a break, and do whatever you have to in order to wake yourself up again.
One sign of a distracted mind is gaps in your driving memory. If you realize you don't remember driving the last five kilometers, it's probably time to do something to reengage your mind, or take a nap. Another sign is if you keep catching yourself drifting out of your lane; it could be you're just lost in thought, but you might need to switch to a safer activity.
You know your mind and body better than anyone, so you know what you need to do to be safe on a haul and keep yourself alert, rested, and entertained. Play a road game, or get on the CB radio (if you have one) and chat with a few fellow truckers. You might be helping them stay awake, too.
If you're interested in long haul trucking and you're thinking of getting your commercial driver's license, give North Shore Driving School Ltd. a call. Our truck driving school in Burnaby offers a number of commercial truck driving courses. Whether you are located in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Richmond, or a surrounding area, we get you the training you need to get on the road!