Know When to Rest: Sleepiness and Driving
Truck drivers’ lives revolve around meeting deadlines for jobs that oftentimes require traveling long distance in minimal time; and as a result the drivers opt to drive long hours to cover more ground, in lieu of getting enough sleep. This scenario not only leads to increased risk for accidents but also negatively impacts the health of truck drivers.
While any driver may be guilty of driving while tired at one time or another, the risk for truck drivers is more frequent because of the tight deadlines. While the combination of sleepiness and driving is dangerous for anyone, accidents among truck drivers jeopardize many more lives. How? Take into consideration that there are more than 3.5 million truck drivers and then consider the fact that truck drivers carry heavy cargo that weighs up to 30-times the weight of a standard vehicle on the road, thus if involved in a crash, it carries a much higher risk of involving more people.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the IIHS, that “approximately 1 in 10 highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck” in 2016 “a total of 3,986 people died in large truck crashes.” Most of the deaths involved truck passengers and occupants of other vehicles, with sleep deprivation being a factor in some incidences.
Additionally, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) states that 30% to 40% of crashes among drivers result from a lack of sleep and an alarming 65% of those result in truck driver fatalities.
With the average number of sleep hours for a truck driver being a mere five hours each night, the ability to properly focus depletes drastically. A truck driver carries a major responsibility when transporting cargo and fundamentally has the potential to affect the safety and lives of others; exercising proper judgment is crucial. Thus, the driver should never put a delivery above the importance of getting ample sleep which plays a major role in better alertness and response times.
Recent surveys suggest that while the maximum allowable drive time for large truck drivers is eleven consecutive hours, as mandated by the “Federal Hours-of-Service” regulations, many drivers ignore the rule.
How Drowsiness Influences Driving
Choosing to drive when drowsy is a dangerous combination. It impedes the driver’s judgment, cognitive abilities and response time by slowing reflexes due to fatigue. In many states, it is now illegal to drive while drowsy and the driver will be ticketed in the same class as driving-under-the-influence. According to the article published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drowsy Driving: Asleep At the Wheel, “after about 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10%, higher than the legal limit in all states.”
In addition to slow response, being sleepy while driving also reduces the driver’s ability to make wise decisions as well as a lower attention span that may even result in the driver falling asleep at the wheel. Take precautionary measures and learn the warning signals your body gives you when tiredness is ensuing.
- Missing an exit
- Drifting into oncoming traffic or the shoulder of the road
- Frequent blinking or yawning
- Failing to remember the previous few miles you’ve driven
- Dosing off momentarily
These signs should never be dismissed. If drinking caffeine, eating something sour, turning up the radio or opening a window for fresh air do not help alleviate the signs, it is time to park and get some rest.
How Sleep Affects Your Health
We all hear that eight hours of sleep per night is the magic formula that positively affects our health and overall wellbeing. Sleep provides the body an opportunity to repair and rejuvenate and that combined with eating healthy and exercise lead to good health.
However, truck drivers are consistently working with tight deadlines, which usually means long hours on the road and foregoing sleep in order to make good time. Nevertheless, that process results in poor health. Depriving the body of sleep is proven to lead to chronic pain issues as well as stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease. Sleep deficiency induces stress hormones that cause an increase in appetite, fatigue and anxiety; all of which can contribute to the above health issues and also obesity. Thus the cycle can become quite vicious in relation to health.
How to Get Ample Sleep On the Road
A common premise among truck drivers is not being able to sleep, even when tired. The body has an internal clock, known as the circadian biological clock. This clock naturally regulates the body’s timeframes of sleepiness and wakefulness and it can be disrupted when routines are interrupted. For example, if you’ve ever experienced fatigue because of Daylight Savings Time or jetlag from a long trip, that is due to the natural rhythm of the circadian clock being disturbed.
Hence, truck drivers are routinely thrown into different places, climates, and long-haul trips that can disrupt normal patterns for eating, being active and sleeping. This interference affects some more than others, but there are tips that can help induce a restful night’s sleep and provide routine while on the road.
- Maintain a regular bedtime.
- Park in a safe and quiet location.
- Darken the truck with curtains or shades, which will induce the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep.
- Have a comfortable bed with good back support.
- Adjust the temperature to a cozy setting.
- Wear earplugs or use some form of “white noise” or “pink noise” that helps mask the audibility of exterior sounds and also provides a consistent sound that induces restfulness.
- Reduce food and caffeine intake, at least three hours prior to your bedtime.
- Engage in something relaxing before bed.
- Exercise regularly, even if it is just a brisk walk. This will improve health and reduce stress. Avoid doing this close to bedtime, as it is also good for helping you stay awake.
Sometimes the mind and body will not allow for sleep, no matter how tired one is. If this occurs, get up and engage in some relaxing activity until you’re ready to try sleeping once again.
Recognizing Sleep Disorders
There are disorders that effect sleep, which include obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy, both of which can cause excessive daytime sleepiness. If you experience sleepiness while driving and have gotten ample sleep, it is recommended that you consult a health professional to address these issues. If left untreated, sleep disorders can increase the chance of further health problems as well as obstructing the ability to drive safely.
Taking time to plan ahead and allowing ample time for job completion and driving during times when you’re most awake will improve factors relating to both health and safety when working to complete long-haul drives.
Want to Learn More? Suppose U Drive offers insight into the current industry trends, updates and pertinent data regarding tips and advice on fleets. By signing up for our newsletter, you can find out the latest news and receive valuable insider information.
Suppose U Drive has been an industry leader in equipping businesses with all of their trucking needs. With experience spanning over the course of more than eighty years and having multiple locations, we are here to serve you in any capacity possible.