Truck drivers are faced with the demanding job of transporting goods over long periods of time while also having the responsibility to drive safely. Fatigue can set in easily when a driver hasn’t had enough rest or enough nutrition to keep their mind sharp. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving accounts for more than 6,400 U.S. deaths annually. Your fleet does not have to be part of this statistic if you practice these road safety tips to fight fatigue.

In this blog, we’ll cover the warning signs of fatigued driving and how to get the rest you need to complete a job safely. 

The Dangers of Driving While Tired

Daytime sleepiness sets in when a driver does not get enough sleep, making them less attentive to the road ahead. Fatigue can slow reaction time, making them unable to make preventive actions while driving. Moreover, sleepiness can affect their ability to make good, calculated decisions.

If you observe any of the following signs, it means that you might be driving drowsily and need to take a break:

  • Heavy eyelids and frequent blinking
  • Finding it hard to focus on the road
  • Yawning repeatedly and having disconnected thoughts
  • Feeling irritable and easily annoyed

Tips on Managing Fatigue

Take Scheduled Breaks

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers were considered fatigued at the time of the accident. Another research shows that 50 percent of fatigue-related accidents usually happen between midnight and 8 a.m. These studies show that not getting enough scheduled breaks can hamper a driver’s ability to stay alert.

Some drivers understandably want to maximize their time on the road to get deliveries on time. However, not observing the Hours of Service (HOS) is detrimental to the driver’s safety. It’s important that drivers take their scheduled breaks and use that time to recharge for a successful shift.

Stay Hydrated

Various studies link hydration to diet and exercise. But new research shows that fluid intake affects sleep and fatigue. The National Library of Medicine states that people suffering from dehydration may feel extremely tired or lethargic. When we don’t get enough fluids, we feel dizzy and sluggish. 

The amount of water someone should drink varies on the individual, but for a generally healthy adult, 8 cups of water a day is enough to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated will keep drivers alert and focused while completing their deliveries.

Eat Healthy Food

It’s challenging for truck drivers to have a healthy diet on the road. Preparing healthy meals can be difficult when you don’t have a full kitchen and access to fresh groceries. This is why many truckers opt for fast food, where meals are often high in fat, calories, and sodium.

According to the Sleep Foundation, good nutrition plays a vital role in sleep. Recognizing the relationship between the two can help you choose foods more consciously. And in doing so, truckers can maintain their health and stay alert on the road.

So, what foods should drivers eat when they don’t have time to cook or prepare meals before hitting the road? Healthy Trucking of America recommends the following:

    • Get more nuts and seeds (instead of chips) from fuel stations.
    • Choose deli sandwiches over those that are in the hot case.
    • At truck stops where food choices are limited, opt for veggie burgers and baked potatoes instead of regular burgers and mashed potatoes.
    • Stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options from grocery stores.

Be Wary of “Alertness Tricks”

There is no substitute for sleep—not even popular alertness tricks that claim to perk you up but, in reality, will leave you feeling more tired. Drinking coffee and turning up the radio can make you feel energized in a flash, but you’d notice the slump within a few hours.

For instance, drinking coffee stimulates the central nervous system. The caffeine rush can help you stay alert for up to six hours. However, the boost begins to decline shortly after that. Additionally, caffeine consumption can have short-term side effects such as headaches, frequent urination, faster breathing, and anxiety.

How AI-powered Technology Can Help Manage Fatigue

Fleet managers cannot constantly monitor drivers’ behaviors, so they need a reliable safety system to track what’s happening on the road. AI-powered technology detects unsafe driving behaviors such as losing focus on the road and drowsiness.

For instance, inward-facing dash cams can capture when a driver is distracted or is beginning to doze off while driving. These dash cams issue in-cab audible alerts that notify drivers when a compliance violation may occur, allowing them to correct their behavior.

Moreover, the system rewards drivers who practice safe driving, creating a balanced safety culture within the fleet. The technology itself enables remote coaching so fleet managers can help drivers improve their safety skills without bringing them into their office. Fleet safety software gives fleet managers insight into how to best coach their drivers to keep them safe.

Final Thoughts

Drowsy drivers can increase the risk of accidents. Drivers experience reduced reaction times and slower decision-making skills, which impair their ability to avoid road hazards. Drivers must prioritize their health or their own safety and the safety of others. Fleet managers can work with their teams to help drivers take these precautions to enhance their overall performance on the road.

Learn more about how to improve the skills of your drivers and engage them in safety awareness.

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Cecille Doroja