Following on from our previous blog – causes of driver fatigue and how to spot the most common signs – today we bring you 11 tips your drivers can use to combat fatigue.
Remember: It isn't just being tired, or bored from driving the same highways for hours on end. It's the overwhelming physical and mental exhaustion that comes with life on the road. Research has proven that frequently-fatigued truck drivers are at increased risk of being involved in road accidents, and both high pulse pressure and fatigue significantly contribute to crash risks. What’s more, many of the negative aspects of truck driving (including stress, long hours, heavy lifting, and lack of sleep and exercise) can contribute to both these conditions. As we’ve already seen, fatigue leads to slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly.
Use the following 11 tips to help your drivers battling with fatigue.
Tip #1: Get enough sleep beforehand
Ideally, you should get at least seven hours of sleep before you get on the road. Getting this amount of sleep will ensure that you are as alert and agile as possible on the road and mentally and physically prepared for any eventuality.
Tip #2: Re-evaluate your sleep schedule
It may be difficult for you to always manage to heed the advice in Tip #1, especially in an industry where miles and kilometres equal money – sleep would mean less of both in any given day. Experiment with your sleep pattern to find out what works best for you. Try sleeping at different times, for different intervals and see how you feel.
Tip #3: Have a pre-drive nap
If you feel you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, try make time to fit in a catnap before you get behind the wheel. Studies show that even an hour power nap will allow your body to receive crucial rest you require for long-haul driving.
Tip #4: Enjoy a mid-drive nap
If you don’t have time to nap beforehand, make sure that you pull over at a rest stop such as a garage and take a 20-minute nap. Whatever you do, don’t try to fight your fatigue – you’ll crash and hurt yourself, and others.
Tip #5: Pay attention to your diet
When you’re on the road, ensuring your diet includes the recommended daily allowance of each food group is tough. It is far simpler to indulge in convenient fast food. What’s more, it’s not as though there’s a range of rest stops with a varied assortment of food that can support your efforts to eat healthily. But you can still take control of your eating habits. This means forgoing that fatty hamburger, which will give you that quick sugar rush but won’t offer sustained energy. Instead, you should be eating alternatives such as a tuna or chicken sandwich.
Overly fatty, sugary or salty food will increase your fatigue in the long run. If you’re craving a salty or sugary snack, make sure you pack nuts and fruit when you travel.
Tip #6: Keep yourself nourished
It’s also important to keep your energy levels up while driving. The best way to achieve this is to snack regularly and to drink plenty of liquids.
Tip #7: Take your vitamins
Certain vitamins such as Vitamins B and C will give you loads of energy on the road. Make sure though that you get these vitamins from a healthy meal, as your body won’t absorb them properly otherwise. Alternatively, buy Vitamin B and C supplements.
Tip #8: Drink caffeine in moderation
Caffeinated drinks, whether coffee, tea, soft drinks or energy drinks, can be helpful in moderation. However, like sugar, caffeine can lead to people crashing and becoming more tired than before they had their caffeine jolt. Indulge in a coffee or other caffeinated beverage sparingly – once every four hours or longer is recommended. Any more than that and you risk turning into a zombie behind the wheel of your car, or crashing out horribly and falling asleep behind the wheel. And, if you can stand it, try drink the coffee without any milk, cream or sugar in it. Loading your coffee up with a lot of sugar will only cause problems in the long run. Using caffeine in moderation can help. Just don’t overdo it.
Tip #9: Stay hydrated
Dehydration can lead to drowsiness, headaches and muscle cramps. You have enough to worry about on the road without all of those aches and pains, so stay hydrated. An important thing to remember is that water doesn't just quench your thirst. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking water can help regulate your body temperature, lubricate and cushion joints, and protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues – all of which contribute to your overall health and combating fatigue.
We don’t mean you should try working out in your truck, but try keep moving in the following ways.
Tip 10#: Move around when you start to feel tired
You can expect to feel a bit stiff and tired after driving for many hours, because sitting for extended periods means that blood doesn’t flow to your legs and other parts of your body. A simple solution is to pull over at a rest stop or to the side of the road and stretch your legs and arms, maybe even go for a short walk if it is safe to do so. Regular stretching will revitalise you and keep you focused on the journey at hand.
Tip #11: Use ambient tools to help you stay alert
- Listen to talk radio rather than music. After a long period, music can lull you into a stupor and make you sleepy.
- Keep the temperature in the car cool. Having the interior vehicle temperature a few degrees cooler than you prefer will help keep you alert.
- Place the car seat in a new position. Try placing the car seat you’re using in a new or unusual position. This will take you out of the comfort zone you’re used to when driving and ward off the fatigue that inevitably sets in on a long road trip.
- Roll down the window for a blast of fresh air.
- Play mental and physical games with yourself to keep yourself sharp and attentive. These games could include things such as doing multiplication and division out loud, adding or subtracting numbers in your head, memorizing some useful information, trying to remember old telephone numbers you once had, or looking for certain makes and models of vehicles on the highway. You can also do physical things within reason too, such as keeping one hand raised in the air, clenching the steering wheel really hard and shifting your position and posture.