How Truck Drivers Can Deal With Abnormal Sleep Schedules

December 27, 2020 Truck Accident Blog

Best Practices to Help Truck Driver Sleeping and Avoiding Drowsy Driving

According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving caused 91,000 vehicle accidents in 2017. Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving because they often work irregular schedules. The following tips help a truck driver sleeping and avoid drowsy driving while on the road.

How Much Sleep Do Truck Drivers Need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults typically need seven to nine hours of sleep every day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, a survey conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicated that 27% of long-haul truckers receive an average of six hours of daily sleep or less within a 24-hour period.

What Are the Rules?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets forth Hours of Service Regulations for the commercial trucking industry to follow. Currently, drivers who transport goods may drive up to 11 hours only after they have been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours prior. A 14-hour limit applies to the total timeframe within which a driver may operate a commercial truck after coming on duty.

Federal regulations require drivers to take a 30-minute break when they have driven eight hours. When on the road, drivers must also spend at least seven hours of their 10 hours off-duty in their truck’s sleeper berth. A trucking accident lawyer may find federal guidelines useful in establishing liability in a truck accident. However, for truckers, these rules are only the starting point when it comes to reducing fatigue while on the road. There are several other practices that drivers can implement to avoid drowsy driving.

Creating a Comfortable Truck Driver Sleeping Environment

truck driver sleeping

Drivers can’t control the environment outside when sleeping in their trucks. However, there are measures that they can take to create a more comfortable setting in which they can sleep without disruption. The goal is to make the environment inside the cabin as similar as possible to the home sleeping environment.

It is a good idea to invest in a comfortable mattress or cover the mattress with an inexpensive foam pad or a specially designed mattress topper. A good-quality pillow will also add comfort and improve sleep quality. Sheets and comforters should always match the outdoor temperature. All-weather comforters provide flexibility; however, it may also be helpful to keep extra blankets and warm sheets on hand in the event of unexpectedly cold weather.

Drivers should avoid disrupting their natural melatonin levels by keeping the sleeping area as dark as possible when sleeping for the night. This includes eliminating lights from electronics and light from outside. In general, the best areas to get quality sleep are quiet areas like truck stops and rest areas. When stopping for rest on a ramp, it is important to do so as safely as possible and to utilize ramps for short rest breaks only.

Truck Driver Sleeping in Noisy Environments

Sometimes, a truck driver may have to sleep in a noisy setting with sounds from other trucks, nearby traffic, truck vibrations, and other disruptions. There are several tools that can help drivers sleep in these settings. Earplugs are useful in blocking out sound. Those who would prefer not to sleep with earplugs may use a white noise machine or an app that plays relaxing music or nature sounds. Playing the radio can also help truck drivers tune out distracting noise. However, it is important to choose a station that plays soft music as up-tempo beats can raise the heart rate and make it more difficult to fall asleep and to achieve deep, restorative sleep.

Maintaining a Schedule While on the Road

Delivery timelines and the hours of operation service regulations dominate truck drivers’ schedules. However, following the same daily schedule as closely as possible will help drivers avoid fatigue. If possible, truck drivers should schedule their meals, snacks, exercise, and sleep to take place at roughly the same time of day each day. Maintaining as much regularity as possible helps the body establish a rhythm. The body will make the necessary adjustments to supply the needed energy during times when the driver is typically on the road.

Creating a Bedtime Routine

Creating and consistently following a bedtime routine can make sleeping at an unusual time or getting sufficient rest while on the road much easier. Implementing a relaxing routine before bed allows the mind and body to wind down and relax, which makes it easier to fall asleep and to remain asleep through the night. An effective bedtime routine might include exercising, meditating, or doing stretches and then taking a warm shower 30 minutes or an hour before bed. Reading or listening to relaxing music help the mind destress and transition into a more restful state before falling asleep. It is important to avoid caffeine and sugary foods and drinks prior to winding down before bed.

Choosing Healthy Meals

Sleep is just a small portion of a truck driver’s overall wellness. Even though truck drivers have mandated off-time and breaks, drivers may still have difficulty sleeping. In addition to working overnight schedules, drivers often have other lifestyle habits that may prevent them from sleeping regularly. Healthy eating habits and exercise are often not part of a commercial trucker’s life on the road. However, sound, high-quality sleep often depends on consuming a diet of nutrient-dense foods and exercising to keep the mind and body in balance.

Getting Exercise While on the Road

Commercial truck drivers spend much of their time sitting. Extended periods of inactivity can contribute to obesity and make it more difficult for drivers to sleep on a regular schedule. Truck drivers should set aside time to exercise daily to help maintain a balanced schedule that includes sufficient sleep.

What to Do When Drowsiness Strikes

Sometimes, commercial truck drivers may become drowsy while in the middle of their route. Drivers who begin to feel tired or drowsy while driving should park in a safe place and take a break to get some sleep. While it may be tempting to push through the drowsiness, doing so may increase the likelihood of becoming involved in a drowsy driving accident. Drifting into another lane, missing an exit, or losing track of the most recent miles driven are all signs that indicate a truck driver should stop and rest before continuing to drive. Truckers should ideally pull over before they experience frequent yawning, blinking, head-bobbing, and “microsleeping” as these are signs of the extremely dangerous later stages of drowsiness.

If a truck driver feels drowsy, the only remedy is to immediately park and take a break to sleep. Otherwise, drowsy driving may pose a risk to the truck driver and other drivers on the road. In the event of an accident with a commercial truck, the injured party should contact a trucking accident lawyer to determine whether drowsy driving may have contributed to the accident.

Our team is here to serve you at our New Brunswick and Somerville, New Jersey, offices. Contact the truck accident attorneys at RAM law by phone at (732) 394-1549, or visit us online to learn more about truck accident victims’ right to compensation.

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