Making Sure Your Truck Drivers Get Enough Sleep

If you manage a truck fleet, you know it’s important for your drivers to get the rest they need. This is not only best practice for the industry but also a federal law. An impaired driver should never operate a commercial vehicle. Driver impairments includes sickness, mental fatigue, and sleep deprivation.

But how do you make sure you drivers are getting the sleep they need? Is there anything they can do to decrease impairment? Listed below are a number of ways your drivers can get the rest they need, stay healthy, and avoid incident and impairment.

Get Better Sleep

The most important thing a driver can do to prevent impaired driving is to get enough sleep. But a driver’s work schedule can make finding time to sleep difficult.  Even though their busy schedule dictates their sleeping hours, drivers can maximize the quality of their sleep with the following techniques..

Block out the sun: A driver may only be able to find sleep in the middle of the day, so the challenge becomes how to block out the sun. Light irritates those trying to sleep, making it difficult to reach a true REM cycle.

Most OTR trucks come equipped with an area for sleep. Make sure this area has thick curtains to block as much light as possible. To dim a truck’s sleep space further, place a reflective sun shade in the windshield.

Drivers can also use a sleep mask to achieve complete darkness.

Keep it quiet: Noise keeps people awake. Whether it’s the sound of people talking, or the noise of passing cars on the highway, any sound can keep a driver from getting the required sleep they need to avoid impairment.

Make sure the curtain that divides the sleep berth from the rest of the cab is noise-cancelling. Drivers can also use white noise machines, sleep-aid soundtracks, and other soothing sounds to help get the rest they need.

Ear plugs are also useful in this situation. For those heavy sleepers who may need help waking up, some alarms clocks vibrate as well as make noise to wake a person up.

Get off the road: To fall into a deep and restful sleep, drivers should avoid trying to sleep on the side of the road. Traffic will vibrate the cab of the truck, making sleep increasingly difficult to achieve.

Rest stops and truck stops are two of the most common places to find peace and quiet during a haul. But these two locations often fill up the fastest as well.

Where possible, have your drivers plan ahead where they will stop for sleep. They should include a few back-up places with additional parking. Remember that some towns and cities may have laws dictating where a driver can park a rig overnight.

Stay Healthy

Being on the road makes it tough for a driver to stay in good shape. As discussed, getting a good night’s rest is the most important thing for a driver to do to stay healthy and alert. But your drivers can and should do a few other things to promote a healthy lifestyle while on the road.

With frequent stops at convenience stores, truck drivers have abundant access to unhealthy foods. To keep from junking out, drivers should prepare nutritious meals and healthy snacks so they can avoid sugary and fattening alternatives. Nuts, fruits, and raw vegetables are a great source of energy and help the body to stay alert and attentive throughout the day.

Your drivers also need to have plenty of water on hand. A cup of coffee or a sugary drink is okay in moderation, but nothing beats water at keeping a body in tip-top shape.

Staying healthy is not just about the food you eat—it also includes the things you do. Driving for long periods of time could lead to a decreased motivation to exercise. Making time to exercise helps anyone’s mind and body stay energetic. Encourage your drivers to schedule at least 30 minutes a day for exercise to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping.

If your drivers don’t have 30 minutes at a time to spend exercising, have them break up their exercise into segments. For example, they can put in 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the very least, make sure your drivers schedule time to get out and walk around every few hours.

Make a Plan and Stick to it

Finally, to stick to a solid sleep schedule and stay healthy, your drivers need to be expert planners. From pick up to delivery, they need to be able to schedule their way to the destination. This includes planning stops for gas, food, and sleep. A thoughtful planner accounts for potential traffic and unexpected delays.

Teach your drivers to make a plan and stick to it as close as possible, but they also need a fair amount of flexibility. Knowing how to adjust to the unexpected can decrease your drivers’ stress from delays and improve their ability rest when the time comes.

Above all, remember safe driving is the responsibility of both the driver and the company. Make sure that your drivers are physically and mentally able to complete the task assigned and that they always schedule time for rest.