Ten Ways to Keep Truckers Alert While Driving


Truck drivers have erratic sleep schedules. Most trucks are paid by how much work they get done, whether it be by the mile, by the hour, or a percentage of what the load pays.

Staying awake and alert for long periods is critical if you want to be a productive driver. Here are some things you can do to stay awake and alert for more extended periods.

Avoid High Contrast Lights At Night

The high contrast between the bright lights and pitch black will make your eyes feel sleepy before long. You have the bright headlights and dashboard lights in your face, but you’re sitting in a pitch-black truck surrounded by pitch-black night. This will wear you out.

Drive with soft red lights to light the interior of the cab just a little at night. Turn your dash lights down, so they were bright enough to see the gauges. Do your best to never look at the oncoming headlights but off to the side instead.

Keep Your Emotions In Check

Maybe you fought recently with your dispatcher. Maybe a car just cut you off a little while ago. Maybe you lost a great run. Whatever it is, you’re mad now, and you’re brooding about it. All of that frustration is going to wear you out. Let it go.

The same goes for getting too excited about things. If you start singing at the top of your lungs because you were just assigned a high load, you’re going to be pulling into a great rest area before long to catch a nap. Try to keep your emotions on an even.

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Don’t Allow Yourself To Get Too Exhausted

If you keep pushing on when you’re already tired, you know you’re doing something incredibly dangerous. You need to sleep. But I’ve also noticed that if I wait until I’m exhausted to get some sleep, I don’t recover nearly as well as I do when I take more frequent naps or go to bed sooner. When you start feeling tired, try to squeeze in a quick nap or go to bed early for the night. The more exhausted you are when you finally get some sleep, the less alert you’re going to feel when you get up.

Turn Off The Radios

Your CB radio, music, and talk shows can be highly entertaining, but also quite exhausting. Your mind is processing every sound it takes in. As you bombard your brain with stimuli, you get more and more tired.

Drive along for a while, enjoy the soft hum of the engine and wheels going down the highway. You’ll feel more calm and relaxed.

Turn Your Radio Back On!

The quiet gets tiresome after a while also. The endless hum of the engine and tires is relaxing, but maybe it’s putting you in a trance. Crank up some tunes, the CB radio, or a talk show for a short time and wake yourself up a little bit.

Avoid Large Doses Of Caffeine

Sip on coffee if you like but watch out for caffeine overload. Go easy on the caffeine and stimulants. Caffeine gives you a nice boost once in a while.

Avoid Large Portions Of Food

A full belly makes us sleepy. Eat a lot of smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones. You’ll feel better.

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Get Something To Eat!

In the right amounts at the right time, a snack or small meal can be a great energy booster. Overdo it, and you’ll be pulling off into a rest area for a nap. But the body responds well to small meals with small snacks in between.

Take A Walk Or Get Some Exercise

You would be amazed at how much of a difference a five-minute walk into the truck stop or rest area can make.

Take A Nap

Ok, so you don’t feel like taking a walk. Then how about a thirty-minute nap? It’s amazing what an incredible difference a short nap can make. One or two short naps each day can really help keep you awake and alert for a lot longer.

Let me be clear once again that there is no substitute for sleep. That’s not what this was about. These are ways to keep your energy levels high and give yourself a little boost when you’re not feeling as sharp as you’d like to.

Joel Curtis

Joel Curtis from Texas is a 30-year veteran in the trucking industry. He's driven refrigerated, flatbed, tankers, intermodals and more. You can find him as the primary author at America's Driving Force and at industry events.

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