Simple as it seems, the best way to cure driver fatigue is to get a regular good night’s sleep!
However, life often gets in the way and we may not get the great night’s sleep we need ahead of a busy day at the wheel.
Recognising the signs of driver fatigue can be difficult and easy to push aside – especially at the start of a shift.
A change of mindset is often what is needed which means understanding the symptoms and knowing what to do.
Symptoms you may have shrugged off in the past, may be an early indicator that driver fatigue is about to ruin your day!
Early signs of driver fatigue include:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking
- Yawning and rubbing eyes
- Dry, sore or heavy eyes
- Impaired or delayed reactions
- Your speed creeps up or down
- Becoming impatient or irritable
- Driving performance is reduced (poor lane discipline, sharp braking)
- Stiffness and cramps
- Feeling like you don’t remember the last 50km – zoned out
If you start to experience any of the early signs these are some short and longer term tips.
Common short term fixes – be warned, they don’t last long!
- Opening windows will give you an extra burst of oxygen, but this quickly wears off
- Chewing stimulates the circulation of blood in the brain and reduces the symptoms of sleep deprivation – but only temporarily
- Loud music helps briefly but your attention is already waning so this can quickly become ‘white noise’
- Energy drinks and coffee are very short term. After the initial lift from caffeine, the fatigue soon comes back.
- Sugary drinks are bad news!
Longer term fixes.
Listening and talking
- Listening to Podcasts, Audiobooks and radio talk shows that interest you can keep you mentally alert whilst driving long distances. Listening to the spoken word means you have to pay more attention rather than zoning out to ambient music
- Even better is chatting to someone, either on a hands-free phone call or two-way radio. But always be mindful that this can also be a distraction causing you to miss junctions and not give the road your undivided attention
Taking a break
- Make sure you take regular breaks – the most important long-distance driving tip. Park and get out. A short, brisk walk in the fresh air could be just what you need
- Having some mini body weight workout routines to hand will boost oxygen levels in the blood, increasing your ability to concentrate
- Squats and inclined push-ups/dips against the cab steps require nothing other than you and your truck
- When stationary, movement practices while in the cab can increase circulation. Calf raises, gentle twists, bends and stretches all help to increase circulation and strengthen connective tissues in the joints. Again, all accessible and free!
- On longer trips you should take a cat nap at least every four hours. The benefits of napping are clear, but these power naps should be no longer than 20 minutes as your body may head into deep sleep…so set your alarm!