Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided to withdraw a proposed rule to test truck drivers for obstructive sleep apnea. The condition, if left undiagnosed or untreated, can cause sudden bouts of sleep, even when on the road. What caused the initial concern, were studies linking obstructive sleep apnea with driving accidents across the board, which is why it became an issue in the trucking industry. However, with the rule on testing for sleep apnea off the table for now, truckers and fleet owners are left to fend for themselves in recognizing and handling fatigue. As a company run by people from the trucking industry, which serves the needs of truckers and fleet owners, Express Freight Finance has put together an easy guide to help you recognize and combat fatigue when making hauls.
Fatigue And Your Sleep Schedule
The recommended amount of sleep, six to eight hours, does not exist in the trucking industry. In a business structured around miles and expediency, inadequate sleep and road fatigue are par for the course. Some hauls require drivers to adjust their sleep schedules on the fly to shift from day to nighttime cycles. However, instead of fighting sleep and ignoring fatigue, truckers should try napping. Pulling over and taking a nap when you start to feel tired can greatly improve performance and fully restore alertness, according to sleep studies. A driver can get much more rest from a quick 40 minute nap than trying to fight fatigue until they reach their destination.
What Are You Drinking?
Caffeine is a heck of a drug, and it is the usual “go to” for truckers to combat fatigue. But caffeine is not a “cure all.” Coffee and energy drinks may seem to do wonders, because caffeine goes straight to the brain, and the receptors that allow for tiredness are blocked, at least for a while. Anyone who has added caffeinated beverages as an additional food group is very familiar with the “crash” when it wears off. The post-caffeine fatigue is often worse than it was before that first cup of coffee. Additionally, caffeine causes the brain to release adrenaline, which can hinder performance and alertness, not to mention it dehydrates the body. If you want to keep alert on the road, and avoid a big crash during a long haul, drink water, juices, and beverages to keep your electrolytes high.
Be Mindful Of What You Eat
Truckers have, when compared to workers in any other industry, some of the worst diets in the country. The schedules and long hours on the road do not lend themselves to good eating habits. Grabbing fast food or living off of snacks has become the norm. However, between the sodium, preservatives, and low-grade protein, many truckers are not getting the nutrients their brains require, in addition to increasing their blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Try protein-dense foods like tuna, sardines, nuts, or jerky. Yes, your body needs sugar, but the type of sugar in a candy bar contains much less in the way of nutrients when compared to bread, a granola bar, or even a bagel.
Not everyone can get to a doctor to get tested for obstructive sleep apnea or other causes of fatigue. However, if truckers take matters into their own hand and take active measures to prevent road-weariness, and fleets take time to train truckers on how said measures can prevent accidents on the highway, we can create a much safer industry, prevent injuries, and keep people alive.