When a person obtains their CDL, that is only the tip of the iceberg concerning their career as a professional driver. In the months and even years to come they will be continually learning and crafting their new trade. I once heard a 30-year veteran of the industry say, “The day you climb behind the wheel of your truck and think you cannot learn anything new, that needs to be your last day as a driver.” One of the many new things a driver must learn is how to sleep in various surroundings, temperatures, and throughout the day and night. The art of sleeping on command takes a long time to develop and new drivers often struggle with this. It takes time to build the stamina to drive 500-600 miles per day, let alone teaching yourself to get adequate rest once your work period is finished. New drivers often put great effort into running hard to cover as many miles as they can, but often neglect their 10-hour rest break. Falling into the rut of running hard but sleeping very little is not safe or healthy for either the driver. A fatigued driver is more likely to be involved in an accident or make a costly mistake which is not good for anyone involved; the driver, the company, or others on the road.
One way to delay the onset of fatigue is to schedule naps as part of your trip plan, as long as your appointment time allows for it. Fitting in a quick nap whenever possible is a huge factor in creating a safer driving experience. That means naps during your shift, sleeping while getting loaded or unloaded, and sleeping while you’re waiting for your next load assignment can be a game-changer. Even sleeping while waiting on repairs at the shop can help. Trucking can be unpredictable, as such, so can a driver’s sleeping schedule. Learning to sleep whenever you are presented the opportunity can be important to staying safe and healthy.
Those who are new to or know very little about the trucking industry hear “10 hour break” and assume that 10 hours is the amount of time you get to sleep. On the contrary, that is the time you get to eat, shower, do laundry, use the bathroom, visit with family and friends, and then sleep. That does not even include any hobbies such as watching television, reading a book, or exploring social media. Thus, a driver must sleep whenever the opportunity presents itself, because a 10-hour break is over before you know it and then it is time to get back to work. This is why catching a nap whenever you can is a necessary skill to be developed which will help ensure a drivers success in the industry.
However, it is also important to note that if you are truly tired and know you need to catch up on sleep, you must inform your driver manager in advance. Do not wait until the last minute to tell them that you cannot commit to your assigned load. Driver Managers know driving is a tough job and want what is best for the safety of their drivers. Safety is always the top priority, so, they will not and cannot hesitate to accommodate your safety needs. With that said, it is critical that a professional driver not abuse or take advantage of the time granted for safety purposes. Constantly reporting that you are too tired to drive just because you want more time to complete other tasks can be detrimental relationship with your Driver Manager and/or your company. Fatigue is serious in nature and needs to always be treated as such.
Practice and develop the skills that will improve your mental and physical health as a driver. One of the first steps to do this is developing the skill of sleeping whenever you can. Taking advantage of a few minutes to rest will help you manage your fatigue which will help you with the rest of the things you need to be successful at in order to excel in your profession.