Being a truck drive means staying out on the road for hours at a time. Sometimes the miles traveled can be in the middle of rush hour in a major city that creates major stress and anxiety. Other times, a driver can be on the road in the middle of the night with no other cars in sight on a long, boring, lonely stretch of road.
So how do truckers stay awake and focused for such long and sometimes boring periods of time? There are a few options available. Some more healthy than others. In this article we will explore the various options available that have been found to be helpful.
The amount of time that a trucker can drive is limited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA passed laws in 2003 and again in 2013 that limits the amount of time that a truck driver can be on the road.
The 2003 law states that drivers may be on-duty for a maximum of 14 hours before taking a required 10 hour break. During the 14 hours of being “on-duty” the driver may not be behind the wheel for more than 11 of those hours.
In 2013, this law was modified. The modification stated that truckers were not allowed to drive for more than 8 hours at a time without taking a 30-minute break.
For example, if a driver begins their day driving at 3:00am, they would be allowed to drive until 11:00am before stopping for a 30-minute break. After the break, they are able to resume driving for an additional 3 hours but are required to be parked and off-duty by 5:00 pm. At this time, he/she is required to take a 10 hour break.
How do drivers stay awake?
There are several tips and tricks truckers can do to help stay awake when they are in the middle of a shift. Ultimately, a significant factor in remaining alert and focused while on the road comes down to keeping yourself healthy. Below I’ll touch on the different options available to help drivers while on the road.
Avoid fatty foods – Fast food is TERRIBLE for keeping you awake and focused on the road. The fatty foods are difficult for your body to process which in turns makes you very sleepy. In addition, if your fast food meal includes something high in carbs like fries, the drowsiness will hit even hard once you hit the “carb crash.”
Try to avoid unhealthy, fried foods while on the roads. That is very easy to say, and very difficult to do. Sure, it’s going to happen and it near impossible to prevent. However, if you can get yourself in the habit of planning your meals ahead of time, it will help significantly.
Avoid sugar – Experiencing sugar crashes will also make it difficult to not get sleepy while driving. So many drivers will fill up on cokes and candy bars for snacks while driving. The problem is that the sugar goes straight to your blood stream and causing a spike in energy, however, there’s also a sugar crash afterwards. Often times, this leads drivers to drink more cokes to get a caffeine boost to gain some energy.
Again, planning ahead will help. Try to pick up some healthy snacks for the road before you leave home. Try to find something healthy to drink as well. I really like having the single cup Keurig in my truck which you can pick up here for a great price. I like this particle machine because of it’s size. It allows me to make a cup or tea of coffee while on the road when I need a small boost of energy (I don’t add sugar).
Take vitamins – I was skeptical that vitamins could make me feel more energized and help me while on the road. I hadn’t taken vitamins since they were in the shape of Fred Flintsone. However, someone recommended these by 1 Body on Amazon. I gave them a try and I have to say, I can tell a difference. I take one pill in the morning after I eat breakfast and I’m good to go for the day. I never feel a crash or sick to my stomach after taking them. Highly recommend if you are having trouble staying awake and focused on the road.
Exercise – It’s tough to exercise while being a truck driver. However, exercise can come in a number of different ways. You keep a kettlebell to keep in your truck and do some weight lifting (I like these from Amazon). Or, you can try to get a run in before or after you drive each day. If that’s not possible, then try to park as far away as possible at truck stops and rest stops to get some extra steps in during the day. It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but it’s something.
Trying to get your heart rate up for at least a few minutes per day will make it much easier to stay awake and focused while driving.
I wrote a more detailed article a while back on the reason truck drivers get fat and how you can avoid developing unhealthy habits. If you are interested in the article, you can check it out here.
Listen to podcasts or books – A great way to keep your mind busy while you are on the road is by listening to podcasts or audio books. Today, there are thousands of podcasts available for download for free. You can find these all over the internet on just about any subject matter you can imagine. If you choose to listen to a podcast, I’d recommend downloading your podcasts when you have access to wifi so you don’t use all your cell data.
As for audiobooks, I recommend checking out Amazon Audibles. If you are already a Prime member, you can access it for free. You’ll have access to about 50 books at any one time that you can download and listen to. This group of books changes every month so there’s always something new.
If you aren’t a Prime member, you can sign at this link to sign up. It’s free for the first month and then $14.95 a month afterwards..
If you are interested in other ways to stay entertained while one the road, check out this article that I wrote a couple months ago.
Don’t get too warm and comfortable – One thing that will make you sleepy is letting the cab of your truck get too warm. I don’t have this problem in the summer, but in the winter time, I have to remind myself to not keep the truck too warm because otherwise I’ll start yawning and looking at the clock non-stop to countdown when I get pull over. Try to keep a little chill in your truck if you find yourself getting sleepy. Rolling down the window will help cool things off (in the winter) and the noise from the win can help as well.
Energy Drinks – Energy drinks have become extremely popular over the past decade or so. I do not recommend them. They can become addictive and you can easily find yourself drinking more and more of them per day. I’ve tried a couple different brands before and was not happy with the results. One popular brand made me extremely jittery and sick to my stomach. I couldn’t tell a difference in how I felt with the other brands until about an hour later when my energy crashed.
Caffeine pills – I’ve never tried caffeine pills before. I know some drivers who take them quite often. I’ve always had a fear of them becoming addictive or having a crash a little while after taking them. You can pick these up a most gas stations, but if caffeine pills are something you are interested in taking, I’d suggest researching some rather than just buying some random ones off the shelf at a truck stop. This particular brand has great reviews, but again, I’ve never used them.
As you can see, there are several options out there to help truck drivers stay awake and alert for their long drives. Ultimately, the best way to stay awake and alert is to keep your body in shape and eat healthy. Please comment below on any other ways you’ve come across to help stay alert while on the road!