Clear roads. Those two magic words that make any truck driver want to drive through the night.
But while less traffic on the road is appealing, driving at night is a skill. Lots of drivers are happy to do it, but there are plenty who would rather avoid it altogether. After all, staying awake between 10pm and 6am is hard enough, let alone being behind the wheel of a big rig.
I don’t need to spell out the risks of being tired while driving. What I will tell you however, are the things you can do to stay safe on night drives.
1 Treat it differently to driving in the day
You might be able to drive for long stints during the day with only 30 minute breaks, but that’s not going to work from dusk till dawn. At some point during your night drive, you will need to rest – for at least an hour. If you’re worried about falling asleep, make sure you’ve got an alarm clock with you.
2 Get a good (day’s) sleep
You’ll need to get a good 7-8 hours’ sleep before your night shift. When you first start out as a night driver, your body will take a while to adjust. Be patient, you’ll eventually find a routine that works for you.
3 Know when to stop
There are going to be times when you are more tired than others. Whether that’s down to lack of sleep, stress, diet, or a sedentary lifestyle, driving when you’re tired is a no-no. As soon as you feel your eyes starting to close involuntarily or drift away from the road, or you start hallucinating, you should have stopped a while ago. Know the early signs of tiredness and pull over as soon as you can.
4 Get your cab night-time ready
Be sure to dim your dashboard, GPS and any other tech to reduce eye fatigue. It might take a few nights for your eyes to adjust, but stick with it. Make sure your headlights are adjusted and clean – these are your first line of defence when driving at night. It’s also a good idea to keep your windows and mirrors clean to reduce glare.
5 Stay alert for longer
The best way to stay alert for longer is to take a nap. But sometimes, you’re going to need a quick pick-me-up. This could be as simple as opening a window or drinking a cup of coffee. Other tips include washing your face in cold water or having a 10-minute stretch or walk.
6 Night vision glasses
You might want to consider getting a pair of night-vision goggles. They enhance your vision while driving at night and are not too expensive.
The single, most important thing to remember is that no load is more important than your safety. It’s better for a job to be late than you end up in hospital, injure someone or jeopardise your career.
Ideally, the industry would do more to protect its drivers and not penalise them for being tired. But until then, know your limits and enjoy those empty roads.