Long haul driving is hard. Period. Truck drivers are said to work 70-hour work weeks, but we all know the reality is more like 90. Compared to a normal office worker, clocking in at 40 hours a week, this is already a recipe for exhaustion.
Add in the fact that off-duty time, usually spent waiting between loads or at a truck stop, requires a certain amount of vigilance and maintenance of the rig—and isn’t really down time after all. Plus the fact that the human body prefers to sleep at night, in the dark, when the body’s natural rhythm calls for it. And that, to be healthy, one needs better access to healthier food than can be found at truck stops or fast food eateries—and you’ve got a whole lot of drivers barreling down the highway towards depression, exhaustion, poor-health, and the dreaded burn out.
Here are four strategies to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, whatever stage you might be at in your trucking career:
1. Take vacations
You might think you can’t afford the time off, even if you’ve been allotted it. But really, it’s the other way around; you can’t afford not to take the time off to rest and recharge. It will make you a safer, happier, and healthier driver. Take holidays as well! Family time is important. The normal rhythms of civilian life are too.
2. Take breaks
You may get bonus points with your boss, and perhaps an extra couple of bucks, for getting there an hour sooner. But at what cost? Breaks, especially when you’re feeling even slightly fatigued, can be a game changer and a serious morale booster.
3. Get regular
If at all possible, try and get on a regular route. You’ll be able to stop in the same places, build yourself a routine, and get on a more regular sleep pattern. If this isn’t possible, put yourself on the spare board on a regular, rotating basis. Falling asleep at the wheel is never worth the risk.
4. Embrace the electronic
Nobody is particularly thrilled with these new electronic logs, but they may actually help level the playing field. They’ll take everyone off the road after 70 or so hours, and enforce breaks and rests. You’ll never have to worry that someone else is putting in double hours to make bank. And you can take your much-deserved break in peace.