Daytime truck driving or nighttime truck driving? Which is the better shift to drive? Like anything, it depends on an individual driver’s personal preferences. Some people love the serenity of the night shift. Others prefer the daytime driving and don't mind if that means an increase in traffic flow.
It's safe to say that regardless of whether you're a solo or a team driver, you’ll probably have to drive a night shift at some point in your trucking career. In an ideal team arrangement, you may find one driver that takes the bulk of the daytime driving while the other takes over at night. When it's your turn to drive at night, there are some things to keep in mind that will help you stay stafe. We've put together a list of pros and cons to nighttime driving along with some tips that are sure to help!
Pros & Cons of Nighttime Driving
As you can probably imagine, there's good AND bad about working an overnight driving shift. Here are some of the most common pros and cons of truck driving at night.
Nighttime driving is often more peaceful than daytime driving. This is largely because most traffic is off the road at 3am, so the graveyard shift is much quieter than its daytime counterpart. Your co-driver is most likely asleep in their bunk and you don't have to listen to the hootin' and the hollerin' of the highway like you do during the daytime shift.
Nighttime drivers don't typically have to fight their mortal enemy - traffic jams. Since they're usually paid on a per-mile basis, truck drivers don't make any money if they're not actually moving. And since most traffic jams are frequently during the normal, 8-5 daytime hours, they aren't something night truck drivers often have to deal with. And less vehicles on the road means a lower chance of traffic jams, making nighttime a profitable time for truck drivers.
Obviously the biggest con to truck driving at night is the significantly decreased field of vision. Difficulty seeing at night leads to many more accidents than daytime driving, so you have to be absolutely sure that you’re paying attention to your surroundings and driving defensively.
You also will have to adjust your sleep schedule if you're going to drive at night. This isn't something that takes too long to get used to (maybe a week or two), but those couple weeks while your body tries to adjust will likely disrupt your normal circadian rhythm. You'll want to get on a set sleeping schedule if you'll be driving overnight.
Tips for Nighttime Driving
Driving at night can be dangerous for several reasons. Here are some tips for staying safe and alert in the wee hours of the morning.
- First and foremost - if you feel too sleepy to continue driving, pull over and take a little cat nap. Fighting through the exhaustion is only going to put you, your co-driver (if you have one), and everyone on the road at risk for a potential disaster when you fall asleep at the wheel. Fatigued driving is extremely dangerous and can actually threaten your career.
- Devise a regular sleep schedule. Try to refrain from waking up with an alarm clock. You want to try to wake up of your body's own accord so you know you're completely rested.
- If you're having trouble staying in your lane, watch the reflectors and lines on the side of the road. Use them as guides for staying centered.
- If you're driving a 7pm-7am shift, it can be tempting to load up on the coffee and Mountain Dew. By all means, grab a cup o' joe when you first begin your shift, but do not pump caffeine into your veins throughout the entire night. It will keep you awake for a few hours, but that perk will eventually lead to a caffeine crash and you’ll be sleepier than before. Resist the urge to rely on caffeine to keep you alert, and rely instead on getting a good night's day's rest.
- Watch out for any 4-wheelers on the road at 3am who may have had a drink (or six) at the bar. Be a defensive driver. If you see someone swerving or displaying signs that they're intoxicated, call 911.
- If you start getting heavy eyed, pull over and take a lap or two around your truck. Do some jumping jacks. Exercise will perk you up and get the blood flowing again.
- If your tummy starts grumbling during your drive, snack on something crunchy (but still healthy) like fruit, nuts, or celery. These foods will give you a little energy boost. Avoid sugary snacks - they contain lots of carbs. They may taste delicious now, but you'll carb-crash later.
- Don't blind other drivers with your high beams! If you see headlights or taillights in your windshield, be courteous and turn your high beams off.
- Do things to stay awake and keep your mind alert. You don't want to zone out - that's a common cause of accidents. Audio books are a good idea - it's hard to fall asleep when you're trying to understand what's happening in a story. Other activities to keep you awake and alert include chatting with your co-driver (if they happen to be a night owl and are still awake), listening/talking via your CB radio, and chatting with friends or family on your cell phone. But don't forget to use a Bluetooth! Remember, these activities are supposed to keep you alert. If you find yourself getting too distracted by them, quit and focus purely on driving. These activities should be used as a means to keep you awake and alert, not as a free-time activity to keep you entertained while you're driving an 80,000 pound truck down the highway at 60 miles per hour.
- Reduce your speed and increase your following distance at night (basic, but often overlooked).
- Last but certainly not least, BE ALERT. And again, if you feel like you're too tired to keep driving, pull over and take a little nap. No one will fault you for being proactive about your safety. Remember, fatigued driving is a serious violation that can have big repercussions.
What tips do you have for nighttime driving? Feel free to share them with us in the comment section below!
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