No matter how well you plan your trucking schedule, chances are good you are going to have to drive in the dark. Driving at night presents a different set of challenges than the ones you must deal with during the day, and it’s important for you to identify them and know how to stay safe at any hour. Even if you are a seasoned pro, you can benefit as much as a new driver with these helpful night driving tips to get you from start to finish with no incidents.
Start With You
You may not realize it, but your health is the most important element for safe driving. You should get your eyes checked by a health care professional to make sure your distance vision is adequate, especially at night, when visibility can be limited. You should also check with a doctor about any fatigue or sleep problems you may be having. Sleep apnea is more common than you think, and it can impact your attentiveness while on the road.
Do a Pre-Trip Safety Check
Another basic element of safety is keeping your semi truck clean, especially the windshield. As difficult as it is to see through a dirty windshield during the day, just imagine how it can affect your visibility at night. Be sure to clean your windshield inside and out often, and check your windshield wipers, replacing them as needed if they have a lot of miles on them. You should also adjust the brightness of your dashboard; that glowing instrument panel can reflect off your windshield and shine right back in your eyes.
Tired driving can be as or more dangerous than driving under the influence. No paycheck is worth risking your and other people’s lives for, so if you are too tired to continue driving safely, stop and rest. You can find a safe place to pull off the road, or better yet, head to a truck stop to get out and stretch your legs, get a bite to eat, shower, or take a nap in your cab.
What’s the best thing to do after a big, heavy meal? It’s definitely not driving at night! A full belly means your body is working hard to digest rather than keeping your brain alert. Night driving may be a better time for healthy snacks or lighter meals, such as salad, vegetables and lean protein, smoothies, or other food that is easier to digest.
Night driving and zoning out do not mix. Boredom on the road can cause sleepiness, which is why you should have a plan or at least a few options to keep you awake and vigilant. For example, lively music that you enjoy listening to or singing along with is a great way to keep your mind occupied without taking your attention away from the highway.
If music isn’t your thing, listen to interesting podcasts or talk radio shows that keep your interest. Even audiobooks can be a good solution to help stay awake.
Paying attention to the road always comes first, and if your mind-occupying activity is too distracting, you shouldn’t do it. Most people default to their phones for entertainment, which you already know you shouldn’t do when behind the wheel. Wait to make phone calls or return texts when you stop to take a break.
Eyes Open Wide
Nighttime driving may make traffic lighter, but raccoons, deer, opossum, and other animals that venture out at dark can be a road hazard, especially if you aren’t paying attention until one darts in front of your truck. Look out for extra sets of eyes that glow in the headlights and remember that swerving can be more dangerous for you, other drivers, and your load. If you can’t avoid impact, use your brakes to slow down and minimize damage to your vehicle.
If you work in the trucking industry, driving at night may be inevitable, but you can still find a number of high-quality truck driving jobs for safe and reliable truckers. Your safety on the road at any hour of the day or night can see you through to your next assignment.