Staying Alert Begins on the Inside

Driving for a living as a professional driver can be both very boring and very exciting at the same time. The rumble of the big truck, sitting high above the traffic can be a great feeling as you roll down the road. One of the biggest challenges for any driver is staying alert. The conditions may change but many times the body doesn’t change to those conditions and still has trouble staying awake. That’s because the alertness comes from the inside not the outside.

I had this happen to me on one of my trips. I was on the outskirts of Chicago heading west on a wonderful sunny day. I was on schedule, the truck was clean, the weather was perfect and the scales were closed, otherwise a perfect day. As I hummed down the road at the speed limit I started to go into that zone known as “Highway Hypnosis” or “White Line Fever” where you are awake and asleep all at the same time. This is common among truck drivers and many of use the so called C.B. radio to battle it. I had managed to get into that state and what woke me up was the dreaded voice over the radio that said, “Here he comes!” As I looked to my left I noticed a car coming through the ditch towards me. With no where to go I began to break as the car spun in my direction. As he twirled to the right side of my lane I steered to the left to avoid hitting the car. After the dust had settled and everything had stopped, the car had stopped just a few inches from my fuel tank on the passenger side. The family was okay and no one hit anyone but the driver of the car was very happy that I was able to stop. Things could have turned out much differently. I may not have been able to change the situation, but if the other driver hadn’t said anything who knows where I would have been, I was in my own zone.

So how do you stop feeling that way on long drives, many people fall asleep in a car, not a good program if you plan on being a long haul truck driver. Many times the solution is on the inside. I felt good that day and the only thing I knew was that I was ready for a coffee break and was waiting to come across a place to stop. You need to know your internal clock, maybe you are overtired from the night before but don’t realize it. Maybe you always fall asleep on long drives and shorter routes may be more of your taste. Are you night driver or a day driver, I used to have a huge problem driving at night because my internal clock wasn’t good at that time. Every person is different so it is important to find out what works for you. Many times we are hurrying around unloading, doing paperwork and other duties and it is not until we are driving down a lonely piece of highway that our bodies start to relax and drift into “the zone.” Could you imagine if we had fire places in the trucks, a nice cozy fire, a fluffy pillow, and you would be snoring in five minutes.

The best way to find out how your body ticks is to analyze it. Take note of how your body is feeling at certain times of the day. What types of situations make you tired and which ones keep you highly alert. Coffee has never woken me up on the road and if eating chips is your way of staying alert you may have other issues to deal with down the road. Much of this starts with our internal clocks and as professional drivers it is your duty to keep your truck in control on the road. Knowing your body is one way of learning when you operate best.

About the Author

Bruce Outridge is a business and leadership consultant for the transportation industry. More information can be found on his website at www.outridge.ca