Many refrigerated and heavy haul drivers will find themselves driving more and more at night as we continue Fall months into winter. Whether it’s before the sun comes up or after the sun sets, there are no DOT rules that govern the time of day that a trucker can drive. There’s no doubt as the days get shorter in winter months, chances are high that you’ll be doing a lot of your driving at night when visibility lowers. Nighttime driving is a skill – and it can be challenging because at times night driving increases the danger of the road. But night driving has advantages as well; one advantage to driving at night is that there is less traffic on the road, especially in urban areas. Refrigerated and heavy haul drivers who drive at night usually make their routes in less time. However, for drivers with routes in more rural areas at night, the biggest disadvantage is the potential for hitting animals and livestock they can’t see until it is too late. Overall, night driving has pros and cons.
Here are a few tips on ways you can drive your best at night and ensure you arrive safely at your destination.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Be Prepared for Winter with Vehicle Safety Supplies.
If you need to pull over or stop during hazardous driving conditions this winter, make sure you’re prepared with supplies to alert others of your surroundings. TW Transport has vehicle safety supplies to help you in these situations. But to maximize your safety, make sure you supply additional equipment you may want/need based on your personal preferences and experiences.
Focus on Increased Visibility
Get an Eye Exam
If you are able, be sure you have an updated eye exam. If you are going to be night driving you need to make sure your eyes are checked and you have the corrective lenses that you need. Try to get an exam every year if possible. If that is unrealistic then at least try once every two years.
Keep a Clean Windshield and Windows
A dirty windshield can cause light to reflect in the wrong way and limit your visibility at night. Driving at night doesn’t get any easier with insects and dirt stuck to your windshield. If you ignore the mess, it will build up and get worse. Be sure to clean your windshield and windows whenever you can, and consider replacing your wiper blades soon to keep your windshield clean.
Get Night Vision Glasses
Get a nice pair of night vision glasses if you can (most can easily be found online for a pretty good price). Night vision glasses are great for driving at night because they enhance your vision and help get rid of bright headlights and annoying reflections. Many drivers utilize this valuable tool because night vision glasses reduce glare on the road from other headlights, most are constructed well, priced moderately, and can be a game-changer when driving at night. Do you have prescription glasses? No problem! You can get night vision clip-on glasses. These are easy to clip onto your prescription glasses and will make driving at night a lot easier too.
Keep Your Eyes Moving
Deer and animals next to the road are more abundant at night – especially in the winter season. Scan the side of the road and be on the lookout for animals that might step in front of you.
Sleep is Key for Safe Night Driving
Make Sure You Sleep
When you are not driving make sure you try and get 7-8 hours of good sleep. If you are new to night driving, it is going to take some time for your body to adjust to sleeping during the day. Be patient, eventually your body will begin to adjust to the new schedule.
Don’t Treat It Like Day Driving
Recognize that night driving is not like daytime driving. There is no chance you are going to drive straight from 7 pm to 9 am with only a 30-minute break, which is feasible for daytime driving. But for night driving, this is not going to happen so don’t expect it to. At some point, you will need to stop and get some rest that is more than 30 minutes. We recommend at least an hour of rest to split up the drive. If you are on duty from 7 pm to 9 am you should be taking an hour’s rest at around 1 am. Make sure you have a reliable alarm clock to wake you up too.
It’s Your Responsibility to Get Proper Sleep
While TW Transport cares deeply about all our drivers and their safety – ultimately, how much sleep you get relies completely on YOU! Don’t expect dispatch to solve your sleep problems for you, they have their job to do and you have yours. Also, no load is worth ending up in a ditch for. Take care of yourself and follow proper HOS limitations. Take care of yourself, and ensure you get the proper sleep needed to drive safely.
Feeling Drowsy? Pull Over
A good night’s sleep is important for everybody, but for truck drivers, the right amount of rest is critical for safety. If you try to fight drowsiness, it can be dangerous not only for other drivers sharing the road with you but for yourself as well. When you start to feel drowsy, pull over and call it a night.
Parking in the Right Spot
Sleeping during the day is challenging if you don’t find a quiet spot. Many truckers have a hard time recognizing that your curtains are closed for a reason, and they will continue making a lot of noise. Find a spot next to other trucks that also look like night drivers who are trying to sleep. The less noise around you means you will be able to sleep better.
Knowing When to Stop
Driving a flatbed trailer with a lack of sleep is irresponsible and dangerous. Don’t do it! These are some signs that it is time to stop driving and get some rest. If you find yourself experiencing any of the characteristics below then you are way past dangerous and need to do everything you can to get off the road and sleep.
- When you can feel the muscles moving your eyeballs off the road it is time to pull over as soon as possible and get some rest.
- When you start hallucinating you should get off the road for some sleep.
- Darkness: If you suddenly find everything dark as your eyelids close involuntarily you are way past dangerous. Stop as soon as possible and get some sleep.
Be Alert and Avoid Distractions at Night
Avoid Distracted Driving
How many times have you been told not to use your phone while driving? It might get old hearing it, but that rule exists for a reason. And even though it applies during all times of the day, being on your phone is especially dangerous at night given the fact that you already can’t see much of the road. Resist the temptation to use your phone and other devices while driving, and call your friends and loved ones when you are on a break or done driving for the day. They’ll be glad you waited!
Watch for Drunk Drivers
Remember that the most important times to watch out for drunk drivers that might hit you are between midnight and 4 am. If you see a car swerving in its lane you need to stay away from it.
Reduce Speed When Driving at Night
When driving at night, your visibility will be limited compared to daytime driving. Many rural streets have no lights at all, and that means you will have to rely solely on your headlights. Be sure to reduce your speed slightly (especially in rural areas) so that you can see the road in front of you and any potential obstacles in advance to safely avoid them.
Lights Need to be Adjusted When Night Driving
Adjust Your Headlights
Make sure your headlights are adjusted and clean. Driving at night means it is more crucial that your headlights are adjusted properly than driving during the day. When you are driving at night, you will be relying on your headlights as your main source of light – especially on rural roads. Your headlights are your first line of defense against everything that’s on the road.
Dim All Your Lights
Your dash, Qualcomm, and GPS should all be dimmed. Dimming them as much as possible will reduce eye fatigue. This can take some time to get used to but after a few days, your eyes will adjust. Dimming the lights inside your cabin will make it easier for your eyes to adjust when you look outside again.
Don’t Look Into the Light
Staring at the headlights of oncoming traffic can be distracting, especially when they shine directly at you or any of your mirrors. When you don’t look away, it can affect your night vision, cause damage to your retina, and slow down your reaction time. You could become a deer in headlights! When this occurs, try to look down and off to the right side until traffic passes. As long as you can see the white line on the shoulder, your truck will be fine while your vision adjusts to the passing line. If a car with high beams is coming towards you, adjust your mirrors to block the glare away from your eyes.
Tips for Staying Awake:
There are a lot of things that you can do to help stay awake. Some of them have been proven scientifically while others have not. The best thing you can do to stay awake is to sleep or take a nap. If you can’t sleep and need a little help being more attentive here are some suggestions:
- Stretching: Get out and do some stretching and walking when you can. This doesn’t have to be for a long time, just 5-10 minutes will get your blood flowing again.
- Open A Window: Keep the fresh air circulating by opening a window. This will also lower the temperature inside the vehicle which will help you stay awake.
- Eat An Orange: Many truck drivers say that eating any kind of citrus fruit helps them stay awake. Have you tried this?
- Coffee: Yes, coffee works wonders for helping you stay awake. The bad thing about coffee is that if you drink too much of it at the wrong time you might have a hard time falling asleep later on.
- Cold Water: Wiping down your face will help you stay alert. While you are at it be sure to drink plenty of water so that you have to go to the bathroom a lot. Going to the bathroom will keep you awake if you are stopping every hour and give you a chance to get out of the truck and walk around a little. Maybe stretch?
Stimulate Your Mind
Listening to music or a podcast can help keep your mind engaged while driving at night, and stimulated. Here are some of the top podcasts for truck drivers right now. Do you listen to any of these? Which is your favorite?
- Talk CDL Trucking Podcast
- The Joe Rogan Experience
- This American Life
- Big Rig Banter
- Red Eye Radio
- Crime Junkie Podcast
- Pardon My Take
- Jocko Podcast
- Armchair Expert
- Trucking After Hours
Are you currently working for a carrier that doesn’t recognize and reward your accomplishments? Are you frustrated with your current pay package and lack of career opportunities where you are right now? Join James J. Williams! We value our drivers and appreciate the essential work you do. If you’re a tanker driver in the Pacific Northwest with a CDL Class A License, apply for a JJW tanker truck driving job today! We can’t wait to hear from you. APPLY NOW >