According to the FMCSA, about 13% of CMV drivers were fatigued at the time that they had a crash. (This from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study.) It’s especially important to raise awareness of this issue among tow truck drivers because commercial vehicle drivers are among those who are most vulnerable to drowsy driving. Sleep is not always a choice – sometimes the body takes over and decides that nap time is now. If you’re driving, though, falling asleep for even seconds and then jolting awake can have catastrophic consequences.
Let’s say that a tow truck driver is going 55 mph. If they fall asleep for one second, they’ll travel about 81 feet. That means that it only takes a 3.7 second nap to travel the length of a football field with no attention or control over their tow truck. That’s why it’s so important for tow truck drivers to be well-rested and alert when they take the wheel. It’s not just their safety to consider – it’s the safety of everyone on the road around them.
There are a few things that all tow truck drivers can do to lower their chances of falling asleep at the wheel.
1. Know the signs of fatigued driving.
There are a few things that drivers should be aware of that mean that they’re driving drowsy.
- Lots of yawning of blinking
- Heavy eyes
- Struggling to remember the last few miles
- Drifting out of your lane
- Hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road
- Missing your exit
- Blurred vision
If a tow truck driver is showing these signs while driving, they should get off the road and get some rest. This is one way to improve safety at your tow truck business.
2. Get lots of sleep.
Tow truck drivers need to be well-rested so that they can handle their difficult jobs. Having 7-8 hours a night of sleep is the best way for a driver to keep themselves from getting overly sleepy when they’re on the job. Driving while well-rested can help the driver avoid accidents, which can, in turn, help you save money on your tow truck insurance rates.
Here’s an interesting fact: according to the FMCSA, staying awake for 18 hours is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of .08, which means that you’re legally intoxicated. Yikes. Driving drowsy makes drivers less able to be attentive to the road and lowers their reaction times.
3. Take preventative naps if needed.
Naps are a great way to boost energy. The FMCSA recommends that naps be about 45 minutes. The driver needs to make sure that they give themselves enough time to wake up, though. The body tends to want to stay asleep after waking up – that’s the ability that allows you to get back to sleep if you wake up in the night. The body needs time to get the memo that it needs be awake and alert.
It’s important that a tow truck driver nap before they get super sleepy. Naps should be a preventative measure, not when it’s already too late and you’re tired.
4. Understand that coffee, open windows, and loud music aren’t cures for sleepy driving.
These things might make a tow truck driver feel better for a little while, but the problem is that they’re only temporary. It won’t fix the underlying problem, which is the need for more sleep. In fact, coffee, loud music, and rolled-down windows often give people a false feeling of “I’m awake” when in reality they’re still fatigued.
5. Be aware that some over the counter and prescription medications can cause drowsiness.
Tow truck drivers need to be careful about the medications they take before they drive. Some medications cause drowsiness, so it’s important to check the label carefully for any possible side effects or warnings about driving and heavy machinery.
6. Know the “sleepy” times of day.
Sleepiness can occur at any time or day while driving anywhere, but there are a couple times of day that are particularly difficult for our bodies to stay awake. Midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon are some of the worst times to drive as far as being alert because of the sleep rhythm of the body. Our sleep clocks give us natural times of fatigue. It’s called the circadian rhythm. If you haven’t gotten enough sleep, these times of exhaustion can become even worse. It’s important to take extra care when driving at night or in midafternoon.
It’s important to raise awareness about the dangers of driving sleepy. When you’re operating a tow truck, you need all of your attention on the road. Your reflexes and reaction times have to be sharp. So before hitting the road with a tow truck, make sure that you’ve gotten enough rest and that you’re ready to roll!
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