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Survival tips for road-weary professional drivers

I can’t stand a cup of coffee when I’m using it to stay alert and will usually opt for a cup of tea to keep my stomach stable on my daily long drive. After 30 years, I position myself on a regimented routine to start my daily run.


I can’t stand a cup of coffee when I’m using it to stay alert and will usually opt for a cup of tea to keep my stomach stable on my daily long drive. After 30 years, I position myself on a regimented routine to start my daily run.

It became a routine in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I was running weekly to places like Florida and Louisiana. Preparation is still a habit today, as it should be. Although some of it involves planning the trip and analyzing the duties to be carried out, the biggest focus is in the mental and physical preparation to avoid fatigue and recognizing the factors that contribute or detract from over-the-road fatigue.

Certain irritants that contribute to fatigue are part of the lifestyle facing truckers and are imprinted on the culture as norms.
Due to the bravado of the culture, where bigger is better – from the pulled pork buffet with corn bread to the straight pipes – we allow for wants instead of needs to get us down the road.

We would find it totally ridiculous to polish off a full-course turkey dinner then start our trip from Toronto to Thunder Bay while listening to hard-driving loud music, but for some, it’s routine.

Like going to sleep after a large meal. Good sleep is not possible if the body expends all its energy digesting the meal rather than recuperating. Fatigue is inevitable in some incarnations of trucking life. The culture also includes cigarettes, power drinks, poor sleeping habits, and poor diet.

These habits are open to your own interpretation and can be justified as quick fixes or even stimulus that help get you further down the road. A clarification is needed here as those quick fixes may provide short-term gains with long-term and long-lasting side effects.

On the other side of the coin are the drivers who go down the road avoiding fast food while snacking lightly on healthy foods to keep the stomach light but satisfied on long journeys. Oatmeal packs can fix stomach upset better than antacid tablets.  

Some drivers listen to talk radio to keep the mind engaged when they pick up those late night AM radio skips. Some people enjoy the CBC, which can be had almost anywhere in Canada, provided that they are not interviewing a scientist who is discussing whether citrus fruits can communicate with each other. Thanks to modern communication, we can also employ a ‘buddy system’ where unlimited calling allows two friends to talk endlessly into the strained hours of the morning.

The comfort of the equipment has an important role to play as a physical and mental irritant. Items like the seat – or in some cases what’s left of it. Such as, if the seat pad has collapsed, the shock absorber has too much bounce, or the backrest has lost its support. Is the truck annoyingly loud or is it a bear to keep between the white lines?

Issues like alignment, uneven tire wear or worn shocks can get passed over during inspections but make no mistake, a truck that wanders, pulls to one direction, or leaps out of lane position when crossing dips and bumps is unsafe and tiresome. No one knows this better than the person who endures it for 13 hours a day.

Eyestrain on the evening shift is something new we can add to the list. New headlight technology is great, but for some reason, some believe that four to six forward beams are always required. Not so bad on the big rigs that employ air leveling suspensions that keep the beams level, but horrible on passenger vehicles, SUVs, and pick-ups that have been loaded down to the point where all headlight beams become high beams.

The ones that stay in your mirror or beside the rig extensively without passing have no idea of the size of a trucker’s mirror, nor that it is positioned to his or her eyes. I guess it’s not taught in driving schools.

I’ve taken the defensive approach of wearing a very light yellow prescription tint at night, similar to the kind you may find on a shooting range. They diffuse the glare considerably and offer superior visibility and contrast during the dreary winter months.

Many optometrists have varied opinions about these yellow tints but I don’t believe anyone has conducted studies on them yet. Other versions are available and have been called ‘blue blockers.’ They’re too dark for me. The type I use do not obscure details at night.

Keeping the necessary antidotes on hand in your travel bag to combat the afflictions of road life is a proactive approach to avoiding delays due to stomach upset, headaches, colds, fever, and ultimately, fatigue.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle of aspirin on hand. There are times that you may have to sleep in an isolated area and waking up with chest pains and away from public help is not an option. I’ve lost too many good friends this way. An aspirin a day is a good plan.

– Angelo Diplacido has been trucking for 30 years, both as an owner/operator and company driver.


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3 Comments » for Survival tips for road-weary professional drivers
  1. Nordlav says:

    Well written article with some good tips. Thanks for sharing. Look forward to your next contribution to Truck News!

  2. Joy says:

    Really appreciated this article. I learned to carry the right foods with me when doing and Edmonton-Vancouver run and avoid the lure of the smell of fried beef in restaurnats!

  3. Ed Murdoch says:

    I began trucking in 1951 and have held a CDL every year since then. We’ve come a long way, Baby! Back then a pillow laying on the solid bench seat was a very attractive accoutrement, but then one could drive for long periods of time as there were few regulations to occupy one’s thoughts….. oh and also few AM radios and no 2-ways. Today driver’s are pampered with an attached home on wheels with all the bells & whistles and the time off-duty to enjoy the experience. Angelo doesn’t mention whisky & goobers, two “good ol’ days” food groups missing from his regimen, and a very good thing too. Truck transportation has gone from a bad habit to a sophisticated science in my lifetime, and drivers from lyin’, cheatin’, whisky drinkin’, pill poppin’ skirt chasers to asphalt engineers, who are no longer considered low-class citizens. There’s still work to be done, but take a moment…..and enjoy!

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