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The Sleep Cycle of a Truck Driver

One thing that I wasn't quite prepared for when I decided to become a truck driver is the sleeping patterns.

One thing that I wasn’t quite prepared for when I decided to become a truck driver is the sleeping patterns. I knew fatigue was a big issue in truck driving, but now I truly understand why. The long driving hours are only part of the issue. But the main issue is the lack of any normal “bed time” for an OTRtruck driver. There is a common saying in the trucking industry, and that is; “drive when you have to, sleep when you can.” This phrase is spot on when describing the sleep patterns of a truck driver. And in fact, there really is no pattern.

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There Is No Sleep Pattern For Truckers

But unfortunately, as soon as you get into a specific cycle, things change. The trucking industry runs 24/7/365 and so do many shippers and receivers.  The planning is one thing, but forcing your body to stay awake or fall sleep at different times everyday is another thing. I’m hopingthat as I gain more experience, I’llget a little better at my tripplanning, and can set up more of a routine.I can tell you for certain though, the most widely used drug out here in the trucking industry is caffeine. Walk into any truck stop and go to the front counter. You’ll be sure to see several displays of energy drinks, energyshots and even caffeine pills. And my beverage of choice these days is Mountain Dew.

Your “Ten Hour Break” Rarely Means 10 Hours Of Sleep

While waiting at the customer to be loaded or unloaded, most drivers log that time in the sleeper berth. Basically, as soon as they show the sleeper berth in their logbook , they are on their “break.” Once 10 hours of break time has been reached, they are able to drive again.  But as stated before, shippers and receivers can often take 4 hours or more to finish loading or unloading. So that 10 hour break normally reserved for sleeping, quickly turns into 6 hours. Add on another hour to find a parking spot, another 30 minutes to grab a shower, and maybe if there’s time, another 30 minutes to grab a meal. Where did that 10 hour break go? Four hours of sleep is sometimes all you get.

Why Not Just Sleep When You’re Tired?

Obviously, what I just described isn’t exactly what the Department of Transportation had in mind when they added the “sleeper berth” column to our log books.  Drivers can be their own worst enemies on this front by being “creative” with their log books. Any driver can certainly take nearly as much time as they want to sleep. But this, in turn, results in a very unhappy dispatcher , and a very thin wallet come payday. It’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.

I don’t want to spark a debate about whether drivers should log legally or get creative. And my advice is to always drive and loglegally.  But my point is, the real world isn’t full of truck drivers who log 100% legal all the time. In the real world, most drivers cut into their sleep time, even though they are still working.

For those who are about to enter the industry, be prepared to sleep at any time of any day or night, and drive the same way. It could be midnight tonight, and noon three days from now. You might get 4 hours of sleep tomorrow, then 14 hours in a few days. There is absolutely no cycle, no rhythm, and no schedule for when you sleep. Drive when you have to, sleep when you can.

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