A Trucker’s Sleep Pattern

I was saddened when I read the complaints of truckers on the forum. One needed a good eight hours of sleep, work, and home time. Two members asked about depression, medications, and DOT guidelines. People do not understand what it takes to be a truck driver. They struggle with irregular sleep patterns and battle depression that can get spiked due to their erratic sleep schedule and lack of solitude. One must know the demands before spending thousands of dollars on the industry.

A promised “10 hours break” time lures people into trucking. They think it’s time enough. No! you get to do your basic things in 10 hours showers, laundry, eating, and even sleeping. The other night I closed at 8, did my laundry, ate, and showered. I watched some television when I got finished and slept. Boom, it was 2 AM. I had to be back on the road in 5 hours. The pattern is not steady. Somedays, you can have longer breaks, take a nap at midday, or sleep at a customers’ while getting loaded you cannot on other days.

Trucking is Unpredictable

Pick-ups and delivery differ from customers. Big Scott drives a dry van and has mostly drops and hooks, so he doesn’t have to wait around to get loaded. Usually, he gets longer breaks. Sometimes, he drives at night because most of his customers are open during the day like Tractor Supply Stores. I drive a reefer, and my customers load 24/7 with a set appointment time. Some customers load frozen products at midnight, then load dairy or meat during the day. Unfortunately, customers determine how early you can pick-up or deliver. You may not be lucky with time. Regional, dedicated, and OTR trucking have different sleeping schedules. Some trucking companies schedule appointments at a fixed time. A friend told me that her dispatcher did not want his drivers on the road by nightfall. That sounds great for many. I love night shifts; day shifts may have an opposite effect on me and disorganize my sleep schedule.

Seize every opportunity to sleep.

Night drivers need to understand their body clock and build their stamina. Driving 500-600 miles requires strength, and it is safer to take a nap than burn energy covering miles. I could drive all night and get tired after a couple of hundred miles. It is safer to get an hour or two rest because I wouldn’t want to risk an accident. The secret is understanding your body and taking naps when necessary.

The 14-hour clock is a sham. There are days when I have enough time to work with a customer quickly, but the customer delays. I have to park for the night. I still get all the work done before parking. I work for over 20 hours on some days. No amount of trip planning would have helped. Sometimes, I have to meet the customer before my 14-hour day. Truckers say they never experienced it, but it’s a reality. The more experience I gain, the tighter my delivery schedules get. I get the jobs done but at a price, SLEEP!

One of my trainees was so excited about his training. He didn’t sleep until his 10-hours break. He stayed up waiting for the bills. I tried to convince him that he needed sleep during this spare time. One night he parked and slept for two hours. When he went solo, he learned that he could grab sleep. I asked him why he stopped staying up he replied, “Are you crazy woman? I need sleep”.

If you’re tired do not wait till a load is sent to you to notify dispatch that you need time to sleep before your next load is assigned. Dispatch also answer to bosses, so always let them know when you cannot meet up. However, you could get fired if you make this complaint often, only use this safety tip when necessary. If you need 8-hours of sleep, then consider OTR trucking or research on what works best for you.

The trucking industry is crazy! The experiences among drivers differ even with similar companies and training programs. This is why the information put out is usually conflicting.

Your mental and physical health should be your top priority. If trucking doesn’t give you what you need, move on because your inability to sleep or manage your depression could cause your end.

Always get some sleep when you can drive safely, and know your body clock!