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Truckers: Tips for staying alert during Daylight Saving Time
Trucking fleet

Truckers: Tips for staying alert during Daylight Saving Time

February 27, 2024

Spring Forward, Fall Back – a helpful adage that we recall twice a year to remind us which way the clock will change. Daylight Saving Time (DST), the long-standing, biannual ritual where we shift time an hour forward in the spring and back in the fall to preserve daylight, was first introduced in the U.S. in 1918, during World War I. The Standard Time Act allowed the population to save on energy costs by adding an extra hour of sunlight and was implemented after several European countries made the switch and saw cost savings as a result. Now, as we have transitioned out of war times, and found more sustainable sources of light, the need for Daylight Saving Time is highly debatable. Some suggest that public health is negatively impacted by the change, while others still support maximizing the amount of natural daylight we can enjoy during active hours. Ultimately, Daylight Saving Time affects everyone, particularly those operating the majority of their time outdoors.

As the clock springs forward or falls back, the rhythm of our daily lives adjusts with the changing seasons. For truck drivers, this change impacts sleep patterns, schedules, and overall road safety, which are crucial elements of the job.

How does DST impact truckers on the road?

Sleep disruptions: Daylight Saving Time can throw a wrench into the well-oiled machine that is a truck driver’s sleep routine. The sudden shift in time can disrupt circadian rhythms (our body’s internal clock), making it challenging for drivers to get the restorative sleep they need. Sleep-deprived drivers pose a significant risk on the roads, affecting not only their safety but also the safety of others sharing the highway. 

Scheduling: Long-haul truckers operate on tight schedules and deadlines. The abrupt change in time can create confusion, especially when coordinating deliveries, pickups, and rest breaks. A mistimed schedule can lead to delays impacting the efficiency of supply chains and potentially affecting the livelihood of truckers dependent on timely deliveries. 

Increased fatigue: The adjustment to Daylight Saving Time often results in increased fatigue. Truck drivers who already grapple with the demands of extended hours on the road may find themselves battling heightened fatigue. This can compromise their alertness and reaction times, posing safety risks for both themselves and others on the road. A survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine showed that 55% of Americans feel increased fatigue at the start of Daylight Saving Time, and about 63% prefer to eliminate the change altogether. Drivers, who already face the ordinary dangers of the road, must stay especially vigilant and steer clear of the effects of fatigue. 

Adapting to the changing light conditions: Long-haul drivers are particularly connected to natural light conditions during their journeys. Whether we realize it or not, the amount of natural light we get in a day impacts our mood, energy, behaviors, and more. Daylight Saving Time alters the amount of daylight available during driving hours. It also requires drivers to adapt to changing visibility conditions. This adjustment can be particularly challenging, especially for those navigating through different time zones.

Tips for truckers to combat the effects of Daylight Savings

  • Be aware of when the clock changes: Start adjusting your sleep schedule – 15-20 minutes earlier each day – a few days before DST starts. Getting acclimated to going to bed early can help naturally regulate changes to your sleep patterns. Most digital clocks will adjust automatically, but keep an eye on the manual clocks that need to be changed to avoid unnecessary delays and stress. 
  • Prioritize good sleeping habits: Make your environment comfortable. Keep your sleeping area dark, quiet, and sleep-conducive. Get black-out curtains, ear plugs, and safety devices to ensure comfortable, peaceful sleep.
  • Stay healthy: A variety of factors impact our health, so take the necessary steps to ensure you stay alert when you’re driving and restful when sleeping. This means staying hydrated, eating nutrient-dense foods, avoiding excessive caffeine close to bedtime, and fitting in activities that get you moving where you can. Finding places where you can walk during breaks in the day is a great way to unwind and get some needed exercise.
  • Manage your schedule: Plan all routes and breaks with the time change in mind. Allow for extra time where possible, and remember the potential rush hours you may encounter. Strategically plan your breaks to coincide with dips in energy. 
  • Take advantage of natural light: Daylight is scientifically proven to help with alertness and help with regulating our circadian rhythms. Spend time outdoors and consider getting a light therapy lamp for your truck to simulate daytime.

How fleet managers can support their drivers during DST

As truckers traverse the highways and battle the added challenges that come with Daylight Saving Time, fleet managers can help support and maintain the wellbeing of their drivers by taking proactive measures:

  • Clearly communicate schedules
  • Encourage using breaks strategically
  • Offer more time and route flexibility when possible
  • Leverage available technologies that can automate clock changes, scheduling, etc., alleviating some of those responsibilities from the driver
  • Foster a work culture that prioritizes the physical and mental health of drivers, ensuring they feel comfortable discussing concerns about fatigue or stress

Ultimately, in the grand scheme of road safety, the responsibility falls on everyone – truckers, fleet managers, and everyone else. Recognizing the weight of driving responsibly when operating a vehicle is crucial to making the roads safe. By creating awareness, embracing technological advancements, and being accountable behind the wheel, we can collectively contribute to safe roads for all. The journey towards road responsibility is a shared commitment, therefore, we should all take the steps necessary to support our truckers, who call the roads home. 

WEX is a leading, global fintech solutions provider, simplifying payments and back-end business processes in the fleet management, benefits management, and corporate payments areas. To learn more, please visit the company’s About WEX page.

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American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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