In The News

A Rested Development

By Brandon Baxter - Staff Writer
Posted Sep 4th 2023 8:00AM

How many drivers out there actually pause long enough to give their body what it needs? In terms of a transportation career, something as simple as getting enough rest is a vital part of proper practice within the industry. Especially when safety is of utmost importance. Hence the reason for so much regulation, regarding sleep and hours-of-service, by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

For expediters, there is a fraction of drivers who typically don’t have to worry about the DOT regulating their sleep habits and HOS. These are the folks who are driving cargo vans and Sprinters, which negates their having to follow and adhere to federal DOT hours-of-service regulations.

So, for those looking for a few tips or suggestions to assist in nailing down a better sleep routine, read-on and take notes. At best, you’ll find new ways to address your sleeping habits. At worst, this article will help put you to sleep. Either way, win-win!

Prepare Your Body for Sleep

It’s difficult to wind down from a day of action and adventure when you’re an over-the-road expediter, even when it’s in a van or Sprinter. For those who make their living in a tractor or straight truck, of course you have to follow the guidelines set forth by DOT HOS regulations. But for those in a Sprinter or cargo van, it might be a bit more tedious to try and tone down the day.

Here’s a suggestion, for those looking for ways to dial back the waking hours. Since sleep is associated with a lowering of the body's internal temperature, start dropping the temperature inside the vehicle an hour or so before bedtime.

Even with sporadic schedules, a driver can coax his or her body and brain into sleep-mode if they’re willing to follow a plan. If you're outdoors, start by trying to imitate the onset of night by wearing blue-blocker sunglasses. Also, avoid screen time (like lying awake with your cellphone in hand) and focus on doing something that's quiet and relaxing.

Aim for Consistent Sleep Times

When driving for an expediter, and spending chunks of time on the road, it’s very difficult to regulate exactly when you get your sleep. Which makes it increasingly hard to manage a consistent sleep time or schedule. Sleep experts realize that consistent sleep and wake times are as important and probably more important than the number of hours we actually spend in bed. In fact, the HOS rules' 24-hour rotation of 14 hours on-duty and 10 hours off-duty was intended to address regular sleep times for commercial drivers. But this doesn’t necessarily pertain to Sprinter and van drivers, and it doesn't always work out in real life.

Get the Amount of Sleep Your Body Requires

Not everyone is wired for the typical eight hours of sleep per night routine. Some folks out there can fully function on five or six hours, while others need their full eight to make sure they’re coherent and spry for the next day.

That said, just try and pay attention to what your body is telling you. When you’re tired, stop what you’re doing and get some rest. That doesn’t always mean you have to fall asleep right away, but at the very least you should be relaxing and allowing your body to recharge in its own way.

For van and Sprinter drivers this is something that can often come at a bad time, like when you’re under a load. But so long as you’re consistently communicating with your dispatcher, let them know when you need to take a break or get some sleep. It’s better to be cautious than to be responsible for an accident because your eyes were getting heavy.

 Try to Take Regular Naps

We should all apologize to naps, because as children most of us absolutely despised them. But napping, and doing so correctly, can be a very valuable tool for drivers. Especially when done correctly.

When driving OTR and you're short on sleep, or you’re sleeping irregular hours, even a 20-minute nap can be a welcome respite for the body and mind. Many folks think short naps don't work and they’re often left feeling groggier and sleepier after they wake from a snooze.

But by taking shorter naps, and doing so with regularity, the body will begin to anticipate the nap. Then, upon waking, you should get out into the light as quickly as possible. Or you should engage in a little light physical activity, like a couple of laps around the vehicle or some stretching.

Speaking of Physical Activity

Let’s get physical! Seriously, exercise could not be more important for a commercial or expedite driver, but it can be really difficult to get that physical activity the body needs when you're over-the-road. Incorporating some sort of resistance routine with those stretchy rubber bands before you sleep or after you sleep is something to start with. A brisk walk is also helpful, it will help to relax and clear your mind.

These are just some suggestions that can, hopefully, help a driver out when on the road. As mentioned, the Class A and Class B truck drivers must adhere to the federal hours-of-service regulations and ELD mandates. But for those expediting in a cargo van or Sprinter, the rules to the game are indeed a little different. So, take these suggestions and please incorporate them to the best of your abilities.

Goodnight. Sleep tight… you know the rest.