Summer goes by so quickly. For professional drivers, quickly changing conditions are par for the course. You need to stay ahead of them and be ready—physically and mentally—for what’s coming, especially for winter.
Get ready before the first blast of winter hits. Start with your truck.
• Check your battery. Cold weather and age can drain it quickly.
• Fuel additives can help reduce the gelling of diesel fuel.
• Inspect the radiator, belts, and hoses for potential failures. Check the coolant to ensure it’s at the ideal freeze point.
• Replace old or worn filters.
Fall and winter mean shorter days and increased fatigue, which is different from just feeling tired. Less sunlight causes your body to produce more melatonin, the sleep hormone, so people often feel more tired during winter. Cold weather makes it harder to spend much time outside, so have lower levels of vitamin D. That affects how we feel and perform; we call it the winter blues. The lack of exercise that typically comes with fatigue and feeling sluggish makes us feel more tired. It’s a difficult cycle to break.
Additionally, as the days shorten, more of your time behind the wheel will include driving in darkness. Your body’s rhythms will respond to changes between light and dark to control your mood, sleep pattern, and even your appetite, leaving you feeling a little confused, groggy, and possibly even sleepy. It normally takes time to make these adjustments; try scheduling a few additional breaks throughout the day for nutritious snacks and a little exercise. Vitamin D supplements may help, but speak with a doctor before making that decision. If a few changes to your daily routines don’t help with excessive sleepiness or you still feel worn out after trying to manage fatigue on your own, consider talking with your doctor to be sure you don’t have a sleep disorder or medical condition that needs attention.
At any time of year, distracted driving can be an issue. Keep your focus on driving. Keep the cab of the truck clear of visual distractions as much as possible. Losing focus as you glance at something less important can become a major issue. With shorter days, city lights and lights from other vehicles can be distracting. Keep your eyes peeled and your mind on driving. Be aware of your physical state—if you begin to lose your focus, it’s time for a break.