The Irregular Sleep Cycle Of A Truck Driver

Topic 13704 | Page 1

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Highway 44's Comment
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Hello Everybody,

It is very fortunate to have found this on-line community. I am here because of one particular personal reservation of the lifestyle of the truck driver, and want to pick your collective brains. But first, a briefing of my current condition; a 30-something who has reached his proverbial fork-in-the-road; the decision is to stay my current career path (bookkeeping) or continue pursuing a career in the truck diving industry?

Currently, I am a student of a community college truck driving program. The program is 8 weeks, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The community college is on spring break, thus is the program. As of the spring break, 2 of 8 program weeks have been completed. It will resume on April 4, 2016. I see this as a window of opportunity to re-evaluate my direction.

The career path of bookkeeping satisfies my brain/mind. It allows an introvert such as me to thrive in a structured, autonomous work environment. It allows me to use strengths such as analysis, concentration/focus and mathematics. I could continue forward and be content in this choice of career. The conflict is in my heart/soul. It craves the satisfaction of more than the typical vacation travel in my current lifestyle. The notion of hitting-the-road by driving a truck while being paid to do it is an attractive proposition. The roadblock is the irregular sleep cycle of a truck driver and the day-to-day fluctuations of the 24/7/365 nature of the industry. I sense this may interrupt the ability to consistently achieve daily balance in rest, which I deem essential to my overall wellness. Thus, O.T.R. driving is not in consideration. Local driving is not in consideration because it is logically opposite of my primary motivation to travel by truck driving. Could regional driving be the compromise? Or, is truck driving not a good fit, especially considering a balanced rest cycle is most important to me?

Happy driving and god bless, my friends.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Steve L.'s Comment
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I'be found I can keep a pretty "normal" sleep schedule. But I like starting early (3:30-5am) so I can shut down early. I'm just a morning person.

Having said that, there are occasional adjustments. But if I tell 'em I'm available at 8am with 8hrs on my 11 and 14hr clocks, they're not gonna give me a load that picks up at 11pm.

Errol V.'s Comment
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Welcome to Trucking Truth, Highway 44. Yes, trucking can be a 24/7 proposition. But from what I see in truck stops, most drivers have made it into a 9-5 job. Any given lot will start to fill up around 5-6 PM, and early the next day, off they go!

Most deliveries and pickups will fit to a daytime only schedule. The official hours of service (rules guiding driving & work schedules) are designed for 24/7, but then again, most businesses open their docks in a 9-5 sort of way.

Personally, I prefer driving from wee hours to early afternoon. I still make my appointments.

Have you seen these resources?

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Joseph D.'s Comment
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Typically a regional position is still OTR , just not as big of a radius. Your sleep cycle does get crazy sometimes but your body learns to adjust. It's something I'm working through still but find it easier as time goes on.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Dutch's Comment
member avatar

44, to a large degree, your ability to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, will be determined by your company's resources, as well as their commitment and focus on making their drivers happy and content.

Once you have accomplished the goal of going to work for a quality company, who are willing to work with a driver who is willing to work, success can be as simple as calling your operations manager, and asking them to make the load planners aware of your preferences. One thing that can always make things swing your way, is for your strategies to be based on four factors, in this order.

1. Safety 2. DOT Regulations 3. Company Policy 4. Weekly Mileage

You see, if you never make your preferences known, and are willing to sleep and drive all over the clock, as well as park your rig anywhere and everywhere, the load planners will prefer that, because it makes their job much easier. However, violating company policy by parking in areas your company doesn't approve of, or failing to stay awake behind the wheel can certainly be problematic.

I had a conversation once with my terminal manager about this general situation you are asking about, and the reasons why I prefer to try to maintain a fairly consistent schedule. His reply, was that if I had in place a successful system, which satisfies everyone concerned, (Safety Dept., Log Dept., DOT, etc.) that the company will work with me to keep me productive. Having said that, I will always do what I can to be reasonably flexible, in making any load assignment work, as long as I can protect myself and my license.

Personally, I feel that a company's overall philosophy is the major factor here, and whether or not they cater to their drivers makes a HUGE difference in driver retention.

One small example I will give you is my company making internet access available at my home terminal. Right now, I am sitting in Marietta, GA. in my tractor outside the terminal, surfing the net, in a safe environment. They certainly don't have to furnish internet access, or have our terminal located in a safe part of the Atlanta metro area, however their commitment to our safety and happiness is a huge priority. You can bet, that when the time comes to have my tractor serviced, or have a trailer inspection performed, I will not hesitate to turn down the next load and head for the terminal, to make the company's priorities my priorities.

Sometimes it helps tremendously to have worked for a sub par company, in order to really appreciate a company that goes out of their way to retain their drivers. I was having a conversation the other day with another driver. I told him that if I got an offer from another company for a nickel more a mile, I would be afraid to take it. He asked me why? I replied that I would be afraid of what I would have to put up with, for that extra nickel.

Unfortunately, these issues are not really something you can discuss with most recruiters, because recruiters are sometimes guilty of telling people what they want to hear. Ditto on drivers who are guilty of the same thing, because they will pocket $1000 plus, when responsible for recruiting a new driver.

I would sum things up, by saying that once you have found a company that allows you to cover all your legal bases, while at the same time protecting your license and maintaining company policy, while consistently running productive miles, you have found yourself a home.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Old School's Comment
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Welcome aboard Highway 44!

My first thought as I read your post yesterday was "here's a guy who was born to be a flat-bedder!" I was hard pressed to get everything on my "to do" list done yesterday, so I had to wait until this morning to respond.

That part of your mind that enjoys analytical or mathematical problems would be quite satisfied with the mental exercises involved in calculating the load securement requirements on an "open deck" load of freight. Here's a link to a conversation we had a couple of years ago about securing a flat-bed load.

Your spirit of adventure would enjoy some of the great places that we flat-bedders go to. Here's a look at the Salt River valley in Arizona, a place where copper is abundant in the mountains there. Many a flat-bed load of copper comes out of the mines in that area.

20140824_124301_zps9b687d37.jpg

Now, as far as your concerns about "regular" sleep: There are rules and regulations that we have to go by that require you to take a ten hour break in between your driving shifts. That is way more sleep than I ever need. If you are concerned that your sleep happens at the same time every evening, you will be challenged to accomplish that. One thing about flat-bed work is that most of your receivers and shippers are open during regular business hours Monday through Friday, and many flat-bed drivers manage to maintain a day time driving and night time seeping schedule. I don't do it that way, but it can be done. I find that I can get more done by flip flopping my sleep schedule from daytime to night time, and this business is all about productivity. A professional driver gets paid based on his performance - the more you can accomplish the more you can earn. There are plenty of drivers out here who are content to make a little less and satisfy their physical needs of a regular sleep schedule.

Back to the math part of this job - I find myself running calculations in my head most days that I'm on the road. I enjoy math and find it quite useful in this job. We sometimes need to calculate how much weight we are losing as we burn off fuel as we are moving down the road, sometimes we need to know how much weight is going to be added to our drive or steer axles on the tractor if we add 150 gallons of diesel to our fuel tanks. And of course there is always that dispatcher who will ask you what time and day you are going to arrive in Boston, Massachusetts as you're leaving L.A. California. Recently I heard my dispatcher getting all over another driver on the phone because he was always late on his loads. I was sitting there at his desk, and he told the driver, who was complaining that there was no way to know when he would arrive at his destinations, "Oh yes there is, I'm sitting here looking at a driver who can always tell me at a moments notice exactly when he will arrive." The analytical part of this job is both challenging and rewarding.

I'm not saying you should be a flat-bedder, but it seems to me you would enjoy it. Any form of driving that you choose will have those same analytical challenges, but flat-bedding just has some extra stuff involved in it.

If you'd like to get an idea about some of the stuff I'm talking about you can take a look at our High Road Training Program. Check out the sections on the Log Book, Weights and Balances, and Load Securement.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

As usual, the uber wise Old School throws down the best responses of honesty, integrity and information.

Sleep schedules do get a little crazy especially at the beginning. Once you get a bit of experience and familiarity, you'll plan your trips with sleep as a factor and do much better. I will say this much, if you don't want erratic sleep patterns, don't go into oil field work lol. You get a lot of sleep time but it's a couple hours here and a few hours there. You learn to adapt though but not everyone can. Flatbedders have aluminum in their veins and sandcan haulers live and breath for the sandbox. It's great because you feel like a kid at the park, minus the random buried cat poop lol.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

I wrote yesterday that it ain't no big deal. But I came up with two other thoughts.

The description of your personal situation (bookkeeper*, student, 30-something) leads me to believe you haven't dealt with "moving" sleep schedules. I suggest, Mr 44, that you could successfully handle it. Your 30-something body can easily roll with the clock. Ever been to Europe or Asia? 4-8 hour jet lag each direction! But it's not like that as a truck driver. There are things you can do to minimize clock discomfort. And the HOS regs will prevent you from being overly fatigued.

The other thing is my schedule this week. Monday morning I left Memphis at 5am and drove till 5pm - not straight through, there were some breaks in there.

Over the week I've started at 5 on Tuesday and 7 (woke up at 5) on Wednesday. Today (Thursday) I stopped at 2pm and will start Friday just after midnight.

I'll be back in Memphis Saturday sometime, and I'll be off till another 5am Monday.

*Trivia for the day: bookkeeper: the only word on the English language with three consecutive double letters!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Terminal Rat ( aka...J's Comment
member avatar

To somewhat echo Errol's thoughts. Heck man, your only 30-something, you still have two whole decades or so to figure this out. LOL!

To tell you the truth, I'm actually looking forward to it myself. If there is one thing I really can't stand at this point in my life it's monotony.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

To somewhat echo Errol's thoughts. Heck man, your only 30-something, you still have two whole decades or so to figure this out. LOL!

To tell you the truth, I'm actually looking forward to it myself. If there is one thing I really can't stand at this point in my life it's monotony.

Whenever I'm driving through Western Arizona on I-10, and pass Hovatter Rd, that's exciting!

Screenshot_2016-03-31-16-34-24_zpsjm9isz

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