Where should truck drivers sleep to feel safe?
On the surface, you wouldn’t think it would be so difficult for truck drivers to find a good place to sleep, but let’s consider a few things. (And while my first thought was serial killers, there are really more serious problems to be found out on the road. There are a lot of serial killers who were truck drivers, to be sure – Keith Jespersen is perhaps the most familiar of the bunch – but it would be a rare thing to have your sleep disrupted by a mass murderer.
In truth, rules and regulations that dog truck drivers are more likely to cause trouble.
Hours of Service limits can put drivers in danger
Drivers are only allowed to be behind the wheel legally for a certain number of hours – usually 11, but only after 10 hours on a break – and if they are delayed while picking up or dropping off a load, they may run out of time before they have a chance to find a safe place to sleep.
That may leave exit ramps – legal in some states – or along the interstate, which is unsafe and, in most cases, completely illegal. But then again, so is going over the clock. It puts drivers in a pickle, and that’s not the only concern truckers have when it comes to finding a place to stop for the night.
Part of the problem is the sheer size of tractor trailers, and a limited number of parking spaces available for them all.
Truck stops are the cream of the crop – maybe
There are only a handful of places to park at most truck stops, which might come as a surprise, give a shortage of truckers that is only growing more serious as years pass. Despite that truck driver shortage, there are still an estimated 2 million tractor trailers on the road at any given time, and many travel similar routes, which could cause traffic jams at popular truck stops, especially at night.
And if drivers can find a spot at a truck stop, which are usually considered the safest places to sleep for over-the-road truckers, they can be noisy, disrupting sleep and causing problems when driving after a poor rest period.
Truck stops are safe because they are busy, and problems are less likely to happen when you’re surrounded by many other truck drivers, all trying to get some shuteye, even as they pull in at all hours of the night.
But a busy truck stop is usually a noisy one, so sleep can be difficult.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
According to Prevention magazine, there are myriad health problems associated with a lack of sleep, and trying to rest in a busy truck stop could cause problems.
Some of the biggest risk factors include:
- Cardiovascular disease. A 2010 study that appeared in the journal Sleep found that those who got less than seven hours a sleep at night saw a higher risk of heart disease. Women under the age of 60 who slept five hours or less were at twice the risk.
- Diabetes. A 2011 study from University of Chicago and Northwestern University researchers that appeared in the journal Diabetes found that those with type 2 diabetes who slept poorly had significantly elevated blood sugar, a higher fasting insulin level and almost twice the insulin resistance.
- Breast cancer. With more women on the road, breast cancer can’t be discounted. Besides, men are also at risk. Researchers from Japan found that women between the ages of 40 and 79 who sleep less than six hours a night had a 62 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, compared to those who slept more than nine hours a night, who had a 28 percent lower risk.
- Urinary problems. Research from the New England Research Institute found that several years of sleeping poorly or getting less than five hours of sleep can lead to incontinence. They linked the issue with inflammation, which can trigger urinary issues, along with a host of other things.
- Colon cancer. A small study from 2011 found that getting less than six hours of sleep a night upped the risk of colorectal polyps, which have the potential to become cancerous. Those who slept at least seven hours a night had a lower risk of developing polyps.
- Mortality. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that over a 10-year period, men who slept poorly had a higher risk of death than those who slept well. Poor sleep also elevated the risk of suicide, and those who were regularly disturbed while sleeping were five times more likely to take their own lives.
That’s not to mention the slow reaction times, diminished alertness, high blood pressure, and risk of obesity that come with less sleep. Drivers need rest, and they need it safely.
What about drivers that sleep on exit ramps?
While parking on the shoulder of an interstate is illegal in many states for obvious reasons – an equally drowsy driver can plow into the back of your trailer, potentially leading to fatalities – there are times when a truck stop or rest stop are nowhere near and a driver’s time is legally up. What’s the best option?
Trucks often park on exit ramps, which is usually illegal, but safer than stopping on the side of the road, which is the least safe place to stop. There are many other options to consider, including big-box store parking lots and rest stops, although rest stops also have drawbacks.
While rest stops are quiet, they are also secluded, which brings us back to the problem of serial killers and others who are of questionable character, requiring drivers to be diligent about safety.
Too, only a handful of states allow drivers to sleep overnight at rest stops. Those include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.
To find a nearby rest area, especially if your time behind the wheel is becoming a problem, check out https://tbsdirectory.com/, which includes a search for rest areas as well as a host of other services, located on your route.