Staying Focused When Driving OTR

As a truck driver, safety should always be your priority. One essential way to stay safe on the road is to ensure that you are always focused. Over-the-road (OTR) drivers spend long stretches of time behind the wheel, and this can increase the risk of becoming distracted unless you are careful.

Here are some tips for maintaining your focus when driving OTR:

1. Minimize Distractions

Anything that takes your mind off the task of driving, your hands off the wheel, or your eyes off the road is a form of distracted driving. Many distractions do all of these at once. To help you stay focused, it’s important to minimize all types of distractions while you’re behind the wheel.

You should be aware of the dangers of texting and driving, but as a refresher, this is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Never text and drive as a commercial driver, or while driving any type of vehicle. It’s not worth the risk.

In addition, here are some other distractions to avoid:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking on the phone (even hands-free)
  • Adjusting your radio or air conditioner

One distraction that varies depending on the driver is what you listen to. Some drivers are able to listen to podcasts or audiobooks without losing focus on the road, whereas others get distracted by spoken audio. Use your discretion. If you think something is distracting you, it probably is.

2. Ask “What If” Questions

One of the major principles of defensive driving is thinking ahead and being prepared to react to any sudden changes on the road. To help you do this, try asking yourself “what if” questions related to what is going on while you’re driving. For example, if there is a car in the lane next to you, ask yourself what you would do if that car were to suddenly try to merge. These scenarios give your mind something productive to do while driving so you can stay focused while also improving your defensive driving skills.

3. Take Breaks When You Need Them

If you find yourself unable to stay focused on the road, stop and take a break. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires certain breaks, but even beyond this, you can stop if you feel it will help you. It’s better to spend a bit of time not driving so you are able to focus more effectively in the long run versus trying to power through. Even ten minutes to take a nap, get a snack, or call a loved one back home can help you refocus for the rest of your drive.

4. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Staying healthy can make a huge difference in your ability to stay focused. Although it can take some extra planning to make health a priority when you’re an OTR trucker, it’s well worth the effort in more ways than one.

Here are some health-related tips to improve your focus:

Stay Well-Rested

Sleep is essential to your health and fatigue presents a major risk for drivers. It’s hard to stay focused on the road when you’re tired. Maintain a regular sleep schedule to the best of your ability and stop for a nap if you are getting too tired.

Eat Healthily

Unhealthy meals can reduce your energy and your ability to focus. A healthy diet keeps you more alert, along with many other benefits.

Exercise Regularly

Finding time to exercise on the road doesn’t have to be a challenge. Even a short run at a truck stop can help keep your heart healthy, and it can also improve your focus and overall energy levels.

Interested in a Trucking Career?

At Phoenix Truck Driving School, we help students become safe and successful truckers. Our program allows you to earn your license in as little as four weeks and we offer job placement assistance.

To learn more about becoming a trucker in Albuquerque, contact us today.

Are Driverless Vehicles a Threat to the Trucking Industry?

Semi-trucks move 72.5% of American freight and the trucking industry is absolutely essential to our nation’s economy. As a result of this need and the ongoing driver shortage, earning a commercial driver’s license (CDL) gives you the opportunity to pursue a stable and rewarding career. In recent years, some have started to wonder whether driverless vehicles present a threat to this industry. While autonomous vehicles (AVs) are predicted to change certain aspects of trucking in the long term, they are unlikely to pose a significant threat to driver jobs in the near future.

Levels of Automation

In order to understand how AVs could affect the trucking industry, it’s important to understand the different levels of automation. The Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) defines six levels of automation.

These are:

  • Level 0 No automation – At this level, the vehicle is fully manually controlled. The car may still include some technology to assist the driver, such as blind-spot alerts or automatic emergency braking, as long as these features do not control the vehicle.
  • Level 1 – Driver assistance – Any features that provide steering or acceleration support to the driver fall under this level. Examples include adaptive cruise control or lane centering.
  • Level 2 – Partial driving automation – If a car is using both steering and acceleration support features at the same time, it falls under level 2.
  • Level 3 – Conditional driving automation – This is when a vehicle crosses the threshold from assistive features into what most people think of when they think of “self-driving” cars. However, AVs at this level can only operate autonomously in certain conditions, and the driver may need to take over manual control. This means drivers still need to remain alert when they are behind the well of a level 3 AV.
  • Level 4 – High driving automation – Compared to level 3, these vehicles can operate without manual intervention in more circumstances. A human can take over in an emergency but otherwise, the car can drive itself.
  • Level 5 – Full driving automation – A truly driverless vehicle is a level 5 AV. These do not require any human intervention and can drive everywhere in all conditions.

What Level of AVs Are Available?

Currently, many advanced fleet vehicles have level 2 automation features. Some companies have been pioneering level 4 automated trucks, although there have been limited runs of fully driverless vehicles. For the near future, there are no level 5 vehicles that can operate entirely without a driver as a backup.

What Does This Mean for Truckers?

Companies that are working on AVs for fleet applications currently still require drivers to act as supervisors for the vehicles while they are in operation. This means that although the job may not involve as much active driving as trucking currently, driver jobs are not actively threatened by current models of AVs. Instead, these vehicles act as a complement to more traditional semi-trucks on the road, and may actually be beneficial for helping the trucking industry keep up with increasing freight demands.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that even Level 4 vehicles are a long way from widespread adoption in the industry, and Level 5 vehicles are even further away from this. Experts believe it will be several decades before most truckers experience any changes due to driverless vehicles. Even then, they predict changes to the job responsibilities, but not necessarily a loss of driving jobs on a large scale.

Becoming a Trucker

The bottom line is that trucking is still a much-needed profession, and earning your CDL allows you to take advantage of opportunities within this industry.

Contact Phoenix Truck Driving School today to learn how you can get started on the road to a new career.