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Hauling Happiness: Why do some truck drivers prefer driving at night?

Why do some truck drivers prefer driving at night?

“It’s a beautiful thing to have the world to yourself at 2 AM.” - FedEx Ground Linehaul truck driver 

Get ready for a revelation! Amidst the negative associations of night driving with long hours, fatigue, and accidents, there is a unique subset of drivers who actively choose to drive at night. The unknown benefits of night driving are revealed in this article. With the added benefits by comparison, for many semi-truck drivers, nighttime driving is a better option for their careers. 

#1 Save truck driver and vehicle from heat

The largest delivery and trucking companies in the county aren't legally required to give nationwide heat protections to drivers. Now, a bunch of drivers getting sick from the heat is sparking renewed demands to improve their working conditions.

"They're throwing up, their bodies are shutting down," shared Dave Reeves, President of Local 767, a Texas crew of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters representing 350,000 UPS folks nationwide. According to the Teamsters, cases of drivers getting messed up from the heat are way more than what's being officially reported.

UPS employees have captured thermometer readings reaching a scorching 150 degrees within the cargo areas of their trucks.

Feeling the scorching heat today, it's not a stretch to say it can mess with drivers' focus and lead to accidents. Take it from Viviana Gonzales, a UPS pro for nearly a decade. Her truck doesn't even have a working air conditioner, and she's been dealing with temperatures as high as 150 degrees.

"We don't have AC inside the trucks. The fans are just throwing hot air, so all it does is irritate my eyes. I've probably downed more than a gallon of water, no kidding. Like literally, a whole gallon of water since I started work [five hours ago]."

By embracing the cool night breeze, truckers save big on maintenance costs from relentless heat exposure. Heat doesn't just test engines; it corrodes truck batteries, zapping their voltage. Tire treads race to wear down with the heat, flirting with the excitement of potential blowouts. And when it's scorching, oil breaks down quicker, turning it into a less effective lubricant. 

#2 Beat the unbeatable traffic

Traffic congestion takes a toll on everyone, but for the trucking industry, a vital force driving the thriving e-commerce sector, the impact hits hard. According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), their latest study unveils a staggering annual cost of $94.6 billion linked to traffic congestion in the trucking industry—an all-time high.

National cost of congestion trends

In 2021, the congestion-induced delays translate to over 460,000 commercial truck drivers essentially idling away an entire year of work— a 27% jump since 2016, which is twice the inflation rate. According to ATRI, these delays burned through a massive 6.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel, costing an extra $22.3 billion. 

Diving into how traffic messes with drivers, those paid by the mile get the short end of the stick. The impact probably got even worse with the ELDs kicking in, demanding only 11 driving hours. Picture this lousy combo – tight driving hours and traffic gobbling it all up.

#3 Get front-row spaces at rest stops

Driver comment about truck parking spots

Traffic throws a curveball at truckers—road traffic, lines at gas stations, and now, believe it or not, even traffic to snag free slots at rest stops.

According to the American Trucking Associations, a staggering 98 percent of truck drivers report struggling to secure safe parking, resulting in over 56 minutes of drive time burned daily in search of suitable spots. This lost time translates to an annual compensation reduction of $5,500, amounting to a notable 12% decrease in pay.

Just think about the sweet deal for night shift drivers who roll into open-space rest stops around 7 or 8 AM. Bonus: night owls get to dodge the whole sensation of being jolted by speeding trucks during the night.

Bryan Tyson Galbreath, 41, from Corpus Christi, Texas, puts it plain: “You have vehicles that are traveling down the highway at 65, 70 miles an hour.” He adds, “You can feel them when they run by you, rocking the truck. You’re not going to get a good night’s rest doing that.”

#4 Easier in the eyes

Sunlight doesn't guarantee clear roads. Not everyone knows this, but driving at night can be easier on the eyes with the right vehicle lights. Visibility is crucial, so if daylight distractions get to drivers, night driving is there to help out.

Truck lights have evolved big time for nighttime safety—from old-school incandescent to standard LED fixtures. And now, LED truck lighting accessories, like brake lights and emergency flashers, are a thing. Check out Kotra Truck Driving School's YouTube guide for a quick rundown on identifying these lights.

#5 Skip the scales

Driving at night on a quiet road with hardly any traffic can be a pain when you have to slow down for those weigh stations. Luckily, quite a few of them are closed at night. But if they're open, some truckers use the darkness to sneak past without stopping.

Most truckers avoid weigh stations to skip the hassle of slowing down, waiting in line, and dealing with potential bathroom breaks. Some also steer clear if they've recently loaded up and haven't had the opportunity to weigh their load on a CAT scale before approaching a state scale– a precaution that helps them avoid potential tickets and fines for overloading.

In any situation, deliberately avoiding weigh stations is never advisable because overloaded trucks are prone to accidents. Trucks exceeding their weight limits are more susceptible to rollovers and require longer stopping distances, posing challenges even for the most experienced drivers. Overloaded trucks exert excessive pressure on the tires, increasing the risk of tire blowouts, which can lead to dangerous consequences for the driver and others on the highway.

Staying safe during night driving

To capitalize on the benefits of night driving, truckers must be well-prepared for nocturnal journeys. While night driving may avoid daytime costs and stress, a single night accident can outweigh these benefits. Here's a concise list of tips for a smooth and safe night drive:

1. Illuminate the Night

Shine bright and drive right – clean and check your lights before each night's journey. Clean them up and slap on those reflective decals – visibility isn't just a suggestion; it's your highway code.

2. Crush Fatigue

Nighttime driving and fatigue – a dangerous duo. Rule the road with a refreshed mind – plan your pit stops, avoid drowsy driving, and keep that CDL sharp.

3.  Plan Like a Pro

Before hitting the midnight asphalt, channel your inner logistics maestro. Map your route, double-check your truck's vitals, and pack supplies like a seasoned scout. A well-prepped trucker is a confident trucker.

4. Battle Distractions with Strategies

In the war against distractions, arm yourself with audiobooks, route planning, and short breaks. Engage in conversations over the CB Radio – your allies in the fight against boredom.

5. Night Risks: Know and Conquer

Night driving has its hazards – poor visibility, fatigue, wildlife, drunk drivers, and treacherous roads. Stay ahead of the game by acknowledging these risks and prepping your truck accordingly.

In brief, night driving for truckers defies stereotypes, offering unexpected advantages like cost savings, traffic avoidance, optimal rest stop spaces, and reduced eye strain with advanced lighting. Amid the challenges of daytime heat, the night becomes a strategic relief. However, keeping a safe drive is the ultimate test to harness said benefits.


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