Each driver has their own strategy and plans that work best for them. There are however, a few things to consider before making that night run.
As weird as government rules can be, as of right now fortunately USDOT does not forbid driving a commercial vehicle (or any type of vehicle) at night.
Can truck drivers drive at night? It’s a valid question, but sometimes it’s better to ask if they should, based on their personal tolerance and where there at on their available driving hours.
From the perspective of trying to get a good night’s rest so that you can be refreshed and hit the road, driving is not really the best option for a lot of folks. But for professional truck drivers driving at night may be needed to make it the next delivery or the driver themselves prefers to drive at night.
For those drivers who choose to do it either because they have to or they like to, there are some advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is the obvious – there’s less traffic to deal with (especially in urban areas). For those drivers in the rural areas, the biggest disadvantage is worrying about hitting animals and livestock they can’t see until it’s too late.
Can Truck Drivers Drive At Night?
Yes. There are no DOT rules that govern the time of day (or night) that drivers may operate. Hours of service rules govern how much time truck drivers can drive and/or work. The time of day or night truck drivers choose to operate is their choice based on availability of driving hours.
Truck drivers should keep the following in mind:
- Keep your eyes up and ahead
- Swerving for animals
- Be ready to decrease speed.
- Plan your trip well
- Know your limits, don’t push it.
- DOT hours of service limitations
Video: How To Drive At Night
Why Do Truckers Drive at Night?
First things first – make no mistake: driving at night is not always a choice for a truck driver. Depending on the company’s schedule, the client’s schedule, and the type of product they are delivering, some drivers simply have to drive through the night.
For example, something like this can happen when delivering food. You might have to make the delivery at a specific hour before stores open while receiving goods later in the day because the client wants to ensure that the food that gets to the store is as fresh as possible. These kinds of gigs will take the choice off your hands.
Among those who do choose to drive at night the biggest motivator is the lack of traffic to deal with when passing through urban areas. Getting hung up in morning or afternoon rush hour traffic can be an absolute time waster for both your schedule and…
You guessed it, hours of service rules.
What people also forget is this;
A trucker usually gets paid by the mile, so the faster they get to their destination point, the better. Driving at night lessens the chances of encountering a traffic-jam (the main bane of driving during the day-time, especially when driving through major towns with busy streets), construction, or any other distractions that could delay or waylay the driver.
And then, of course, some simply prefer driving at night because it makes them feel more comfortable on the road, with practical benefits of it – such as making better time with their deliveries – a bonus, rather than what prompts them to drive at night (though it must be a very nice bonus). These people find they enjoy the peace and quiet of the nighttime road, not having to deal with other drivers, or are just more alert at night overall.
If a trucker is a night owl, then it’s far more likely they’ll choose to make their way to the destination point at night and then catch some sleep during the day, then the other way around – even if they have a choice not to.
Truck Driving at Night vs Day
Each driver has their own way that works best for their body clock. Some drivers are just night owls anyway, but others use ‘tricks’ like diet, exercise and entertainment (podcasts, music) to keep them up and focused. There are a lot of things to consider when driving during the daytime vs night (more).
One size doesn’t fit all.
Since both night-time driving and day-time driving, have their perks – and disadvantages. Let’s break them down.
- Visibility and alertness: no way how you cut it, we’ve gotten used to working during the day and sleeping at night. There are fewer chances of messing up your sleep patterns, and thus you’re not likely to be tired or unfocused. And it’s simply easier to pay attention to the road and avoid pitfalls while driving during the day.
- Distractions: On the other hand, there are higher chances that you’ll get distracted or waylaid by something you see on the road. It’s easier to only focus on the road ahead of you when driving during the night.
- Traffic: As mentioned above, the absence of heavy traffic is the major point in favor of driving during the night, along with avoiding active construction zones.
- Parking: If the absence of traffic is the upside of driving at night, the shortage of parking space is the downside. Truck stops often fill up by the end of the day since most drivers will be trying to catch a few hours of sleep, even if some plan to continue drive before the sun comes up. On the other hand, during the day you won’t have a problem finding a vacant spot.
What Are the Pitfalls of Driving at Night?
If driving at night (more) was a walk in the park – everybody would be doing it. Since it bears to reiterate, you won’t always have a choice, you should be prepared for some adverse effects night-time driving might have on you.
- Messed Up Sleep Pattern: Unfortunately, there’s a large chance that the change in your usual routine (sleep at night, work during the day), will mess up your sleep pattern and leave you fatigued. It will either pass when you get used to your new job, or it may not pass – in which case, being a trucker might not be for you.
- Encounters with trouble: the chances of encountering those who are driving over the speed and/or drunk increase during the night. This is why it’s important not to grow complacent and keep focus.
- Roadkill: the chances of roadkill also increase at night, since noticing an animal suddenly jumping out on the road becomes harder.
- Getting lost: if you don’t know the area, the chances of getting lost at night – when landmarks and signs are hard to see – are much higher than during the daytime.
Night Time vs. Daytime driving
There advantages and disadvantages to each one, so let’s take a look at a few.
Daytime Driving Pros
- Truck stop parking may be easier to come by
- Need roadside assistance? Getting assistance is easier and cheaper during daylight hours
- Animals and debris in the roadway is easier to spot
- Day driving is easier on the body – As we get older keeping odd hours gets tougher
Daytime driving Cons
- More traffic. In urban areas this is a huge pain the butt.
- You may run into more construction work during the day.
- If you are in an urban area during commuter hours, your more likely to get stuck in traffic
Night Time Driving Pros
- Less traffic on the road (urban or rural)
- Able to make better time with fewer distractions and stops for commuter traffic
- Not as likely to be slowed by construction – However, beware of states that have extreme heat (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas etc) often construction is done at night.
- Messes with your bodies natural cycles
- More animals on the roadway (deer, cattle etc)
- Emergency roadside services may be unavailable or cost substantially more
How to Prepare for a Night Drive
A lot of times what matters the most, is not whether you like driving at night or not, because on occasion you may not have a choice.
Here’s a few things you can do to prepare for your night drive:
- Do NOT Push Yourself: Do not put yourself in danger. If you feel you’re barely keeping your eyes open, stop and get rest.
- Drive carefully: Just because the roads aren’t busy doesn’t mean you get to be Michael Schumacher. While making your delivery faster is appealing, it’s not worth risking your life. Keep a steady speed and don’t go over the limit (if for nothing else, then because at night the police are more likely to notice).
- Do not swerve: if suddenly an animal jumps out on the road, your first instinct might be to swerve. Don’t! Keep a straight path. It might be hard to control yourself in the moment – which is exactly why you should be driving carefully in the first place.
- Plan your trip: learn about the area you’ll be passing through – turns, exists, possible “problem areas” (like active construction zones). Where the gas stations and truck stops are. The best way to avoid trouble (and getting lost) is knowing your route.
Can truck drivers drive at night to make their deliveries? Of course. But in the end professional truck drivers are human and driving through the night, night after night can take its toll.
The driver may not really have total control on whether or not they’ll have to drive at night. Company and client pressure will do a lot to dictate daytime vs night driving. The best the driver can do is prepare by making the most of their off duty time and getting the rest they need.
Sometimes having a buddy helps. Check out our article “Can truck drivers bring their dog”. If you’re a cat person read our pet cat in a semi truck article. Having a four legged road buddy may be just what you need.