The Transformation of night into day happens once every 24 hours yet half the world probably never see it. A portion of those probably wish they didn’t and the rest probably get sick of it. I’m in the later group.
When I was in my late teens/ early twenties seeing sunrise at least once a week was a challenge. The number of times we sat up with two specific intentions, to drink all the beer and see the sun rise, was ridiculous. Sometime we succeeded other times we didn’t, but we kept trying anyway.
When I was driving all night that transformation between night and day was always the worst part of the shift. Even without the sun shining into the truck there was something mental (other than the driver) that happened as the day began to dawn. When I’ve spoken about this with people they often make jokes about it being vampire like behaviour, and in a way it is, expect for me it only last about an hour. But it was usually the worst hour of my shift.
As the day would being to rise and the eastern horizon began to light up, even on a cloudy and wet morning, the brain has to begin to adapt before the head does. It’s been in varying degrees of darkness for anything up to eight hours. There may have been street lights, store lights and even car lights but the brain knows they are artificial and before long they will be back in the darkness.
For me sunrise was the absolute worst time to be on the road, not because of the bright sun (although sunset is worse to drive into) but because the brain wanted to go to sleep. I could be wide awake at 4:30am and cruising nicely but at the first rays of daylight my eyes became heavy and I would struggle to stay awake. Annoyingly enough the overnight country music radio station I listened to stopped at 5am and turned to stupid breakfast chit chat which was mind numbing. Smoking and opening the window didn’t help, it was just one of those things, as the day dawned my brain wanted to sleep.
Being on the open highway at the time was the worst, a lack of cars, the sun and a tired and weary brain. Not only that as the sun rose so did the animals, kangaroos, wombats, birds, even cows that had escaped their fences. While I was struggling to stay awake they were waking up and looking for feed, not for the big silver bullbar of the truck.
Looking at the data for our company alone (at the time there was 10 trucks and 17 drivers) more than 78% of the accidents we had were in that transformation time. Some were minor, dents and scratches, some were more serious and required repairs, some required tow trucks and one even resulted in a death. But the figures were overwhelming, the hardest time of our shifts was as the sun rose and the brain tried to sleep. The biggest problem was that such things were just the nature of the beast, part of the job. I was lucky in that I was able to change my shift and most days I was parked and often asleep during that transformation time but not everyone had that luxury.
Weirdly enough having given up night shifts on the road that transformation time of day is still a major pain in the butt for me, but for a different reason. These days it’s because that’s the time I wake up whether I want to or not. I can go to bed at 2am and as soon as the sun rises and those first rays of light begin lighting up the house I am awake. If only it worked that way when I was on the road the mechanics and panel beaters would have been out of work!