Temperatures are high across the country, and even potentially dangerous for some truck drivers.
As truckers work to deliver goods throughout the nation, some areas are seeing temperatures as high as 100 degrees during the extreme heat waves taking place this year. Some truckers may not be able to acclimate their bodies to high humidity and temperatures quickly enough during these heat waves, which can be detrimental.
“There’s a fine line drivers must walk between moving freight within the allotted transit times and avoiding heat-related illness during heat waves,” explained Trinity Healthcare owner and medical director, Dr. John Abraham.
Trinity serves as Prime Inc. truckload carrier’s wellness provider, and Prime Inc. works to keep truckers as healthy and safe as possible by educating them on the importance of hydration and urging them to drink plenty of water while they’re on the road.
“When temperatures spike, the primary concern is about the amount of fluid and water that’s in the driver’s system,” said Abraham. “Heat exhaustion and dehydration can cause organ failure and can even lead to death if allowed to go too far.”
Additionally, drivers should focus on the heat index in the area in which they’re driving for a more accurate understanding of weather conditions, as the heat index considers humidity and temperature alike, Abraham added.
“The higher the heat index, the hotter the weather feels,” he said. “That’s because, with the higher humidity, the higher moisture content in the air doesn’t allow sweat to evaporate and cool the skin.”
According to Abraham, as a driver acclimates to hot temperatures, his or her body will become more tolerant and sweat around two to three more liters every hour to expel heat. If the body is unable to properly rid itself of excessive heat, the driver may experience heat exhaustion.
The key, of course, is to stay hydrated with water, as opposed to energy drinks that often contain high amounts of caffeine or sugar, added president of Rolling Strong, Stephen Kane. A hydrating beverage should provide the minerals a driver’s body might lose when sweating in high temperatures.
“Because once you start to become dehydrated, it’s really tough to get back [to being hydrated],” Kane noted.
One’s body temperature also rises quickly when metabolizing large or unhealthy meals, so truckers should do their best to avoid fast food and instead bring lighter meals on the road that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Additionally, sufficient rest is especially helpful for a driver’s body to be able to handle high heat levels, so Kane recommends that drivers understand how much sleep they need for their bodies to perform at their best while on the road.
Wellness and health programs dedicated to truck drivers, like Rolling Strong, have a lot of tips for drivers to stay hydrated and cool while working. Rolling Stone suggests drivers keep coolers in their cabs filled with water bottles and other health drinks, as well as with fruit, cucumber, or other healthy, hydrating snacks to munch on while they drive or take a break.
“Having been dehydrated when I served in the military…[I] had to be taken to the hospital and have an IV put in my arm and two liters of saline solution pumped into me because I got dehydrated,” said Sage Truck Driving School instructor and trucker, Scott Douglas. “I know from experience just how fast [dehydration] can hit you and how bad the results can be when it finally hits you,” he said.
Some signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration can include headaches, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, or confusion, and drivers should immediately stop operating their vehicles when experiencing any of these symptoms and reach out to their dispatchers, Trinity Healthcare’s Abraham noted. Drivers who tend to drink caffeinated beverages like coffee or soda to stay awake and alert while on the road should counterbalance those drinks with their equivalent amount in water. This amount of water intake should also be in addition to the recommended intake of 90 ounces of water per day for women and 125 ounces of water per day for men.