Truckers face pressure from trucking companies to haul their cargo quickly from suppliers to retail outlets and other destinations around the nation. However, what isn’t always acknowledged is how that pressure can compromise trucking safety from coast to coast.
For instance, there is the problem of truck drivers becoming dehydrated behind the wheel. According to the Physiology & Behavior journal, when drivers don’t get enough hydration, it’s as if they are driving while drunk.
Truckers may not realize that, but they fully understand the physiological process that occurs after they consume water or other liquids — the need for frequent urination. Of course, that entails pulling off the road to use a restroom. Some truckers restrict their fluid intakes to avoid these time-consuming bathroom breaks.
There are other dehydration factors at play as well. When truck drivers do drink, they frequently consume coffee for its caffeinated properties to help them remain awake. Caffeine, however, is a mild diuretic, which increases the frequency of urination and strips the body of the vital electrolytes and minerals it needs to function optimally. The air-conditioned cabs of semitrucks also take moisture out of the air and off truck drivers’ bodies, further contributing to their dehydration.
The problem with dehydration behind the wheel is that it causes many of the same symptoms that alcohol impairment does, including:
- Judgment errors
- Performance problems
Drivers who are dehydrated experience the same level of driving errors as those drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 percent — the legal limit for drunk driving.
What does this mean for highway safety?
This highlights the (mostly) unrecognized dangers inherent in driving while dehydrated. Truck drivers should be made aware of these hazards and encouraged to remain hydrated on long hauls to reduce the likelihood of preventable accidents.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth and skin
- Tea-colored urine
Truckers who are diabetic, fighting a cold or other minor ailment or taking certain medications may be even more susceptible to the effects of dehydration.
If you are injured in an accident involving a large commercial truck, one of the elements you may want to explore is whether or not the truck driver was dehydrated at the time of the crash.
Source: FleetOwner, “Truck drivers’ paradox: Not drinking is like drinking,” Larry Kahaner, accessed June 15, 2018