When it comes to hydration, truck drivers seem to have a conflict of interest. Most drivers believe they cannot drink much water because it will lead to more bathroom breaks, which affects not only their ability to make on-time deliveries, but also their earnings. These concerns are real, but in reality, there are ways to get proper hydration without causing too many bathroom breaks.
Proper hydration is vital for driver health – and for safety. A 2015 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior showed that driving while even mildly dehydrated is the same as driving drunk. For truck drivers, that’s a massive concern. Dehydration may also lead to mental fatigue, muscle cramps, heat stroke, and kidney stones.
Additionally, we know that we can live far longer without food than we can live without water. Our adult bodies are made up of approximately 60% water. Actually, our brain and heart are approximately 73% water; lungs are 83% water; kidney and muscles are 79% water. This should paint a picture of how important and essential water is for our bodies.
What does water actually do for our bodies? In addition to water being a vital nutrient for each and every cell in our bodies and transporting oxygen throughout our bodies, water also regulates our body temperature, is critical for digestion, transports proteins and carbohydrates, creates saliva, flushes our toxins, and lubricates joints.
While the research on how much water we need daily seems to vary a bit, and also varies based on age, height, weight, gender, physical activity and where you live, most studies and health experts agree that the average male adult needs between 2.5 and 3 liters (78 to 99 ounces) of water per day, while the average adult female needs between 2 and 2.5 liters (66 to 78 ounces) of water per day.
Here are five tips to help your truck drivers stay hydrated:
- Educate drivers on the importance of hydration and the symptoms of mild dehydration: dry or sticky mouth, sleepiness or tiredness, less urine, dry skin, dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Offer drivers free or discounted reusable water bottles. Water bottles with infusers are best since drivers can add fruits and vegetables for flavoring, which increases not only the probability of them drinking water, but also adds antioxidants and other health benefits.
- Recommend drinking at least 16 to 24 ounces of water starting 20 minutes before arriving at each major stop (ie. arriving at a shipper/receiver; getting to their 30-minute break; and end of shift). This will help ensure that most or all bathroom breaks are during stops, and not requiring additional stops.
- Educate drivers on water-rich foods such as cucumbers, celery, watermelon, strawberries and grapefruit.
- Educate drivers on other causes of dehydration, including high-sodium foods such as fast food as well as excess caffeine.
Ensuring drivers are healthy and safe on the road is a critical factor for fleet owners. Providing education, resources, and a supportive culture are keys to making a real impact.
Sergio Rojas, a 2018 HDT Truck Fleet Innovator, is HDT's driver wellness advisor, with over 21 years of experience as a personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach. Certified in a variety of nutrition and fitness disciplines, he holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, was a health expert for NBC for 11 years, and today heads up wellness efforts for Hirschbach Motor Lines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.