Scorching Heat Can Hurt the Health of Truckers
The cabin of a semi-truck can hold in the heat and create problems for the health of truckers over the long term. Studies have shown how vehicles left with the windows slightly open on a day with 85 degrees Fahrenheit can reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes. Let the truck sit for half an hour in the same heat, and it may reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the danger of heatstroke or other health complication remains low if the truck is on because of the A/C running, the threat comes into play when you need to inspect the truck, secure a load, or park in a no-idle spot for a while without shade.
Heatstroke: Symptoms and What to Do
Truckers must stay ever-alert, especially over the summer season, to the risk of heatstroke. Heatstroke demands immediate medical attention. Left untreated, heatstroke can damage the heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys. Don’t wait to seek medical attention because the problem worsens the longer you delay, increasing your chances of health complications or death.
Some of the most common symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Flushed skin
- Racing heart rate
- High body temp
- Strange behavior
- Alteration of sweating
Heatstroke can happen within 10 to 15 minutes as body temperatures rise above 106 degrees Fahrenheit. The speed of how fast it comes on has made it dangerous. Other heat-stress issues may happen in 30 minutes.
Sedentary Lifestyle Combined with Heat
Have you ever heard of football players who died of heatstroke? One example is Jordan McNair, who died in 2018 of heatstroke. While that doesn’t relate to trucking per se, it shows you how even the most physically fit can die from it. Even the most physically fit truckers can suffer a heat stroke. Still, the dangers of heat-related problems with the health of truckers rise steeply for the overweight, those weak in stamina, those with high blood pressure, and those who take medications like diuretics.
Previously, we spoke about heatstroke, which poses a grave danger and is more severe than heat exhaustion, but you still need to take heat exhaustion seriously.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Confusion or dizziness
- Clammy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Elevated body temp
For heat exhaustion, you need to seek an air-conditioned room and drink plenty of water. We emphasize water rather than other drinks because some beverages won’t keep you hydrated, like soda and energy drinks.
You might also take a cool shower to keep your body temperature lower.
Keep Careful Documentation with a Digital Thermometer
Digital thermometers inside the truck can keep a close record of everything happening, especially if you struggle with a hot truck. You will send the numbers to someone at the company and someone in your family or a friend. The numbers can be helpful in a lawsuit later if needed. You want concrete evidence to show that the company acted negligently and failed to take the necessary precautions to protect their drivers.
Document the temperature before your rest period and after the rest period. If you experienced a heatstroke, and the company failed to provide an alternative form of climate control, you could hold them liable. To give you an example, let’s take a teenager who died in a vehicle during the sweltering heat. The family received a $23.6 million settlement. While it may not be related directly to trucks, it gives you an idea that these types of practices are unacceptable.
Sleeping in a Hot Truck
In cases with extreme heat, you may have little choice but to idle the truck for comfort. This keeps it cool enough to sleep comfortably. You must sleep well to stay alert, which means that a hot truck can also cause indirect problems. If you can’t sleep well, it can lead to an accident. For the extremely hot days, you might choose to stay in a hotel for a little comfort, but most can’t afford to do that all the time. Idling may cost a little extra, but it can cost much more to not have the necessary sleep.
People More Prone to Mistakes at Temperatures over 95 Degrees
NASA conducted a study where they learned how people had a much higher risk for mistakes in temperatures over 95 degrees. The people in the study made 60 mistakes per hour, and they didn’t realize they were doing it. One of the issues with mistakes in a semi-truck is that because of the 35,000 pounds of metal, 5,000 semi-truck accidents result in a fatality. You can’t afford to make mistakes.
Air Conditioning: Necessary for Safe Driving
You should never underestimate the value of air conditioning when truck driving because it makes all the difference. Several truckers have complained of getting heat exhaustion while in the truck, and you need to take it seriously. Even when drinking water constantly, you can still wind up with heat exhaustion. Speak with any trucker, and you will learn how common it is. They will either have experienced it themselves or heard of someone else who had it happen. Air conditioning can’t be underestimated when it comes to protecting you from the heat.
Danger to Pets
Because of the loneliness on the American highways, an estimated 40 percent of truckers take pets with them on the road. A dog will especially serve as a form of protection against intruders. Unfortunately, many times, truckers have to park in unsafe areas. The danger to the health of truckers also poses a threat to pets because they also cannot handle the extreme heat either. In the summer of 2020, a 62-year-old man and his dog were found dead at a truck stop in Barstow, California.
Gary Bybee, 62, of Utah, was found dead in his truck after a heatwave in the area. They were believed to have died of heat exhaustion. Even heat exhaustion has the potential to kill you in two hours if not addressed. Unfortunately, this shows us a tragic example of what happens when you don’t keep cool on hot days. As a professional in an industry, you deserve to be comfortable and safe while performing your job.
Truckers must stay alert to the signs of danger. Drink lots of water on hot days and keep the air conditioning running. Don’t work for trucking companies that place profits above people. For example, some companies may have an anti-idling policy. During the heatwaves, you can’t afford to risk not having an air conditioner on. Even staying cool with water can still lead to heat exhaustion. Take precautions for those hot summer days where the temperatures spin out of control. Staying safe while performing your job is the number one priority.
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