• Caffeine and Truckers
  • January 12, 2018
  • An Australian study published in The BMJ, a leading medical journal, reveals that a commercial vehicle driver’s risk of crashing during long distance hauls is significantly reduced when the driver consumes caffeinated drinks. This study shows that consuming caffeinated beverages may assist truckers in maintaining alertness, an especially important safety measure considering the hours and distances typically driven.

    Long distance truckers have monotonous routines consisting of driving for many hours, often into the night. Consequently, drowsy driving causes up to 100,000 accidents per year, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Previous studies of simulated driving have shown that caffeine enhances alertness and task performance. This study examined real-world participants to determine if consumption of caffeine reduces the risk of crashes in long distance commercial truckers.

    Case Study
    Over approximately two and a half years, just over 500 truckers across the Australian states of New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA) participated in the case study. Case driver participants were only eligible if they crashed their commercial vehicles while driving a long-distance trip, if they sustained no serious injuries, and if no fatalities were associated with the crash. Control driver participants were only eligible if they had not been involved in a crash in the past 12 months. Drivers were randomly interviewed at various truck stops across NSW and WA when they stopped for a meal break.

    Drivers were asked to report the quantity and frequency of their caffeine consumption for the purpose of staying awake in the previous month. They also reported whether, during that time period, they experienced difficulty staying awake while driving. Factors, such as illegal drug and alcohol use, exercise habits, sleep habits, and existing medical conditions, were taken into account. Those who crashed were interviewed as soon as possible, within four weeks of the crash.

    Outcomes
    Only 13 percent of case drivers, compared to 37 percent of control drivers, consumed high levels of caffeine. After adjustment for multiple confounders, the study shows that the consumption of legal stimulants, such as caffeine, significantly reduces the risk of truckers getting in crashes when driving for long distances. The study’s authors conclude that long-distance truckers who consume caffeinated beverages may be 63 percent less likely to crash than those who do not use caffeine stimulants for the purpose of staying awake.

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