Many of the regulations imposed on truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole are intended to balance the goal of making a profit with the safety of truck drivers and those with whom they share the road. While accidents caused by distracted driving gather most of the headlines these days, there is a constant battle to promote safety by reducing drowsy driving. A recent study of Australian long-haul truck drivers analyzed the use of caffeinated beverages by drivers and the impact that use had on safety. The study found that drivers who consumed caffeine were less likely to have an accident than drivers who did not. The results show that exhaustion is indeed a problem that safety experts need to consider.
The study adjusted for other factors that may have impacted crash rates. After balancing out the effects of age, the experience of the driver, the distance the driver had travelled, the hours of sleep of the driver, the impact of night driving and more, caffeine still reduced the chances of an accident by 63 percent. The study gathered information from drivers regarding a number of health and lifestyle issues. It was not explicitly a study about caffeine use.
Caffeinated beverages are not particularly beneficial from a health standpoint. Caffeine has been linked to hypertension, depression, and other negative health effects. As with most individuals, caffeine intake is based on a need to combat fatigue. Caffeine may be a temporary fix for drowsy driving, but it does not represent a long term solution to the pervasive problem.
A tired driver is a danger to everyone on the road. Truck drivers face a constant challenge in staving off fatigue for long stretches of driving. Caffeinated beverages may help to some extent, but it is not feasible to recommend greater caffeine intake as a solution to drowsy driving.
Source: The New York Times, “Caffeine May Boost Driver Safety,” by Nicholas Bakalar, 21 March 2013