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Keeping Drivers Safe On The Roads

Keeping Drivers Safe On The Roads

Keeping Drivers Safe On The Roads

The life of a professional driver is tough, and we’re always keen to share the best advice about keeping drivers safe on the roads.

Through our sponsorship of Derbyshire Institute of Sport, which helps talented youngsters become world champions, we are delighted to bring you this article written exclusively for us by dietitian Nicky Gilbert, who has worked with professional sportsmen and women and Olympians and future Olympians to improve their health and wellbeing.

lobina transport dis sponsorship derbyshire

In summer 2018, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK asked more than 2,000 van drivers and owners to give their feedback on hydration and health.

A staggering 70% say that work pressures severely impacted their ability to drink enough water and have a healthy diet – with 27% adding that they rely solely on sugary drinks or caffeine to get them through long days.

Looking at eating patterns is important for anyone in a job where safety is paramount. It’s not just about fuelling our bodies through food; our brains need to be fuelled and hydrated too. We simply don’t perform well without good nutrition and if we are hungry or thirsty.

That link between what we put in our bodies and mental and cognitive performance – and mood as well – is now seen as a major factor in keeping drivers safe on the roads. If you are tired and hungry and dehydrated you are more likely to have accidents on the road and road rage incidents too.

Dehydration has a similar impact to being over the alcohol limit

A study found that drivers who were mildly dehydrated made double the number of errors of those who were adequately hydrated; a similar impact to drivers as being over the alcohol limit.

Types of food are really important as well. Food choices that cause a rush of glucose or sugar into the body can lead to a ‘sugar-crash’ later on so you don’t have sustained energy or sustained fuel to
the brain.

The Mercedes-Benz Vans UK survey found that despite warnings to carry water at all times, especially during summer heatwaves, one in five of the UK’s van drivers said they were avoiding drinking water – suggesting that drivers were keen to avoid having toilet breaks that can impact targets for delivery companies.

I was invited to speak at a conference held in Derby by the Freight Trade Association earlier this year and that was where we looked at professional drivers as travelling athletes.

The British Dietetic Association issued a survey to FTA members to assess their eating and drinking habits whilst on shift and found that 95 per cent said that healthy eating is important to them, yet 56 per cent consider themselves overweight or obese.

So, let’s look at what can be done to keep drivers safe on the roads through nutrition, hydration and adequate rest.

 What can drivers do when they are on shift?
  • Take a break away from vehicles. Some 41 per cent eat lunch in their vehicles which is not good for mental and physical health. A short walk during breaks can improve mental health and awareness at the wheel.
  • Put the right fuel in: simple swaps to meals and snacks can make a huge difference. Swapping a bag of crisps for a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit is a great example of this. Meal preparation is a great way to plan and is cheaper than buying food and drinks from service stations or fast food restaurants.
  • Keep well hydrated: drink six to eight cups/glasses of fluid a day; five to six whilst on shift. If possible, make yourself aware of any accessible toilets on routes.
What can employers do to help staff?
  • Prompts for hydration such as through pee charts and mugs with key messaging for healthy hydration; are also available through Work Ready.
  • Nutrition consultations for drivers: dietitians can work with drivers on a 1-2-1 basis to discuss key health and safety issues remotely or face to face. Drivers are more at risk of cardiometabolic health issues which include: diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol.

Companies pay a lot of money for the safety of their vehicles and they need to take care of their drivers too.

Nicky Gilbert is a freelance dietitian, lecturer and Registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist with 30 years experience in the field. For many years she worked with the players at Nottingham Forest Football Club as well as supporting other national teams and Olympians. She also works with industry to support health and wellbeing in the workplace as an accredited BDA Work Ready Dietitian.

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