Last week, Fleet News highlighted the findings of a health and exercise expert that inactive and unhealthy drivers have more crashes.
Now, fleet drivers are being advised to eat regularly and healthily or risk increased levels of fatigue and stress.
An extensive review of fatigue-related literature reveals that poor nutrition is a common health risk among fleet drivers. The review, carried out by Beatrice Cutler, dietary consultant to the Transafe Network, found that fleets that included dietary changes in fatigue management programmes saw tangible results.
Ms Cutler said one haulage company involved in a programme that included nutrition advice reported a reduction in accidents and has since been recognised for its consistent safety performance.
“Given that many of the stressors that lead to fatigue in drivers may not be within their control –for instance, work schedules, traffic queues, environmental pollutants, etc – diet is one area that presents an opportunity for them to take control of their environment and mitigate some of the effects of stress that may cumulatively lead to fatigue,” said Ms Cutler.
She referred to a study that compares the effects of driving for eight hours with a break and no food to driving for eight hours with a break and food. The results show that food intake has a positive effect on reaction times, but that a break alone may have a negative effect.
Her findings also confirm anecdotal evidence that fleet drivers generally tend to rely on unhealthy snacks and stimulants.
Drivers who spend many hours behind the wheel are exposed to several risk factors. The body’s response to such stressors over time is complex. However, when energy levels drop as a result, there may be a craving for more carbohydrate/high-fat foods to compensate. But the intake of such foods reduces an individual’s ability to respond positively to stress.
“It would appear that the whole area of research into fatigue in relation to professional drivers underestimates the importance of nutrition,” said Ms Cutler.
She is now calling for more research to ascertain just how important a healthy diet is to help drivers deal with stress and combat fatigue.