12:17 am, Sunday 24 March, 2013
Photo: SafetyCulture Library
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney found drinking coffee or other drinks with caffeine makes truck drivers travelling long distance safer while driving.
The study showed that drivers who consumed caffeinated drinks to stay awake were less likely to meet a road accident than those who did not.
Forty three percent of drivers reported consuming drinks like tea, coffee, caffeine tablets, or energy drinks so that they could stay awake while driving. Sixty three percent of the respondents were less likely to crash than those who did not take caffeinated drinks.
The study was led by Lisa Sharwood of the George Institute and she says the results of the study must be interpreted carefully.
“Caffeine may seem effective in enhancing alertness, but it should be considered carefully in the context of a safe and healthy fatigue management strategy; energy drinks and coffee certainly don’t replace the need for sleep,” said Ms Sharwood.
“The study shows that the consumption of caffeinated substances can significantly protect against crash risk for the long distance commercial driver.
“The benefit however is likely to be short-lived. Having regular breaks, napping and appropriate work schedules are strongly recommended in line with national fatigue management legislation for heavy vehicle drivers.”
Commercial drivers driving long distance routinely experience extended periods in sedentary positions, which has been associated with wake time drowsiness, increasing the risk for road accidents. Caffeine is one of the most commonly used stimulants worldwide which has been shown to increase alertness among shift workers. However, it can also have effects on the quantity and quality of sleep.
The study was conducted between 2008 and 2011 in New South Wales and Western Australia. Respondents were truck drivers whose vehicle mass was at least 12 tonnes. The study compared 530 drivers who crashed their vehicles on a long distance trip with 517 drivers who never had a crash in the past twelve months.
This study was a collaboration between the University of Sydney, Monash University, University of New South Wales, Curtin University, Queensland University of Technology and Police Departments in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. It was funded by the Australian Research Council, the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, DiagnoseIT, the National Transport Commission, Queensland Transport, Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales and Main Roads Western Australia.
For more information, visit the George Institute website.