Know Your Body Like You Know Your Commercial Vehicle – Hydrate!

Hungry or Thirsty?

As professional CDL drivers you are required to know your vehicle. You conduct a pre- and post-trip inspection of your vehicle.  The human body is often compared to a motorized vehicle because the functionality of the two are very similar in many ways. When your vehicle is fueled with the appropriate gas and oil fluids, it will run more efficiently; the same concept applies to your body. When we fuel our bodies with the appropriate amount of fluids, it too will function more efficiently as well.

Knowing your body and the signals it sends to warn you that you are running low on fuel is just as imperative as knowing when your commercial vehicle is low on fuel.  If the check oil light or gas light comes on in your vehicle you’d likely take immediate action. The same should apply when your body signals it is in need of servicing too. The problem with this is that an actual light does not appear saying your body is in need of fuel. However, our bodies do send signals and warning signs. For many drivers it’s easy to ignore or misread the warning signs your body is sending. These signs are often mistaken for hunger.

Generally, the first signs of dehydration begin to show up after a few hours of being on the road. They may present themselves as a slight headache or with a feeling of hunger cramps in the abdomen.  As a driver, you are often sitting in traffic for hours and it would only be natural to assume a headache is due to the stress of driving and the number of hours you have been sitting in traffic. In some cases this might be true, but I encourage you to scan your body just as you scan your side view mirrors frequently. The way you scan your surroundings is the same way you should scan your body to make sure it is also safe for driving. Other warning signs might appear as well. Feelings of fatigue, dizziness, irritable moods, urinating less, a dry mouth, and the obvious feeling of thirst can all be signs of dehydration.

Ask yourself when was the last time you drank water as well as when was the last time you ate food. These are two crucial questions in keeping you safe and well on and off the road. You might find the answer to the question is that you have not been drinking enough water while on the road. You may notice that you are in fact eating more frequently and drinking much less frequently. This is due to the previously mentioned symptoms, which can easily be associated with hunger.  It isn’t uncommon for a commercial driver to consume more food than water, for obvious reasons. Most believe that drinking water will require you to stop more frequently. As a professional driver your sole purpose is to reach your destination within your scheduled driving hours for each day. So, it just makes sense that you wouldn’t want to waste time by stopping frequently to use the restroom. However, you must keep in mind that keeping hydrated will keep you alert and focused on the road.  Staying alert and focused are only two of many reasons keeping hydrated is important.

The human body is made up of about 65 percent water and needs adequate amounts of water to remove toxins from the body and to provide continuous moisture to many organs within the body.  Knowing the difference in when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to drink is imperative in staying hydrated. Conducting a pre- and post-trip assessment of your body is just as important as conducting a pre- and post-trip assessment of your commercial vehicle.

The daily recommended amount of water intake, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is anywhere from one to four liters of water per day, depending on your age, sex, and health status. One liter is equivalent to 33.81oz.  This means you should drink roughly between two and eight 16oz. glasses of water a day.

Here are a few tips to help plan out your trip to keep you both hydrated and not have to make frequent stops to use the restroom.

  • Pack enough water prior to leaving home.
  • Start drinking water prior to the start of your pre-trip inspection, using the restroom prior to your departure
  • 30 minutes before you approach your first rest area, drink more water. Use the restroom at rest stop prior to departing again.
  • 20-30 minutes before to arriving at your destination or next rest stop, drink more water. Use the restroom prior to departing again. This can also be done during your post trip inspection as well.
  • Stop drinking water about 2 hours prior to going to bed, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

Leonora Ellis MA, WLM