A recent study found that truck drivers who consume caffeine-laden drinks are less likely to have an accident than their decaffeinated colleagues, even if they drive longer distances and sleep less, the British Medical Journal reported.
Researchers from Australia conducted a study of OTR drivers to investigate the effects of caffeine on the likelihood of a crash.
“The study was conducted between 2008 and 2011 in New South Wales and Western Australia. Participants were long distance drivers whose vehicle mass was at least 12 tonnes. The study compared 530 drivers who crashed their vehicle while on a long distance trip (cases) with 517 drivers who had not had a crash in the previous 12 months (controls),” the BMJ press release states.
43% of the participants reported consuming caffeinated drinks for the purpose of staying awake.
The study was broken into groups. The first group of drivers were, on average, two years younger than the control group of drivers. According to the study, the younger group of drivers were more likely to have had at least one crash in the past five years.
The control drivers, who had more experience, tended to drive more miles and got less sleep and reported being more tired than the younger drivers.
Researchers made adjustments for factors such as age, sleep, sleep apnea, miles driven, breaks, and driving schedules. They found that the drivers who consumed caffeine to stay awake were 63% less likely to crash than the drivers who had not consumed caffeine.
The researchers concluded that consuming caffeinated beverages “can significantly protect against crash risk for the long distance commercial driver” and this has “important implications for the improvement of fatigue management strategies for this and similar populations.”
They caution that the benefit is only useful for a short period of time, and that taking regular breaks and napping is strongly recommended.
Lisa Sharwood (The George Institute, University of Sydney), lead author of the paper, said, “This may seem effective in enhancing their 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.”