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Refuel: Beat the Heat

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Driving long distances for long hours as a professional trucker has its own unique set of challenges on the best of days and under the best of circumstances. Driving on days with less-than-ideal weather conditions only adds to these challenges. In an earlier post in our Refuel series, we addressed the hazards of driving in the rain. This blog discusses hazards – particularly health risks – of driving in the heat. In parts of the U.S. like Texas, heat can be a concern at any time of the year, but it becomes especially significant during the summer months.

Although the interior of the truck’s cab feels cool and comfortable when the engine is on and you’re in control of the temperature, potential danger arises when you need to step out of the cab to secure a load, inspect a truck, or you’re simply parked in a no-idle area on a hot day. The temperature in a closed vehicle parked in the sun can quickly rise to over 120 degrees F even if the outside temperature is only 80 degrees.

Heat is stressful to the fittest of drivers, but extremely dangerous to those who have poor physical stamina, are overweight, have underlying medical issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or are taking certain medications which can cause dehydration.

What are the types of heat stress?

Heat related illnesses are categorized based on symptoms and level of severity:

  • Heat stroke is the most serious and life-threatening situation in which the body temperature may rise above 106 degrees F in just minutes. The body becomes unable to control its temperature and the cooling mechanism of sweating fails. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, throbbing headaches, and confusion. A person experiencing heat stroke may stop sweating all together.


  • What to do: If you think you are having a heat stroke, get help. Move to a cooler or shadier area and try to cool down with water. Get help – call 911. Take the same steps if you are the first to discover a fellow driver exhibiting these symptoms.


  • Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually because of heavy sweating. Heat exhaustion can develop over hours or days of exposure to high temperatures and insufficient fluids. If untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, a fast, weak pulse, extreme weakness, or fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, and a pale or flushed complexion.


  • What to do: Get to an air-conditioned area as soon as possible, drink lots of water or other non-alcoholic beverages (such as Gatorade or Powerade), and cool down the skin with a cool shower or wet towel.

How can I prevent heat illness?

Stay hydrated! A driver needs a minimum of 2-3 liters (4 cups is about a liter) every 24-hour period. This really goes for everyone – whether you’re driving a big rig or not! As a truck driver, you might be tempted to “tough it out” when you’re on the clock trying to make a deadline. By taking preventative, proactive measures to stay hydrated, you’ll be less likely to have your day disrupted by a heat-related problem. 

If you or another driver do experience any of the symptoms of heat stress, take steps to deal with it right away. It’s important to replace fluids and electrolytes (salts) in your system quickly. And, don’t be reluctant to seek medical help. Once you’ve experienced any form of heat illness, you’re more likely to face it again. Be safe this summer and take extra precautions to avoid problems from the heat before they happen. Remember, staying hydrated is the best form of prevention!

At Murphy Legal, we want to make sure that you’re at your best in all types of weather. But remember, even the safest drivers have accidents sometimes.  If you or your company has been sued as a result of an accident, Murphy Legal is ready to defend you.  If you need assistance in an emergency, call our 24-Hour Emergency Hotline at 979-209-2173. We’re here to help.

To learn more about Murphy Legal or our passion for the trucking industry, call us at 979-690-0800 or visit our website.

Be sure to check our Refuel blog series for additional resources and information about rig and driver safety. Click here to sign up for our newsletter covering a wide variety of topics to help protect owner-operators and trucking companies from liability in the event of an accident.


McElligott J. Summer heat creates health risks for truckers. Land Line [online]. Aug/Sep 2015 [accessed 5 Jun 2019]. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Heat stress – heat related illness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated 6 Jun 2018 [accessed 5 Jun 2019]. National Library of Medicine. Heat illness. Last updated 19 Mar 2019 [accessed 5 Jun 2019].