This year’s summer is exceptionally hot. This week, high temperatures are taking their toll in almost all of Europe due to dry tropical air from the southwest. How to cope with this heat on the road?
Today, according to forecasts, temperatures in Germany could reach even 40 degrees Celsius in some regions. In most Central European countries, temperatures could reach 37 degrees in the shade. In these conditions, driving becomes more stressful and demanding, and the durability of the materials is reduced. This is why the German automobile club has prepared 10 tips for professional drivers. See how to take care of your health and safety on extremely hot days.
1. Focus instead of routine
Professional drivers are trained professionals at the wheel, while all others are trained laymen at best. Even if it is sometimes difficult, professional drivers have to keep a cool head, even in critical situations, because it is they who drive 40-ton vehicles and take greater responsibility.
2. Avoid distractions
Tablets, magazines and mobile phones are unacceptable while driving.
3. You are what you eat and drink
Carbohydrates are good for concentration, while too heavy, fatty and too big meals make you tired. Light food, lots of fruit and smaller portions and plenty of liquids are ideal for high temperatures. Snacks containing carbohydrates include, for example, cereal flakes with yoghurt, fruit with cottage cheese or buttermilk, muesli bars, dried fruit, nuts or wholemeal bread with honey.
Sweating in combination with too little liquids also quickly leads to fatigue, headaches or lack of concentration and, consequently, slower reactions. Professional drivers should drink three litres of liquids on hot days. Water or lemon water or unsugared tea will replenish mineral reserves and prevent problems with blood circulation. Stay away from frozen drinks – not only do they cause abdominal pain, but they also keep you cool for a short time and even increase sweating, because your body has to balance out a large temperature difference.
4. Sufficient amount of sleep
For professional drivers, extreme temperatures combined with heavy traffic mean a lot of strain on the body. Heat and bad sleep negatively affect concentration and thus significantly increase the risk of accidents. Sufficient amount of sleep (i.e. seven hours a day) is therefore very important. The first symptoms of sleepiness are burning eyes and frequent blinking. It’s a sign that it’s time for a break.
5. Set the air conditioning correctly
Excessive cooling of the cabin is only a short relief, and in the long run, can even cause circulation problems. The air conditioning should be set to a maximum of six degrees difference from the outside temperature. Before hitting the road, it is good to ventilate the cabin.
6. Cool cabin
If parking in full sun is unavoidable, additional protection, i.e. a windshield sunshade, may be helpful. Remember not to use wet windscreen wipes on the road – they only increase the humidity and thus the temperature in the cabin increases.
Use special refreshing sprays and body cooling creams, and you can cool your shirt in the fridge before putting it on. During unloading, a light head cover is recommended.
7. Observe your body
If you suffer from dizziness, nausea or strong headaches, pull over, look for shade, drink water. If the symptoms are severe and persist, call a doctor. You can use the telephone on the emergency pole (located on German motorways). The toll-free Doc Stop Helpline 00800 0362 7867 will get you in touch with the nearest doctor.
8. Take care of your tyres when it’s hot
In summer, especially during hot weather, remember to maintain proper tyre pressure. At high temperatures, tyres become softer, their contact surface increases and they wear more quickly. If the pressure is too low, the tyre will become flat. It can then overheat and burst or catch fire.
Therefore, before starting your route, check your tyres thoroughly for any damage such as bulges, scratches and blisters.
In addition, the driver should check the cold inflation pressure of the tyres (including the spare wheel) at least once every two weeks.
9. The correct reaction to tyre rupture
If tyre bursts despite all precautions, keep calm and start braking as soon as possible. It should not be sudden. The vehicle must be braked gradually.
Unlike a rear tyre, damage to a tyre on a steering axle is often more apparent. The vehicle becomes more and more difficult to drive – if it pulls to the right, the right-hand tyre is probably flat, and vice versa. Also in this situation, stop as soon as possible (braking gradually) to make an inspection.
10. Correct behaviour in the event of tyre ignition
When a tyre ignites, the first rule is “not to endanger human life”. With twin tyres, continue driving with the hazard warning lights on until the burning tyre separates from the rim. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles. It is important, however, that you do not stop suddenly, because then the fire could spread to the entire truck. Once the tyre has separated, stop the vehicle in the emergency lane, secure the area, uncouple the tractor and park it approx. 20 m away.
In the case of single or front steering axle tyres, you should consider whether it would be better to stop the vehicle or continue driving at low speed. However, it is essential to stop if a burning tyre burst or comes loose from the rim. Otherwise, you may lose control of the vehicle.
In the initial phase, it is usually possible to extinguish a fire using a standard six-kilogram powder extinguisher. Remember to notify the fire department as soon as possible, preferably while driving. It is important to give a detailed description of the vehicle location and cargo information, especially in the case of dangerous goods.