Working in the heat

Well, it took it’s sweet time, but the warmer weather has finally arrived and with it comes some potentially serious safety concerns, especially for those hauling flat decks. There are a few safety issues to be aware of when hauling reefers during the summer as well, but they fail to compare to the issues around flat decks.

When working outside in the heat securing loads on open deck trailers, be extremely careful, as heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very real possibilities.  Take breaks as needed in the air conditioned truck to cool down, wear light colored clothing, such as safety shirts made from a mesh type material that can easily breathe.  Drink plenty of water, or other liquids with electrolytes and avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks as much as possible, as they tend to add to dehydration.   If possible, wear a hat with a wide brim, similar to a cowboy’s “10 gallon hat” to keep the sun off your head to help prevent heat stroke.  A good sunscreen will help avoid sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer.

Even on overcast days, most of these dangers are still present, but due to the clouds, most people don’t think about sunburn or heat exhaustion.

Trapping outside during the summer months is a grueling ordeal. It’s hot, back breaking work, and between handling a 100 lb tarp and dealing with the heat and humidity, it’s almost enough to make you want to swear off open decks!  Just last week I had to strap and tarp a jigsaw type load in Dallas TX in 38°C (100°F) heat with 97% humidity.  The weather turned a 30 minute job into a 2 hour ordeal that left me completely drained. Another driver who was there didn’t bother with cool down breaks in the truck, and he almost fell off the load due to heat exhaustion and fatigue.

The only danger to those pulling reefers is going from hot outside temperatures to the cold interior of the trailer and back again, especially if it’s a hand bombing load. The quick and repetitive temperature changes can lead to a variety of issues, such as muscle and tendon strains, severe headaches, nose bleeds and possibly catching a cold. Not to mention the horrible feeling of sweating in the outside heat, then having it cool or freeze when you reenter the cold trailer.

Don Taylor has been a professional driver since March 1985.  In 1994 he made the jump to driving tractor trailers, and has accumulated over 3.5 million miles, including over 4 years of driving turnpike doubles in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  He is currently hauling flat decks across North America.