5 top tips to staying cool during the summer for HGV drivers

5 top tips to staying cool during the summer for HGV drivers

HGVs parked up

Driving conditions in summer are relatively kind. Even so, the summer heat can create its own issues and HGV drivers need to be prepared for them. With that in mind, here, FleetEx share their top five tips on how HGV drivers can keep themselves cool when driving in summer. 

Stay hydrated

The human body should be about 55%/60% water (women/men). If it drops below this, its ability to function will be reduced. Minor reductions will only have minor effects. When you’re driving an HGV however, even a minor reduction in performance can have serious consequences. In particular, a lack of hydration can lead to a lack of focus. This can literally be fatal on public roads. 

In the UK’s climate, dehydration is unlikely to be a serious concern for most of the year. In summer, however, it can be a major issue. This means that it’s vital to be prepared with plenty of drinking water. If space is an issue, consider packing some roll-up water pouches. These are almost as robust as water bottles when full but can fit into a pocket when empty.  

Keep one or two with you and fill them up whenever you get the chance. Be aware that it’s increasingly common for urban areas to have drinking fountains where people can fill bottles/pouches. You can generally find the location of these on the internet. Even if you don’t have access to them, people will often let you fill up a water bottle if you just ask. 

If you like your water really cold, try freezing it and letting it melt as you drive. Just remember that water expands as it cools and contracts as it heats. This means you’ll end up with less liquid water than you had ice. You could also try filling a bottle partly with water and partly with ice and/or using freezer packs. 

Remember your electrolyte balance

Heat will make you sweat. This will mean that electrolytes are expelled from your body. It will also make you thirsty. This will dilute the electrolytes that are still in your body. Incorrect electrolyte balance can also reduce your body’s ability to function. In particular, it can reduce your ability to focus. 

It’s therefore advisable to make a point of replenishing them. This can be done by drinking proper sports drinks (not energy drinks), taking electrolyte tablets, or just drinking coconut water. 

Wear the right clothing

Follow the basic rules for summer dressing in general but adapt them to the specific conditions of an HGV cab. The golden rule of summer dressing is to wear natural materials in light colours. For maximum sun protection wear garments with full arms and full legs. If you go for looser fits, air will be trapped underneath and help to keep you cool. 

Unfortunately, sandals are not practical for HGV drivers. You may, however, be able to wear fabric boots rather than leather ones. Counterintuitive as it may seem, you should still wear socks. These will absorb sweat and make you more comfortable. Ideally, choose socks designed for wear in hot conditions. 

You may find it helpful to wear a sweatband or bandana to keep sweat out of your eyes. If you do, you might want to soak it in cold water before putting it on. Just remember to wring it out thoroughly to stop the water running into your eyes. 

Use effective sun protection

HGV cabs have windscreens in front and windows on each side. Both are sized to fit the vehicle meaning that they are relatively large. That means there is plenty of opportunity for UV rays to hit exposed skin. The most immediate effect of this is sunburn. Over the longer term, it may lead to more serious conditions such as skin cancer. It’s therefore vital to apply high-factor suncream to all exposed areas.  

It’s also advisable to wear sunglasses and a hat with a peak or brim (or a visor). These create shade. This provides added protection against burning. It also helps you to feel more comfortable. 

You can extend this protection to the cab itself by covering the windscreen and/or windows with blackout shades whenever you leave the cab. These will help to slow the rate at which your cab is heated by the sun. Look for ones that will stay on even if you open the window slightly. If you have access to water, try hanging wet towels in the cab. Again, these will absorb heat. 

If you don’t have air conditioning or fans in your cab, you might want to consider leaving wet towels out while you drive. They are nowhere near as effective as AC, but they are a lot better than nothing. You can also mist your body with water, especially your face. This is cooling, refreshing, and hydrating. 

Adapt your driving schedule

There’s a lot to be said for driving at night in the summer months. Not only is this cooler than the daytime, but it’s also the time when roadworks is least likely to be in operation. If you really can’t stick to driving at night, try to do as much of your driving as possible in the morning and the evening. If at all possible, avoid driving in the peak heat of the mid-day. 

By contrast, the mid-day period is the ideal time to take a rest break, if possible, a long one indoors. When you park up, try to find a place in the shade. Again, this will slow the rate at which your vehicle heats up. 

If you’re staying in your cab, then it can be helpful to open the windows, at least slightly. This will only cool the cab if there is actually a breeze although this is often the case in summer. Even without a breeze, however, it will refresh the cab and make it feel less stuffy. 

Adjust your vehicle maintenance

Breakdowns in summer will get you hot and bothered mentally and physically. Fortunately, the risk of them can be minimised with proper vehicle maintenance. This applies all year round, but each season brings its own considerations. In summer, the main consideration is heat. That means you need to watch your tyre pressure and liquid levels carefully. In particular, pay close attention to your coolant.