The daily grind: When coffee and trucking intersect

Sean Randall | June 01, 2012

The morning brew drunk round the world knows no bounds or unwelcomed corners — coffee is available just about everywhere, and it’s quite the shape-shifter.

Love it or hate it, coffee’s been around throughout history, and it’s more than just a drink: It’s still one of the healthiest ways to get a caffeine fix when you need a boost.

It has its issues, but experts are finding more and more benefits to drinking coffee, ones that aren’t lost on truck drivers.

Cassius Gibson, an owner-operator from Salters, S.C., leased to Dart Transit, says he drinks about two cups of coffee a day, and energy drinks don’t work for him. “First thing in the morning, that caffeine gets you going,” says Gibson, who brews his own coffee in his truck.

Eddie Parham, owner-operator from Forest Hill, La., leased to Lakeview Nursery, also drinks two cups when he gets up to start his day. But for him, it’s not about staying awake on the road. “I think it’s just habit,” Parham says. “I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a kid. Once you get tired, the best thing to do is just stop.”

Coffee’s health debate

You may have heard warnings that coffee will cause heart disease and cancer, but recent studies show there isn’t a need to panic or abandon your morning cup.

Dr. Donald Hensrud, associate professor of preventative medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, says in an article on the Mayo Clinic website, “Recent studies have generally found no connection between coffee and an increased risk of cancer or heart disease.”

While there are some risks to drinking large amounts of coffee, such as mild elevation in cholesterol and increased risks of heart disease in people with a specific genetic mutation, there are some benefits, too.

“Newer studies have also shown that coffee may have benefits, such as protecting against Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver cancer,” Hensrud’s article says. Coffee is also high in antioxidants, which can help lower risks of heart and neurological diseases.

Moreover, as many likely know, the caffeine in coffee can be used to help fight off headaches and migraines, often more easily than the less caffeinated alternatives, soda and tea.

Energy drinks, of course, have more caffeine than coffee does, but Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky says their boosts are “short-lived, and may be accompanied by other problems,” such as weight gain and higher blood pressure.

The amount of sugar in energy drinks and sodas makes a sudden energy crash more likely than with low-sugar coffee.

Coffee, when drunk in moderation, is actually thought to have many more health benefits. As the Mayo Clinic experts suggest, if you try to keep consumption down to two to four cups a day, you’re less likely to suffer from restlessness, irritability and anxiety.

Decaffeinated coffee is an option, too, and can prevent those problems.

Truckstop or coffee shop?

Whether healthy or otherwise, many drivers still find themselves reaching for a cup of coffee at the truckstop at least every once in a while. When you enter a truckstop, coffee can often be one of the first smells or sights you meet.

No wonder why, as many truckstops try to carry a constant stream of hot, steaming coffee in many different varieties.

Mark Stevenson, vice president of merchandising at Sapp Bros, says his company’s Travel Centers carry five different blends of coffee, “from light roast to dark, including high energy.”

The high energy blend is the most popular. Iced coffees are not yet offered, but they still find a good niche with their hot coffee selection.

“Hot beverage is our most popular beverage and continues to see growth as we expand,” Stevenson says. Sapp is dedicated to that expansion, too, as its logo is a coffee pot.

You can buy many different products from them with the logo printed on it, including coffee mugs, which Stevenson says “has the most excitement every year.”

Love’s Travel Stops sell custom, 100 percent Arabica blends of coffee called Java Amore. Director of Merchandising Mark Romig said coffee is the most popular drink at Love’s. “We will brew close to 1 million pounds of coffee this year. This continues to grow at double-digit rates.”

Love’s offers four different coffee blends: House Blend, Brazilian Primo, Dark Roast and decaf. The House Blend accounts for more than half of Love’s coffee sales, and they offer several condiments (like its new hazelnut creamer) for a variety of flavors.

According to its website, Pilot Flying J facilities carry several different blends of coffee. Flying J truckstops carry six blends, including hazelnut and Colombian.

Pilot Travel Centers have similar blends, including a Sumatra blend, but carry one more than their Flying J counterparts.

Even if the truckstop you visit doesn’t have the coffee you are looking for, many of them rent space to fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s, that may carry something you will like.

Drivers’ takes

Steven Zepplin, a company driver for Dartco Inc., says, “I drink four to five cups a week, mostly when I sit down to eat.

“I prefer drinking soda and water. I don’t have to worry about it getting cold. If I drink something hot in the truck, it’s usually hot chocolate or apple cider,” the Dale, Wis., resident says.

For Jeremy Bivens, company driver for Atlas Van Lines from Oak Ridge, Tenn., there’s no reason to try and stay awake when he’s tired, and coffee is just another drink he happens to drink about once a day. “I drink orange Fanta sometimes,” Bivens says. “Other times, it’s tea or water. I don’t drink [coffee] to stay awake. If I’m tired, I go to bed.”

 

Cab brew

You can make your own coffee in the truck with a few different products. Look for 12-volt coffee makers, like this RoadPro coffee maker, which runs for about $33. Others generally cost between $30 and $50.

 

 

On the rocks

If you like coffee but the weather isn’t favorable to heated drinks, don’t forget about iced coffee. You can pick up several types of iced coffee at fast food restaurants, or places like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Caribou Coffee, which you can find at the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa.

 

Health hints

Avoid drinking coffee in large amounts. Excessive caffeine can cause shakes and irritability, among other problems. If you add cream or sugar to your coffee, be aware that you are adding things that may add more fat and calories.

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