The On-Going Battle for Trucker’s Health
It’s hard enough for those of us with typical nine to five office jobs to stick to a good diet and commit to a healthy regime but when it comes to truck driving, staying healthy is one of the biggest personal struggles. Depending on the type of trucking and scheduling, some drivers have it harder than others but there are practices that could help improve over all health.
There is a slew of factors that contribute to poor driver health that are mostly circumstantial and are sometimes out of the driver’s control. A few of them include:
· Sitting for long periods of time (which most of us already knew)
· Poor food choices on the road
· Minimal time at home to decompress and exercise
· Exhausting hours
While some enjoy the option of standing desks and in-office gyms, the truck driver is expected to sit for hours on end while only getting out to stretch their legs at truck stops and their shipping locations. These extended sitting times can cause poor circulation and even gastrointestinal problems. To mitigate these issues, try to move around as much as possible when taking a break at any location. This could mean a few ten-minute walks a day that can add up. This can apply to all drivers whether your local, regional, or over-the-road.
Most of your health and longevity comes from what you put inside your body, so drivers – listen up! The choices are far and few between but it’s not impossible to pick an alternative. Most truck stops and restaurants that line interstates and major roadways are not known to offer the best options, making achieving a healthier lifestyle that much more difficult.
A major constituent to how a truck driver eats is their schedule. Local drivers have a little more say in their food choices whether they cook from home and pack a lunch or have more options in an inner-city environment. Regional drivers may have it a little harder as they will likely need to meal plan and have a microwave in their sleeper in order to keep up their healthier diet or commit to choosing the healthier options at truck stops (which, let’s be honest, can vary and become repetitive, leading to burn out of a certain food *cough* almonds *cough*). Still, these two types of drivers have it a bit easier than their over-the-road colleagues. Most trucks that go over the road keep a fridge and microwave in the bunk which can be a game changer for the trucker’s health. One of the bigger challenges for these drivers, outside from limited restaurant options, is the accessibility to grocery stores while on their routes through the month so there would need to be additional planning involved.
Eating better foods can not only benefit physical health but the drivers’ mindset as well. As hard as it is and as much as some may not want to always choose the better option, healthier foods lead to clearer heads and happier tummies.
Speaking of clearer heads, a trucker’s mental health is a larger topic than we can’t fit into a paragraph, but it is the pinnacle of keeping the driver in top shape. Local, regional, and over-the-road driver all have unique stressors in their job and in this career, it is sometimes hard to find enough time to decompress. All drivers are different when it comes to how much home time they need and how frequently they would need to take a break, but all drivers still require it in order to do their job to the best of their ability. Drivers can undergo intense pressure from their companies or customers to keep rolling and can forget to take a break for themselves to not just rest but enjoy a hobby or down time. This is an important part of keeping a driver healthy and stable while out on the road. It is hard for others to detect burn out so as a driver, it is important for you to advocate for yourself!
Lastly, hours of service. Before a major shift in hours of service laws in 2005 and ELD’s, it was sometimes expected and easy for a truck driver to go beyond his physical capability to deliver loads. Whether it was the driver themselves pushing their limits or the company putting pressure on the driver, losing sleep for the sake of a load is a dangerous game to play. As time goes on, hours of service laws have evolved to become stricter with each iteration in hopes to minimize a fatigued driver behind the wheel.
While getting enough sleep is important for driver safety, it is just as important for their health. Sleep helps keep the mind clear and supports a healthy immune system. Making time for restful sleep is one of the best things a driver can do to ensure a better day tomorrow.
As a quick recap, lets hit the main focuses for driver health:
Ø Movement is key! You don’t need to run 3 miles a day but every little bit at every stop counts.
Ø Choose the alternative food option or plan meals ahead as best you can to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Ø Take the time you have to smell the roses. Enjoy a hobby and utilize down time for mentally stimulating activities.
Ø Advocate for yourself and listen to your body, especially if you feel yourself approaching your limit.
Ø Get those Z’s in and make them count! Limit screen time before sleeping to make for a more restful sleep.
It may sound like a lot of work but it’s okay to take baby steps to change current habits that can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Making small adjustments and committing to those can make all the difference!