Staying Healthy on the Road: A Guide to Trucker Health
June 07, 2021
Anyone who has ever driven a truck for a living knows all about the dangers. Preparing for these is key to a healthy and happy work life.
But it isn’t always weather and road conditions that pose a risk. Even on a clear day with low traffic, truckers face another hazard.
The lifestyle itself is one that poses some challenges. Long hours in an isolated and sedentary work environment can make a big impact on a truck driver’s health.
Thankfully, taking control of your health is easier than taking control of a 20-ton vehicle for a shift. These tips can ensure your health and safety remain the top priority.
Sleep Tips: Know the Rules and Your Body
As truckers trek for hundreds of miles to get goods across state lines and from one side of the country to the next, they battle a foe we all know well – fatigue.
Everyone has been tired on the job before, but a tired trucker is a recipe for disaster. It’s why there are rules governing how long truckers are allowed to drive and how long they must rest between road sessions.
The basics are as follows:
- Drivers are limited to 14-hours of being on duty before they’re required to rest
- Drivers are limited to 11-hours of being behind the wheel before they’re required to rest
- A 10-hour rest period is required after either of the above sessions.
- Extending your rest period will not extend your allowable on-duty or driving time
- Drivers are required to rest for 30 minutes after each 8-hour period of driving time
Also remember while your rest schedule must be in line with regulations, you should also listen to your own body. If you feel tired before your rest period is coming up, pull over. The number one rule in trucking is never move if you don’t feel you can do so safely.
To sleep a little easier, try adding a mattress topper to the sleep setup in your truck. Earphones and a sleep mask can also help you drown out traffic and lights. Some feel safer sleeping in these more active areas, as it provides added security.
Proper sleep habits can help trucker drivers improve circulation and digestive health, while protecting against heart issues and even depression.
Diet Tips: What to Eat, What to Avoid
Like sleep improving digestion, proper eating can help us get to sleep easier. It’s just another way our biological processes are connected, making the human body the most impressive machine on any road.
Many truckers rely heavily on caffeinated beverages to help them stay alert. It’s a quick pick-me-up, but afterwards you may feel like you’re running on empty.
The post-caffeine energy dump can make a driver feel like they’re steering through a fog – brain fog, that is. Caffeinated and sugary drinks make us pay for our temporary energy boost later. By cutting these out, you’re essentially thinking in the long-term for your trip.
It’s also a psychological motivator, as it pushes you to get consistent sleep so you won’t need those beverages. The breakdown goes like this:
- Good: Save your soft drinks, mochas, and sugary teas for special occasions.
- Better: Bump down to sugar-free or caffeine-free versions of your favorite drinks.
- Best: Pure water remains the best drink overall for trucker health and wellness.
How about eating? While fast food may be a convenience, it’s often packed with excess calories, sodium, and fat. If you are in a rush and need to pick up an order, try one of the menu’s healthier options. A salad instead of chips or an apple instead of a cookie can give you more of the nutrients you need to be alert and comfortable on the road.
Better yet? Cook your meals. Many Hermes drivers cook their own meals on the road, using their truck-supplied refrigerator and hot plate, plus other appliances from home.
Don’t cook? You could always order meals before your trip and bring them along. For snacks, we suggest mixed nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, jerky, cheese and crackers, or anything else with good health value that’s easy to pack.
Another trick to stay fitter on the road, and compensate for your lack of movement, is to simply “take down” your meal of choice one notch. Skip a sauce, pick one topping instead of two, etc., and these simple steps can help you avoid gaining weight.
Fitness Tips: Staying Fit Means Staying Focused
Speaking of weight, one of the most common truck driver health problems is obesity.
Obesity is so dangerous because it can exacerbate other health problems like breathing issues, weak joints, heart problems, and more. Why is obesity the key challenge of trucker health and wellness?
Since the way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in, it all comes down to trucking’s sedentary lifestyle. It makes trucker health challenges tougher. You’ll burn less, so you’ll have to eat less.
Or you could burn more.
You may not always be by a gym, but you can bring pieces of one. Small dumbbells and kettlebells are good for basic weight training, while resistance bands can help with mobility and flexibility. For cardio, you have the option of a folding bike.
Even if you’re not a workout type of person, simply taking the time to walk around during stops is good for your joint, circulatory, and cardiovascular health. Raining, snowing, cold, or dark out? Stretch in the truck.
Trucker Health and Physical Fitness is a Journey
We all know that in trucking, the most important quality of a worker is to be able to stick with a journey even when it gets tough.
The same thing is true when it comes to truck driver health. We all have cravings and less-than-healthy eating habits we fall into. Add in the fact that you’re in a new environment, and it can be easy to put your health last.
But remember – it’s the small steps a driver makes that helps them clean up their diet, stick to an exercise routine, and improve their overall health on the road.
If you’re looking to get on the road, we want to hear from you. Hermes is a company that puts truckers first, offering ongoing training and competitive pay with safety bonuses. Looking for a trucking job? Contact us here to apply.
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