Over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers, also called long-haul drivers, travel long distances over extended, long hours. Sometimes they stay out on the road for weeks on end. The countryside sceneries are breathtaking, but can also be lonesome for many. The work is monotonous and tiresome, and many rely on high dosages of caffeine to recharge themselves for the long ride.
Rest stops during six, eight or even ten hour truck rides intend to give the driver a ‘break’ during their duty. However, there is only a limited amount of eating, drinking, showering and refueling the truck an individual can take part in during a break that is only 30 minutes to 1 hour long. Preparations for long-haul rides aren’t meant to begin from the start of the trip, but from days before. This way many truck driver can feel well rested, energetic and avoid all sorts of health risks that accompany their job. It’s about fulfilling a seemingly monotonous role and taking advantages of its benefits. All while taking care of your health and wellness at the same time.
Health Risks That Accompany Long Hours of Trucking
In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long haul truck drivers are more likely to develop health problems due to the nature and environment of work. Surveys conducted as part of the study revealed that truck drivers are more prone to smoke and be overweight. They’re also less likely to be active compared to other workers in the United States. Such conditions lead to intense health ramifications that may affect a driver’s overall health in the long run.
Furthermore, trucking is accompanied by three unique occupational stresses – shiftwork, heavy manual handling and social isolation. This puts truck drivers at high risks of cancers of the lung, lower urinary tract, bladder, pancreas, stomach, renal cell carcinoma and hairy cell leukemia. They are also at high risk of contracting other illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, lower back injuries and deafness. Shiftwork, as an occupational stress, is distinct in a truck driver’s experience because their job requires odd work hours and long break-free shifts that can contribute to loneliness, headaches, sleeplessness etc.
Healthy Habits to Employ
The health risks of the ramifications mentioned above can definitely be diminished, if not fully mitigated. By employing healthy habits and avoiding certain routine acts, you are not only preparing yourself for the long ride, but also improving your overall wellness for the progression of your career.
1. Snack Checklist
Obesity statistics in truck drivers are directly linked to the diet they maintain throughout the journey. If you intend to stop at a fast-food restaurant every time you take a break, you are likely to fill your stomach. But you’ll be consuming extremely unhealthy food at the same time. If proper meals are difficult to pack due to heating problems and space issues, it is highly recommended to pack healthy snacks that are thirst-quenching, filling and nourishing for the body. Some examples include:
- Granola Bars
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Fig newtons
- Carrots and celery
- Roasted seaweed
2. Physical Exercise
Exercise can be difficult to accommodate when you are on a strict schedule of driving and sleeping for a limited number of hours. According to the National Survey of US Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury, physical activity levels were low for most drivers interviewed during the survey. To combat these findings and the high risks of increasing blood pressure, laziness and weak muscles, basic exercises can help significantly. Some of them include:
- Cardio exercises activate your core and boost your mood through the release of endorphins. They help with your sleep cycle and maintain high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases. Some simple cardio exercises for 20 – 25 minutes include walking, running, jump roping, squatting, pushups etc. Folding bicycles can also be stored in the sleeping berth compartment of the truck, and can be ridden during truck stops where there is less automobile traffic.
- Five to ten pound weights can be stored in the truck without occupying too much space. Weight training helps increase bone density, strengthen muscles and manage your weight. Make sure to secure them in an appropriate place because you don’t want them to roll under your acceleration, brake pad or clutch during the drive.
3. Mind Workout
Trucking is not only a physical activity, but a mental activity too. If your mind is not fresh during the long ride, you can risk yourself to life-threatening accidents that are observed on the highway where speed limits are already high. Make the monotonous ride engaging for your mind with the following activities:
- Since you can’t read and drive, who says you can’t listen and drive? Purchase or rent audiobooks of your favorite authors and learn along your journey. The subject matter can be anything that interests you and keeps you hooked onto the audio.
- Now is the time to blast your music and sing along your favorite tunes. You have countless genres to choose from without ever running out of options. Use integrative technology apps that also play music according to your mood. This way, if you’re feeling drowsy late at night, these apps can help you stay awake with the type of music they choose for you.
4. Extra Tips for the Long Hours
- Check your equipment. When planning for your long-haul trip, you should keep close checks on the equipment you’re carrying along. Some must-have items include flashlights with batteries for the night, a first-aid kit, essential snacks, a tool kit for emergency repairs and extra fuel with additional headlights. It’s not just you who’s going for the drive, but your truck as well. That’s why extra equipment is necessary for emergency situations.
- Start with a clean truck. Cleaning out your truck the night before and starting your long drive with a clean truck is like making your bed in the morning. It gives a healthy kickstart to your journey and helps with a positive mindset. Additionally, don’t trash the truck during your ride. Carry small disposable bags as make-shift dustbins for all the snacks you eat throughout.
- Track progress. By starting slow and taking baby steps on your eating habits, sleeping patterns and mentally engaging activities, you are bound to feel more healthy. Track your progress and challenge yourself to try harder every passing week. This will help you stay busy from a mundane life of simply driving and sleeping, and will keep you active.
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