Truck drivers are an essential part of the Transportation industry in the United States. They move 72% of goods, including everyday necessities such as medicine and food, across thousands of miles. In some areas of the country, truck drivers are the only means of delivery. This makes them vital to keeping the economy in motion, meeting supply and demand.
Although many drivers find trucking to be rewarding, it is an occupation that comes at the expense of their health. Life on the road can be erratic and inconvenient, often physically and mentally straining for drivers. As a result, truck drivers statistically have shorter life spans and more health concerns than other careers.
Common health hazards that come with truck driving:
- Lack of access to nutritionally balanced foods.
- Health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure
- Lack of a sleep routine, insomnia, and lingering fatigue
- Sleep apnea.
- Consistently high-stress occupation.
- Musculoskeletal problems because of little space and mobility within truck cabin.
A National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOHS) study of long-haul truck driving found that 69% of drivers are overweight and 80% suffer from at least one chronic disease, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and/or heart disease. This is 54% higher than all other working adults in the U.S.
It reflects a growing health crisis within the transportation industry—one that threatens to topple an already strained system burdened by shortages and high turnover rates. Never has it been more important for drivers to shift gears towards prioritizing their physical and mental wellbeing not only for the sake of their livelihoods, but also their lives.
Here are a few things truck drivers can do to manage their health while on the road:
- Find moments for movement. This could mean bringing weights along for the journey, taking a 10-minute walk around the travel center, stretching within the cabin, stepping in and out of truck for cardio, or even stopping into onsite workout centers for a quick session. Experts recommend doing this 30 minutes a day, three days a week. However, this can also be broken down to 15 minutes, six days a week. Any kind of movement is better than no movement.
- Eating nutrient-dense food. Most drivers grab whatever is at their disposal at truck stops, which is usually highly processed fast food that is quick, cheap, and convenient. But health problems that stem from eating such foods are costly and require long-term changes to reverse. Instead, drivers can pack a cooler of homemade (and much healthier) meals, such as meat wraps, portioned cut veggies, bread, cheese, and even protein bars or shakes. If unable to do this, drivers can opt for healthier food options at rest stops, such as nuts, dried fruits, protein-rich bars, bottled water, boiled eggs, fruit, yogurt, smoothies, etc. The fewer the ingredients, the better.
- Get the proper amount of sleep. Easier said than done, but the most vital of all advice for drivers. Sleep promotes healing, helps the body and mind function at max capacity, and has a massive impact on overall health. Prioritizing sleep could mean outfitting the cabin with a comfortable mattress and supportive pillow, and scheduling at least 7 hours of sleep when possible. This is difficult on the road, especially with tight deadlines, but is necessary for drivers to be able to function at full mental and physical capacity.
- Use lifestyle-focused apps to help spur change. In the digital age of smartphones and tablets, it is much easier for drivers to be aware of their health and create positive lifestyle changes. There are thousands of apps that will send reminders to track healthy habits such as eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. There are also apps focused on meditation and exercising in small spaces!
- One modern technology emerging now is the CDL Health Scanner—a web-based tool that helps drivers track major vital signs, which are indicative of their current health status. It provides truck drivers with insight on their health, resources for lifestyle changes, and access to Higi Health clinic locations across the country. Find out more about the CDL Health Scanner at cdlscanner.enrollfirst.com.
Given the unpredictable nature of their jobs in the transportation industry, it is no easy task to ask drivers to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Like all human beings, it will take time, effort, and dedication for drivers to see any lasting physical and mental changes.
It all begins with a choice to shift gears and prioritize their health. To think in the long-term of their life goals and long-haul careers. What follows that choice is a series of small steps that lead to better and life-saving habits, ones that might inconvenience them for a time, but will result in improving their quality of life on the road.