Long haul truck drivers face many risks while working in today’s fast paced environment. While some might consider the chances of being in an accident the most pressing danger to a driver, there are several other risk factors to consider. Lifestyle-related illnesses due to poor diet and reduced exercise are a problem in the industry and it´s not hard to understand why. Living healthy on the road is challenging. Drivers travel long distances which may require time away from home for long periods and the work in itself doesn’t always provide an opportunity for physical activity. However, eating healthy and staying fit is as important for you as a driver as it is for the rest of us in society.
The ability to keep good health and manage stress in the workplace will not only improve your physical and emotional health it will also make a difference between success and failure on the job as a driver and in your personal life.
The new law of vocational qualification evidence- includes the health aspect
In Sweden, a new law went into effect September 10th, 2016 requiring vocational qualification evidence. (Expressen.se, December 29, 2015). The law states that both the employer and driver will be fined if vocational qualification evidence is not presented. In order to obtain a professional qualification, drivers must complete courses including traffic safety, nutrition and health (ergonomics, diet and exercise). Upon completion of the curriculum, the Transport Agency is notified and then a professional qualification certificate is issued. This new regulation reinforces the idea that the health of the driver is as important as the maintenance of their vehicle!
So how do you keep fit, eat healthy and handle stress?
How to keep fit?
It can be hard to find a gym, when you are spending your days out on the road. But it is not impossible to become fit. There are activities you can do on your own to get you on the right track. There are several apps and online videos you can use if you search on the internet.
A four do-it-your-self approach: ( from Drivinghealthy.org)
- Take a jump role along with you and jump rope at rest areas
- Walk or jog around rest areas for cardio
- Carry resistance band or use water bottles or cans as weights for conditioning activities
- Take advantage of truck stop resources like StayFit from TA and Petro. As part of the StayFit program, select locations now offer fitness rooms and walking/running trail maps.
Fitness resources for free:
- Download the app: “7 MWC” (7 minute workout). This app has become very popular and is my favorite app. It guides you through 12 exercises that can be performed in seven minutes but achieve the equivalent of an hour´s workout.
- The UK National Health Service offers weekly podcasts and videos to improve your health and wellbeing in five weeks, take a preview of the exercises here
Eating healthy on the road
Another challenge on the road is finding affordable, healthy food. It is convenient to stop and dine out but, today, many restaurants offer low-fat or low-sodium alternatives like fresh fruits and salads. Keep looking for such restaurants!
Three eating healthy tips on the road- from Driving healthy
- “Eat more: Salad, non-cream-based-soups, baked or lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat salad dressings, and dessert alternatives (like Jell-O, pudding, and fresh fruit)
- Eat less: Mayonnaise-based salads, full-fat salad dressings (like regular ranch dressing), fried foods, foods with gravies or cream sauces, and sugary desserts
- For a look at recommended serving sizes, check WebMD’s interactive and downloadable portion size plate”
How to avoid and handle Stress?
Photo: Gene Arata, a long haul truck driver from the USA, getting his nails fixed.
Another challenge for you as a driver is to handle stress. Stressful situations such as the pressure to make deliveries on time, returning home on time and bad weather can negatively affect your health unless you plan and take care of yourself.
Four tips to handle stress:
- Plan your route. Download this article for more tips of how to keep up with your schedule
- Learn to relax. Start doing daily meditation with e.g the app ZenFriend or yoga at the Mayo Clinic
- Maintain your mental health, get help if you feel down. For more information see: National Insitute of Mental health (NIMH)
- Use equipment that makes your working life easier, and helps you out in stressful situations. For example a good truck chair for good ergonomics, including massage, Adaptive cruise control and automatic snow chains.
What have you done to keep healthy while working as a long haul truck driver? Please, share your tips with us!