Truck Driving Health Risks – And How To Avoid Them
January 24, 2019
January 24, 2019
It’s no secret that there are a few truck driving health risks that come with being on the road for extended periods of time. Moving less and being sat in a seat for up to 14 hours a day makes it more than a little difficult to keep off the pounds and in good health. Common illnesses for truck drivers include lung cancer, heart disease, depression, and some musculoskeletal issues, but the risk of all can be sharply reduced by following a few health guidelines.
We’ve put together a list of some of the main truck driver health problems that you need to look out for, and what you can do to avoid them as far as possible.
Lack Of Good Sleep
Trucking hours aren’t the most friendly to keeping a good circadian rhythm, however, being well-rested is especially important as a truck driver, to make sure your response times and decision-making skills stay sharp, as well as being important to your overall health and the strength of your immune system.
Driver fatigue can be a serious problem if not addressed, with an estimated 100,000 yearly police-reported crashes being related to drowsy driving, and if you’re the driver of a vehicle weighing upwards of roughly 10 tons, you especially need to be paying attention at all times.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to avoid the antisocial hours, but there are a few steps you can take to ensure you get some better quality sleep.
- Grab yourself a decent pair of noise-insulating earplugs, and noisy truck stops will become a thing of the past. Alternatively, plugging in regular headphones and playing some ambient noise such as Noisli or A Soft Murmur (also available as mobile apps) can help you zone out and alleviate the stresses of a noisy environment.
- It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure to invest in comfortable bedding – it can make a hell of a difference when it comes to the quality of your sleep!
- Get decent blackout blinds for your cab to prevent light leaking in and keeping you awake.
- Try keeping your cab at a comfortable temperature, to avoid you waking up after a couple of hours either freezing or with a bad case of the sweats.
The statistics when it comes to truck drivers and obesity speak for themselves, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. According to a 2014 study, roughly 40% of truck drivers are overweight, while 38% are obese. It makes sense when you think about it. Many hours of sitting (which, in fairness, can be said for many professions these days), combined with a lack of exercise and a dominance of unhealthy food choices, makes for a diabolical combination.
What can be done though? There are a few small changes that can be made to keep the extra pounds at bay and improve trucker quality of life at the same time.
We’re not talking about hitting the gym on the regular, as it’s likely not a reasonable option for most drivers; however, a short jog before going to sleep or after waking up can work wonders, as well as simply going for a walk whenever you stop off for a break.
A few sets of curbside pushups or pull-ups every other day can also make for a free alternative to a more full-on workout, as well as carrying a set of dumbbells with you for a range of exercises on the go – bicep curls, tricep extensions, and trap shrugs are just some of the exercises that can be done with simple weights.
Switch up your diet
The options that truckers have on the roadside aren’t exactly bustling with healthy choices – fast food is the go-to, especially when time is of the essence. This is why meal planning can be a life-saver (quite literally at times).
Cooking up bulk amounts and packaging them up for the days ahead has multiple benefits – you save yourself money, time spent standing in queues and finding a place to eat, and most importantly in this case, you can eat solely healthy choices. There are several great websites out there for meal prep ideas, such as the Reddit /r/mealpreps subreddit, and BudgetBytes also has some great and cheap meal ideas.
Additionally, healthy snacks are a great way to ward off those hunger pangs when you’d normally reach for a bag of crisps or a bar of something. Nuts and fruits can be brilliant for quick feast, and popcorn is amazing in that it is dirt cheap to make large quantities yourself, and as long as you don’t coat it in salt or sugar, is a fantastically healthy choice to boot.
Drink more water
This somewhat ties into the previous point, but drinking water regularly will keep you feeling fuller throughout the day, at the addition of 0 calories. If you can’t deny your sweet tooth, then try reaching for a sugar-free soft drink alternative like Coke Zero or sugar-free energy drinks. Avoiding adding sugar to your hot brews on the road can also make a big difference over time.
Truckers are under pressure from many sides – keeping deadlines, maintaining hours which are tough on your body, as well as staying constantly focused on the road around you and avoiding drivers with less-than-adequate driving skills can all add up to a cocktail of stress.
The two points made above, getting good sleep, eating healthily, and staying fit are a few ways of effectively managing your stress levels, and if they are neglected can often contribute to even worse stress.
Exercise has been shown to have a decidedly positive impact on stress reduction, which only reinforces the fact that a few circuits of a truck stop can do more for your mental well being than a drag on a cigarette.
Once again, this ties into the earlier point. In stressful jobs with occasional downtime without much to do, smoking becomes a prevalent activity. In a 2010 survey, 51% of truck drivers reported that they currently smoked cigarettes – quite a scary number.
Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire method that works for everyone in this case, but the internet has a bunch of resources to help you on your journey to going smoke-free, and you’re bound to find something that works for you!
Trucker’s Leg (And Other Musculoskeletal Issues)
“Trucker’s leg” is a term you’ll likely have heard as a trucker. In essence, it is describing “PAD” – peripheral arterial disease. This is a reduced flow or blockage in blood vessels around the body, excluding the heart. This can result in muscle pains, sores on your leg, feelings of weakness or lack of sensitivity in affected areas, and even hair loss or changes in the color of your skin.
Reduced blood flow is the primary reason for these issues, but the condition can be brought on more easily and be more difficult to kick due to a number of factors. Being overweight, smoking, and having high blood pressure or cholesterol, are direct health-related factors, but things can also be worsened by the sitting position you take while driving your truck. Being too close to the pedals can lead to your knees being particularly bent, further reducing the flow of blood to your feet and lower legs. As we’ve mentioned before, if you stay generally healthy and avoid stresses to yourself and your body, you should be able to give trucker’s leg the boot, or avoid it altogether.
Besides trucker’s leg, make sure you use proper lifting techniques when moving around cargo, which can otherwise add up to a huge burden on your back and other joints. Always prioritize the use of dedicated equipment such as a pallet jack to avoid unnecessary strains on your body.
Staying healthy as a trucker might come with its own challenges, but also with a whole host of benefits. Sleeping well, eating healthier, exercising, as well as cutting down on unhealthy extras such as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol all contribute to an increased quality of life, as well as cutting down on your chance of heart attacks, diabetes, and many other health issues, as well as simply allowing you to live life as a trucker to your fullest. These are all common truck driver health issues, and while they are suffered from by many, many have also managed to overcome them, so there’s nothing stopping you – good luck!
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