We prepared eight health tips for truck drivers to help keep them in the same prime condition as they keep their trucks.
Truck drivers take great pride in ensuring their big rigs are in prime condition. They regularly inspect brakes, tires, and their oil and fuel levels. But one piece of equipment can easily be overlooked, and that’s the driver’s health.
According to a 2019 study, trucking presents several risk factors for mental and physical health issues.
Long stretches of driving and tight delivery schedules can lead to disturbed sleeping patterns, social isolation, and other health problems.
Workplace stress is certainly not limited to only truck drivers. Many of us don’t take as good of care of ourselves as we should, but when you’re driving 10+ hours a day, staying healthy on the road is a bit more complicated.
That’s why we put together eight great health tips for truck drivers (and anyone with a job that keeps them sedentary) to keep you in top-notch condition for the journey ahead.
Tip #1: Stay hydrated
Many people don’t realize this, but numerous health problems result from dehydration.
If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Ideally, you should drink water all day long — not only when thirsty.
How much water do you need to drink every day?
To prevent dehydration, there are differing opinions. Health experts generally recommend the 8×8 rule: 8 glasses of 8 oz. (2 liters or 0.5 gallons), spread out over a day.
This rule isn’t universal. If you are sweating or ill, you will likely require more fluids to stay hydrated. In any case, always having a water bottle that you can fill up during your breaks is essential.
Pro tip: Fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration. The next time you’re tired, see if a glass of water is what your body needs before going for another cup of coffee.
Tip #2: Maintain a healthy and light diet
Hydration is important but living well on the road also involves quality nutrition.
Contrary to drinking water, eat only when you are hungry.
Many of us eat when we are bored as a coping mechanism. Snacks can break up the monotony of your day and give you a hit of dopamine, making them addictive.
If you find yourself snacking during the day, even if you aren’t hungry,
try to eat more fruits and vegetables and keep your portions light. Eating large, heavy meals can take a lot of energy to digest and lead to fatigue. Eating more balanced meals can help you feel more alert and better able to focus on the job.
Some healthy snack examples that are good for the road are whole grain crackers, walnuts, almonds, apples, and small pieces of cheese.
Pro tip: Check out these easy, on-the-go recipes and snack ideas that are great for on the road. You can keep them in your truck fridge or bring them in a cooler.
Tip #3: Limit your caffeine consumption
Truckers are far from the only profession known to overindulge in caffeine, but too much coffee or energy drinks will take a toll on your health.
Consuming too many beverages high in caffeine can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, irritability, and insomnia.
Energy drinks can also have extremely high levels of caffeine and sugar. Before buying an energy drink, check the nutritional label to ensure it doesn’t exceed your maximum caffeine or caloric intake for the day.
Pro tip: 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine is typically safe for adults to consume daily. Listed below are the approximate amount of caffeine found in typical beverages:
- Tea: 22-72 mg
- Soft drinks: 35-70 mg
- Coffee: 80-125 mg
- Energy drinks: 80-200 mg
Tip #4: Find a workout routine that works and stick with it
Continuous inactivity, poor nutrition, and stress can lead to excessive weight gain and cardiovascular problems.
Moving your body daily to avoid health problems and keep your energy levels up is essential.
Set aside time each day to perform a quick workout that fits your schedule and abilities.
Simple exercises like push-ups and squats are obvious choices, but other, less intense options are also available.
In addition to mobility and strength training, you also want to walk for at least 15 minutes daily.
Pro tip: Check out these exercise routines that are great for long trips on the road.
Tip #5 – Don’t forget to stretch
Stretching is helpful for every part of our body — from head to toe — and every part in between.
For truck drivers or those on long road trips, stretching is especially important, given how sedentary our bodies are when driving. Stretching helps decrease the risk of injuries, increases alertness, and improves mental health.
Even five to 10 minutes a day of stretching can have positive implications for your physical and mental health.
Pro tip: Make stretching part of your day during your downtime. Whether you’re refueling, waiting for cargo to be loaded or unloaded, or even when you’re doing laundry, take a few minutes to stretch. For specific stretching exercises, check out this link.
Tip #6 – Get enough sleep, and make sure it’s quality sleep
Many of us don’t pay enough attention to sleep, but when you’re hauling 40 tons of heavy equipment, you need to be well rested. This can pose a challenge for professional drivers due to the irregular schedules often imposed on them.
But the closer you can get to eight hours a night, with regular bedtimes and wake-up times, the safer you will be on the road.
Try to find a way to relax and relieve stress before bed, like reading a book or listening to soft music. There are also a lot of apps or online videos that have audio content to help you fall asleep.
Pro tip: Close the curtains or wear a sleep mask to avoid lighting in the sleeping area. You should also avoid caffeine and nicotine hours before bedtime. Heavy foods, exercise or staring at bright screen should also be avoided before dozing off at night.
Tip #7 – Protect your skin
Truck drivers are constantly exposed to the sun on the road, especially during the warm seasons.
Excessive exposure to sunlight can lead to sunburn, skin damage, and even cancer. Wear sunglasses with polarized lenses, avoid too much direct sunlight and apply sunscreen liberally and often.
Your window filters the sun’s UVB rays but does not prevent the more harmful UVA rays from passing through. To protect the skin from both types of UV rays, use broad-spectrum sunscreen, with at least an SPF of 30.
Pro tip: When you’re driving, the left side of your body will receive much more sun damage than the right. Make sure you are regularly reapplying sunscreen to any area exposed to direct sunlight and wear a wide brimmed hat to prevent skin damage.
Tip #8 – Take care of your mental health
Always be mindful of how you feel emotionally.
This might sound obvious or cliche, but your mental health impacts your ability to focus and operate your truck safely.
If you feel overwhelmed or lonely, contact someone. This could be another truck driver, a colleague, a mental health provider, or a family member.
Truck driving can be a stressful, lonely job. It’s always ok to ask for help when you need it.
Bringing a pet on the road can also be a big source of companionship. Long hours can lead to loneliness, and traveling with a pet of any kind can help improve your mood. It’s also a great conversation starter at rest areas!
Pro tip: Many health benefit programs have 24hr emergency mental health phone numbers to call when you’re feeling overwhelmed. At ENERGY, this number is 1-800-663-1142. But if you don’t have health benefits, there are free numbers to reach out to like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US at 1-800-273-8255 or in Canada at 1-833-456-4566.
Driving a truck doesn’t have to burn you out mentally and physically. When you have some downtime, let go of the steering wheel and make sure to connect with yourself and your loved ones.