Hank Barton is a second generation trucker-philosopher with a penchant for the written word. He enjoys blogging about long haul trucking, safe driving practices and life on the open road. He writes for E-Gears, an online CDL Practice Test authority that specializes in a variety of study guides.
For those going into the trucking industry, planning ahead in terms of health and fitness may be the key to a long and fruitful career. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is implementing rules that will require that truck drivers get a physical to identify health problems that can be a safety concern. Unfortunately, there are a number of health concerns truckers face which are inherent to the trucker lifestyle.
A 2007 study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that 86 percent of truck drivers were overweight and the majority of those were obese. Aside from the more obvious safety issues stemming from being overweight or obese, such as heart attacks or diabetic shock, many truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea, which may disrupt sleep such that a driver ends up tired or falling asleep on the road. Additionally, studies suggest that a majority of truck drivers are smokers, compounding the health concerns.
Current truck drivers suffering these health conditions may be in jeopardy of being unable to renew their trucking license and potential truck drivers are wise now to plan on avoiding these pitfalls. According to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, “Better health means safer drivers behind the wheel.” A safer driver is a more marketable driver and now, the health regulations make a certain degree of physical fitness essentially part of the job. Not to mention, healthy truckers also spend much less on health insurance.
Sadly, until recently, truckers have hardly been catered to in regard to providing healthy options. However, the recent focus on the safety issues presented by this lack have shifted some focus toward providing help for truck drivers who want to stay healthy and keep on trucking.
While it may be easy for a person in great or even moderate physical condition to think that they can maintain their health while on long hauls, there are a number of things to consider.
The Eating Healthy Conundrum
We are not using many calories when we are on the road, so the main goal here is to consume fewer calories. The lion’s share of truck stop food may taste great as well as save time, but is fat and calorie heavy. Fast food and buffets are not kind to the waist line. Fortunately, some truck stops are now offering healthier menu options. Still, the best option is having a small refrigerator and microwave on board. This can keep your healthy options much more varied and appealing. Also, as we are all too aware, eating truck stop food is quite expensive so packing store bought food can save a good deal of money in addition to the health benefit.
A good multivitamin is also advisable. We put the right fuel into our rig, but we often forget our body is a machine that needs the right fuel too. On the same hand, beware of diet pills or extreme diets. Many of these pills are largely untested and have side effects that could be catastrophic for someone driving a large truck. Extreme diets also often a side effect of fatigue that can be dangerous on the road.
Working Out with Sedentary Work
Exercise is a difficult issue for many truck drivers. It is also a critical part of staying healthy. In a job where the bulk of the work is done seated, creativity is the key. Walking and stretching at truck stops is always a good idea. Some truckers have even taking to packing a fold-up bicycle they can ride at stops, which is a great idea since cardio is going to be the best weapon against an excess of calories. There are also a number of stationary cardio exercises every trucker would do well to add to their repertoire, such as jumping jacks, mountain climbers, crunches, flutter kicks, etc.
One promising prospect is that gyms have begun to look toward a trucker clientele. Snap Fitness is a 24-7 gym that recently opened its first truck stop location and there are plans to open five more around the country this year. While this may not be an option for many right now, it does mean that the future of fitness on the road does not look so bleak.
Whatever road you choose to take in taking care of your health, remember that your body can break down just as easily as your truck. Give it the necessary maintenance to keep it running for yourself, for the people who love you, and to be a better truck driver.