Trucker Mantra: Health Before Wealth
Truck drivers are facing a health epidemic that threatens to amplify the driver shortage as truckers are forced to leave the road behind due to health problems.
Like no other industry, drivers face countless obstacles when trying to engage in healthy behaviors. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), trucking organizations are working to:
1. Help drivers engage in healthy behaviors
2. Reduce work-related physical and mental stress
3. Improve access to and usage of healthcare
Compared to the national population, drivers are:
- 2x as likely to be significantly overweight, obese or morbidly obese
- Nearly 3x likely to be cigarette smokers
- 2x more likely to have diabetes
- 60% more likely to have frequent sleep disturbances
On top of growing health concerns, drivers consistently report highway safety concerns for themselves and others on the road. In fact, 35% of drivers anonymously reported that in the past 7 days, they have experienced drowsiness, nodded off or fallen asleep while driving. One out of ever 4 drivers reports at least one “near miss” accident in the past 7 days. Clearly, drivers need support to keep their bodies healthy and stay safe on the road.
#1 Get Moving
The National Institute of Health recommends that we move our bodies in some way at least every 30 minutes, but drivers could not feasibly deliver loads on time if they stopped every 30 minutes for physical activity. The best option for drivers is to get their heart rate up for 30 seconds to 1 minute at every stop. This can be done by taking a brisk walk around a truck stop, store or restaurant. Many drivers report having more energy and focus after participating in interval training. Interval training is a type of exercise that calls for brief bursts of high intensity in order to elevate the heart rate. After interval training, our brain and metabolism are better geared to provide consistent energy without a crash.
#2 Food as Fuel
Drivers often compensate for a lack of energy by turning to caffeine and sugar. Some drivers choose drinking coffee or energy drinks while others opt for a sugar rush from candy or sweet drinks. These options give drivers short bursts of energy, but then follow with a crash that leaves the driver feeling severely fatigued. To avoid this crash and train your body to endure longer runs, fuel your body with high quality foods that combine real nutrients with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The better the food, the longer your body can keep running without a crash.
#3 Frequent Physician Checkins
Many drivers put off checking in with their physician because they don’t have consistent schedules or regular home time. What most truck drivers don’t know is that carriers often have lists of doctors that work well with trucker schedules. Ask your human resource manager for a list of partner physicians. If you’re an independent driver or owner operator, ask fellow drivers for references. You will find trucker friendly doctors in large industry hubs like Houston and Salt Lake City.
It is a change in mindset to your health before wealth, but the change can do wonders for your own happiness and career success. Drivers often feel pressure to keep running, but by placing personal health before making money, drivers will have more energy and focus which in turn will boost their ability to drive more. Business owner Joshua Steimle wrote in TIME magazine that after he started putting exercise before work, everything else fell into place. Despite the pressure that he felt to put work first, he started his day with focusing on personal health. After a couple weeks, he had more energy and better focus when at work and was more engaged and happier when at home with his family.
“On any given day there are easily 100 important things I should be doing for my business, 50 of which are also urgent, but there is no way I can get more than 10 things done. And yet each and every week I spend at least 10 hours on focused, physical exercise. I schedule my workouts during the workday and prioritize exercise over all my work activities. There is some flexibility, but if there is a conflict between a trail run I need to get in, and a meeting with a client, I’ll reschedule the client meeting first.” – Joshua Steimle
Find the right balance that works for you and make small changes to follow the steps outlined above. First, find little ways to get your body moving. Then, make healthier choices for food. Finally, make it a priority to get frequent checks by your physician. With these three steps combined, truckers will be able to proactively manage the health and lifestyle concerns that the FMCSA outlined.
Trucking is one of the most important careers that impact the day-to-day life of the average American. We have to keep our drivers healthy and happy if we want to keep America rolling.