Truckers or Over-the-road (OTR) drivers endure some grueling conditions while they work. Truckers drive long distances and can be on the road for weeks or even months every trip. Unfortunately, in the industry eating right is more difficult and the lack of mobility leaves exercise to a minimum. Many drivers maintain bad sleeping habits and rely on caffeine to keep them awake and alert. We’ll cover some tips to stay healthy in this article.
Lack of foods providing nutritional value at most rest stops further exacerbate the situation. While sleep and proper nutrition are a large portion of the battle to stay healthy, a proper mindset is vital. Being out on the road for weeks and months at a time means truck drivers are away from family. This often weighs heavy on the mind. This reason alone is why I personally stopped driving a truck.
For these reasons, a list has been put together to try and help provide some educational value truck drivers can implement while on the road.
Eating Healthy on the Road
This one is hard to do since many of the major truck stops drivers come across offer little in the way of healthy snacks or meals. It’s easy to stop in and grab a hotdog off the roller grill at a truck stop when you stop for fuel, and that’s a problem.
Drivers should opt for fruits and vegetables when possible. High fiber vegetables like broccoli will keep you feeling full longer than most snacks providing empty calories. When it’s time for a meal consider eating a hearty salad which you can find at most grocery stores which usually have parking for semi-trucks.
When grocery shopping for the week, it’s easy to fill your cart with easily kept things like canned chili, meats, and other precooked meals that simply need to be heated in a microwave. These are often filled with high concentrations of salt, preservatives, and saturated fat. Eating these types of foods makes it extremely hard to stay healthy as a truck driver.
Consider the possibility of getting a small personal sized electric grill to cook lean meats such as turkey and chicken. Keep in mind the size of the inverter in your truck and size your electric grill appropriately.
Considering stocking up weekly on pre-washed and cut vegetables including salad. Grilling a chicken breast and pairing it with a salad is a very delicious and nutritional meal.
It’s easy to get caught up with work and skip a meal. Doing this could lead to eating the wrong things later in the day and eat more of them. Keeping regular meal times will keep hunger down and minimize your desire to snack.
Exercising over the road is a quintessential part of staying healthy. As important as it is it is equally as hard to do. Your HOS (Hours of Service) make this difficult as your clock could run up to 14
hours with 11 of that spent driving. By the end of the day drivers are usually tired and want to grab a quick dinner and get ready for bed.
One exercise that drivers stick with is walking. Did you know that 33 laps around your truck and trailer is one mile? This is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to get in 15 minutes of exercise a day. The only thing you need to do this activity is a decent pair of tennis shoes which you’ll probably have on hand anyway.
Weightless exercises like abdominal crunches are another effective way to squeeze in some exercises. Do this this, simply tighten your abdomen and work towards holding it for two minutes at a time. Repeat this as often as you can.
Getting Proper Rest as a Trucker
Another aspect to maintaining health over the road are having good rest habits. At the end of a long day of driving, sleeping is a hot topic on many truckers’ minds. Sleeping inside of your truck however may be difficult for some. Driving a truck means sleeping in your truck means sleeping where the truck is parked. Sometimes this means in the middle of a noisy truck stop, rest area or other areas with high noise.
The FMSCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) mandates in § 393.76 (e) what you should have in your sleeper berth. Generally trucking companies supply you with a mattress equaling 4 inches in thickness. Depending on your stature (speaking from experience) it’s not quite enough.
If possible, invest in a better mattress if your company and your finances allow it. There is nothing better than crawling into bed at the end of a tough day, unless the mattress you have leaves you with less than desirable results. We cover this in our 13 Essentials Every Truck Driver Needs article.
To drown out the noise of a busy truck stop, consider picking up a fan. Fan’s will generate Pink noise which is like white noise, but the mix of both high and low frequencies are smoother and much more soothing than the latter. If you’re not one that can sleep with a fan on, consider getting a white noise machine to help drown out noise.
Keeping a Healthy Mind
There’s not too much exciting about the monotony of traveling hundreds of miles of road day after day. This can result in staring off into the never-ending white stripes in the middle of the road. This can also lead to over-thinking about various things. Over thinking can exacerbate something small and simple into a much larger ordeal.
It’s imperative to keep your mind engaged so you maintain a safe operating environment but also one that isn’t overly boring as well. Drivers can keep their minds engaged by listening to audiobooks or attempting to learn a language by listening to tapes.
Audiobooks are a great way to keep your mind engaged while driving. You can use a service like Amazons Audible membership which is about the price of a TV streaming service.
Learning a language is also a viable alternative. Drivers can find a multitude of resources to listen to while they drive that covers several languages.
Another option to consider is to branch outside of your typical musical taste. Say for example you enjoy listening to classic rock, try listening to some classical music like Beethoven or Bach, you may enjoy it!
Healthy Family Relationships
Maintaining healthy family relationships can be difficult for OTR drivers. Drivers are usually hundreds if not thousands of miles away from home. This alone stresses the family dynamic.
Since drivers rarely see their home it’s easy to get caught up in various chores that need to be done when you finally make it home. When you’re at home, make sure you engage with family. One way to do this is by documenting your travels across the states.
One way to do this is to take a plethora of pictures as your make your way down the road. Another idea is to pick up a cheap action camera and a dash mount for a hands-free way of recording your travels. When you get home share your pictures and videos with your family.
Connect with family while you’re on the road. Tell them where you’re headed and what you might be able to see. If you have children, have them look up some interesting facts about where you’re headed. Then on home time sit down and discuss what you saw and what they learned about where you went.
Remember These Points of Advice
Staying healthy in a mostly sedentary job sounds like it can be daunting at times. Keep in mind that making better eating choices and trying to exercise 15 minutes a day will add up. Over time this will become a habit leading to overall better health. Doing just these two will leave you feeling healthier which in turn will improve your mental health. Make sure to get enough rest, generally 7-8 hours of sleep a night is recommended.
Do you have any suggestions on staying healthy over the road? Leave us a comment and tell us how you stay healthy as a truck driver!