It’s no secret that the Trucking Industry in North America is facing and long-term, chronic shortage of qualified drivers. The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) set up a Blue Ribbon Task Force to take a good look at some of the key reasons and in their 2012 report the Driver Shortage in Trucking, you’ll find the following statements:
“Ask most Canadian motor carriers, and they will say looking ahead of the driver shortage is their number one challenge.”
“The lifestyle challenges can be even greater for non-traditional workers, such as women. Moreover, the hours of work (e.g., night/shift), sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep hygiene and diet, can all negatively impact driver wellness. Studies suggest truck drivers are more susceptible to obesity, sleep apnea, diabetes and heart disease than workers in many other occupations. The current life expectancy of truck drivers is lower than society as a whole – some industry sources put it at the early ‘60s.”
The report goes on to explain that driver wellness should be a top priority for carriers in order to combat the shortage we are seeing today.
See the full report: http://www.drivershortage.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/120402-Report-of-CTA-Blue-Ribbon-Task-Force-on-Driver-Shortage-in-Trucking-Final1.pdf
In 2007, a study was published by Harvard Medical School that examined US truck drivers, and it as found that their average life expectancy of a long haul driver is only 61 years of age! With the average lifespan of an American male being 76, this number is very disturbing. Although there are ongoing debates that this number may not be an accurate reflection of the general trucking population, we do know that whatever the true number is, it is still far too low.
So what is it about trucking that causes a shorter life expectancy?
Poor food choices?
Long work hours?
Exposure to noise and vibration?
It could be that it’s a combination of all of the above, so why not start to tackle things one issue at a time?
Andrea Morley, Lead Health Coach at Healthy Trucker (www.healthytrucker.com) has provided 10 tips on what drivers can do both on and off the road to obtain/maintain good health.
Top 10 Healthy Trucker Tips
1. Pack your food: Pack whatever you can for your trip, whether it be precooked meals vs raw ingredients, to control what you’re eating. Declare everything you bring across the border, and stop at a Walmart supercentre once you cross to pick up anything else you need. Don’t forget to pack water!
2. Keep only healthy food within arm’s reach while driving so that unhealthy food isn’t even an option. Even better, don’t keep any unhealthy food in the truck to eliminate temptations!
3. Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day instead of 1 or 2 large meals. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable, keeps your metabolism boosted to burn more calories, keeps energy levels high, and decreases the risk of binge eating later on.
4. In truck stops, shop the convenience area for fresh fruit/veggies, nuts, & protein bars. In the restaurants, stay away from fried, doughy, or creamy foods – the 3 big offenders!
5. Ask questions! While ordering food, don’t be afraid to ask what they have for healthy options, how food is cooked, or where things are located. People are very accommodating!
6. Eat a healthy breakfast: Eating breakfast breaks your fast after sleeping, which boosts your metabolism. Skipping it can increase risk of obesity by over 4x! Eating a healthy breakfast is crucial, though, as it’s a time to fill your body with essential vitamins and nutrients, and it will set the tone for your entire day, helping you eat healthy all day long. It should consist of complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein. If you don’t like breakfast, smart with something small like a piece of fruit, smoothie, yogurt and granola, or a protein bar!
7. Plan your water intake strategically to ensure constant hydration. This can be tricky for drivers when there’s no time to stop for a washroom break, so be sure to drink a glass of water about 30 minutes before you know you’ll be stopping the truck. Drink extra water before & after work to make up for lost time. If you aren’t used to drinking water or don’t like the taste, start by adding 2 extra cups each day, working up to 8 cups. Add fruit to the water for added flavour! Stay away from sugar-filled drinks as they offer little to no nutrition, and lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes.
8. Take advantage of every minute of every day by working out when you have the chance. This includes days off, during breaks, or while waiting for a load inside the truck (it’s possible with just a pair of dumbbells)! Truck drivers are busy, but you’d be surprised at how busy the schedules of most fit people are, but the important thing is they all make a conscious effort to work out and use their time wisely. An intense 15-30min daily workout is short & effective, so you don’t need to devote hours each day to getting fit.
9. Reduce stress. Stress contributes to poor health, causes distracted driving, and has a negative impact on relationships (work & personal). Additionally, it can cause food cravings, which can lead to other negative health implications. Stress affects everyone differently, and everyone has different stressors in their lives, but it’s important to do what you can to manage it. When you find yourself getting stressed, take 3 slow, deep breaths to center yourself. Exercise, mediation, reading, and nature are all great stress relievers, too!
10. Stretch daily! Stretching increases blood flow, range of motion, and decreases risk of injury. Take 5 minutes to work through a full body stretch after waking up or after getting out of the truck.
Healthy Trucker offers a trucking specific wellness program, designed to help O/O’s and Drivers gain better health on and off the road. They provide education through multiple methods like daily text tips, weekly wellness newsletter, videos and consulting through email and over the phone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlpUbmXIPCs
One of my favorite testimonials came from Bill Hartman who is a driver with Transpro Freight Systems.
“It wasn’t even like I was on a diet, it was just substituting what I was eating. It’s easy to follow the nutritionist’s information. My endurance is going up, I can walk for about 2 hours now. My wife even decided she wanted to update her eating habits and we worked together on the program, she lost about 25 lbs. too!”
When I originally spoke to Bill he told me he would eat a lot of truck stop buffet food. You know how guys are, if we hit the all you can eat buffets, we generally do just that. Our nutritionist asked him if he ever packed fresh fruit and veggies to snack on throughout the day. Because he crossed the border, he didn’t do it that often. She challenged him to stop at a Walmart or Meyer’s after crossing the border and fill his fridge full of fresh fruit, veggies and snacks and that’s exactly what he started doing. Bill bypassed the buffets and breakfast started consisting of oatmeal and fruit and many lunches became wraps and veggies. He also tries to consistently eat healthier snacks more often throughout the day. Not only was he feeling a lot better, he found he was saving a lot of money along the way.
So there you have it. Even though the cards may be stacked against us when it comes to staying healthy on the road, as Bill has proven, gaining and maintaining good health is definitely attainable. So what about you? Are you ready to start applying some of Andrea’s suggestions above to improve your overall health?
Pick a few and start working on them today. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good you will feel within just a week!
About the Author
NAL Insurance Inc.
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