Healthy Habits for Over-the-Road Truck Drivers
Over-the-road (OTR) truckers, also known as long-haul drivers, travel long distances and can be away from home for weeks at a time. For many, it's a tough job that leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. The very nature of the work is sedentary. The work in and of itself is somewhat monotonous. Many rely on enormous amounts of caffeine and junk food to pass the time and get energy.
Rest stops contribute to this problem. In one stop, you can fuel, shower, eat and possibly even have your truck worked on. You likely save time by stopping there instead of several places to get food. However, staying healthy is essential not just for your well-being, but for success in your career as well. These healthy habits help prevent burnout and keep you energized.
Eating Healthy on the Go
Most grocery stores have sufficient parking for tractor-trailers, although you may have to walk an extra bit. Moreover, since we live in an ever more convenience-filled world, they are a wealth of easy to eat nutritious food even at gas stations. Here are a few items that you can choose:
- Pre-washed bags of lettuce and spinach
- Pre-washed and cut vegetables
- Pre-washed and cut fruit
- Whole pieces of fruit that are easy to clean
- Grilling meat (especially chicken and turkey breasts)
For the grilling meat, you would need to have a portable grill. Fortunately, those are easily accessible at most large department stores and large chain grocery stores. It a great way to cook nutritious food on the go.
Exercise is hard when you are an OTR driver. You drive for 11 hours straight, then take 10 hours off and then you are back at it again, repeating the cycle. When you push that hard, where do you fit in exercise? Here are some suggestions you might consider:
- Folding bicycles can be stowed in the sleeper berth compartment and then tossed up in the passenger seat when it is time to go to bed. While parked at a truck stop, you can ride around the outer edges of the parking lot to avoid traffic. Alternatively, if you are at a rest area, you can ride around there too. Some have little trails you can follow.
- Running shoes are an inexpensive option and very easy to store. You can go walking or jogging in the same places you would ride a bicycle.
- Weights can be just as effective, although you want to be careful in your selections. Choose weights that you could quite possibly use while driving down the road. Make sure you have a good place to secure them. You do not want them to roll under your acceleration pedal, brake or clutch. That could be deadly.
- Pedometers can be used in conjunction with the bicycle or running shoes, allowing you to track your progress. Tracking your progress is a fantastic motivator.
Sleep is essential to good health. You live in the cab of your truck. Do not settle for the cheapest when it comes to a mattress and pillow. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) actually dictates what must be included in a sleeper berth at § 393.76 (e). Invest in a good quality berth mattress with the firmness you need to get a good night's sleep.
Further, make sure you have a portable fan and heater. If your truck breaks down and you are going to sleep while you wait for the repair, then you will need something portable to keep you warm or cool, as the need may be.
In addition, a white noise machine can be useful to block out outside noises.
You need to get as much sleep as possible in your 10 hours off and, to do that, your sleeping conditions must be as comfortable and as quiet as possible.
The job can be boring. Mile after mile after mile of monotonous roads, trees, and signs. You can easily become distracted or you can think too much. Do you know that sometimes thinking too much is a bad thing? Dwelling on a matter too long can distort your thinking and even cause emotional reactions. But varying up the driving routine can help you stay alert and fresh:
- Audiobooks. Purchase or rent audio books and listen to your favorite authors while you drive. Use the opportunity to learn about subjects that fascinate you.
- Language tapes. You do not have to have the goal of becoming fluent in another language, but you can learn some phrases. This is especially useful if you deal with a number of individuals who speak a different language. Learn a few of things to say in their language. The amount of respect you will earn will be insurmountable.
- Music. Branch out in your taste of music. Do you listen to country music? Try listening to Bach or Tchaikovsky. Is rap music your taste? Try listening to world music. Your options are numerous.
Long distance work does not always lead to a healthy family life. It is so easy to come home after weeks on the road and either vegetate or be so involved with household chores that you could neglect your family. One way to connect with your family while at home is share stories of your travels and pictures you take along the way
Tell your children in advance where you will be driving. Have them look up the history of a couple of places. Then you can take pictures of those areas you have them doing research on. When you return home, set aside time, at least an hour, and have the children tell you all they learned and then you, in turn, share the pictures you took. It will be a learning experience for them, and you can bond while you do it.
Get an audiobook for yourself and the same paper book for your spouse. When you talk together on the phone or Skype, you can share what you liked most about the book. You might find you have even more in common than you ever realized.