Truckers are responsible for moving more than 70 percent of the products sold in this country, but with that responsibility comes long hours on the road, which can make it harder to stay healthy. How do truckers stay both healthy and alert on the road?
Three things really help drivers stay healthy while spending those long hours behind the wheel — food, exercise and sleep.
Anyone who’s ever gone on a road trip knows how tricky it can be to eat healthy on the road. Truck stops and gas stations are filled to the brim with junk food and candy bars, and healthy options are either too far off the beaten path or leave you hunting for a grocery store at every rest stop. Truck drivers might have room for some small appliances, but chances are they’ll be without a full kitchen or even a basic kitchen during their runs.
Keeping pre-washed bags of fruits and vegetables can be a great option for snacks or side dishes. Healthy snacking during the day — whether you’re behind the wheel of a big rig or not — can help keep you from binge-eating during your sit-down meals.
A small electric grill can be a smart choice for truckers as well. They are perfect for grilling small portions of lean meat to add protein to a balanced diet, and these small appliances are easy to unplug and store after using.
Juicers, especially ones with wide mouths that don’t require a lot of prep, can also be great options to keep in the cabin. Juicing isn’t necessarily healthier than eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but it makes it easier to get those recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day when a driver can drink them from a tumbler in their cupholder.
If you work full-time, no matter what your job is, finding time to exercise can be a challenge. It gets even harder when you’re far from home and further from the nearest gym. A trucker’s schedule also makes it difficult to exercise — they drive for 11 hours, take 10 hours off and then get back on the road. After driving for 11 hours, all you want to do is sleep.
Just walking or running along the paths at a rest stop can be a great way to stay active. Many truckers also bring along folding bicycles — they’re small enough to stash in the sleeping compartment when the driver is on the road, then move them to the passenger seat when it’s time to catch some Zs.
Short, intense workouts — 10 to 15 minutes during a fueling stop, for example — can be an excellent way for truckers to get their daily exercise in without taking any time away from the 10 hours they have to shower and sleep.
Sleep is essential for keeping truckers both alert and healthy on the road. According to the CDC, one out of every three adults isn’t getting enough sleep, and the last thing anyone wants is a sleep-deprived driver behind the wheel of 80,000 pounds of tractor-trailer.
For truckers, sleep usually means crashing in their bunk at whatever rest stop or truck stop happens to be closest when their 11 hours behind the wheel is up. That’s why it is essential to have a comfortable mattress in their sleeping berth. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates a sleeping berth must be adequately equipped for sleeping, with a good mattress, bedclothes and ventilation to keep the driver comfortable while they get the rest that they need to drive safely.
Of the three items on this list, sleep is probably the most important. Getting adequate sleep ensures the driver has good reaction times and will be able to control their truck safely. Many drivers, especially those who drive overnight, might supplement their sleep with caffeinated beverages, but these can lead to feeling even more tired once the caffeine wears off and their body slows down.
Staying healthy and alert on the road can be a challenge, but it is one that hundreds of thousands of over-the-road truck drivers take on every single day.