Image source; National Association for Health and Fitness

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month takes place every year in May to promote health and fitness in the workplace. When workers practice healthy lifestyles that include a nutritious diet and physical exercise, they lower their risk of injury and illness and increase productivity. For truck drivers, health and fitness are vital to safe vehicle operation and overall job performance. Healthy and fit drivers benefit trucking companies because they are in better physical and mental condition and are more likely to maintain CDL medical requirements.

Challenges for Truck Drivers

Maintaining a healthy diet and physical exercise routine can be challenging for truck drivers. Although truck drivers are always on the go, food options on travel routes often reflect food desert conditions. Truck stops, rest areas, convenience stores, break room vending machines, and fast food restaurants usually offer unhealthy processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Exercise is especially important for long-haul drivers who travel for extended distances without much physical activity. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that truck drivers lack adequate exercise and many see themselves as being out of shape. Poor diets and lack of exercise lead long-haul truck drivers to have obesity and morbid obesity two times higher than other workers.

Research shows that obesity negatively impacts job performance and can cause sleep apnea, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A recent RAND study reports that nearly 60 percent of the United States population has one or more of these chronic conditions. Treatment costs for these conditions account for 90% of national health care expenditures. Another study found that combined annual costs of covered medical, sick day, short-term disability, and workers’ compensation claims for normal weight employees averaged $3,830 while costing $8,067 for morbidly obese employees.  

The Road to Better Health

A recent national survey of over 20,000 employees found that healthy workers were 16 to 27 percent less likely to have recent absenteeism. The research showed that higher job performance was more likely for: 

  • 25 percent of workers who ate healthy the entire day.
  • 20 percent of workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week.
  • 15 percent for workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week.

Being on the road doesn’t mean that truck drivers have no chances to improve their health. Instead, it means that they must adapt to their mobile workplace by doing things a little differently than most other employees who work in one location. The tips below can help steer drivers in the right direction, but it is always important to consult a health care provider before making any dietary or lifestyle (exercise) changes, to make sure you can safely do so.

  • Shop at grocery stores and pack your own meals, snacks, and drinks instead of stopping at truck stops, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants.
  • Eat foods that are high in protein and omega 3-fatty acids, and low in carbs, preservatives, and sodium.
  • Smaller portions will help you lose weight.
  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day to help steady your blood sugar level.
  • Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  • Sleep in a quiet, comfortable place, and avoid large meals, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and television before going to sleep.
  • Find a safe area near your truck to take a walk, stretch, do push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or jump rope.
  • Locate truck stops that provide food and services that support a healthy lifestyle for truck drivers.
  • Quit using tobacco products, stimulants, and alcohol.

Click on the following links for more information and resources:

Keep Trucking Safe.org – Truck Driver Health Issues

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Truck Driver Health

NIOSH – Total Worker Health Programs Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Driving Healthy.org