4 Health Risks Your Drivers Face on the Road
Driving a CMV (commercial motor vehicle) can be physically demanding and stressful. This is especially true for interstate drivers, who may go from one side of the country to the other in less than a week. Their overall health and wellness can significantly impact their safety on the road—and the safety of the millions of people who share the road with them.
To improve driver health—and keep everyone safer on the road—employers should stay informed of the health risks of interstate driving. Here are just four of the health challenges that interstate (and some intrastate) drivers regularly face during their work day.
1. Poor sleep
Drivers with lots of variation in their work shifts and sleep schedules often don’t get enough sleep—and the sleep they get usually isn’t quality sleep. This also applies to drivers who work at the upper limits of the Department of Transportation’s hours of service regulations. In other words: if your drivers work long or inconsistent shifts, it’s more likely that they’re not getting enough sleep. They’re going to bed tired, and waking up tired.
For some jobs, a little sleepiness doesn’t hurt anything—but it can be dangerous for drivers, who operate heavy machinery at high speeds every day.
2. Limited nutrition options
If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you know that truck stops and gas stations aren’t typically stocked with the produce section’s best. Instead, they sell cookies, soda, candy, and other sugary foods with little nutritional benefit. The best you can expect at these stops is often just nuts, granola, or beef jerky.
This is the everyday reality for many commercial drivers. Because they’re on a tight schedule, drivers may often rely on these “grab and go” snacks for most of their meals on the road. Spending time to go to a grocery store or even a restaurant takes valuable minutes out of their travel schedule—and these places often don’t have parking for commercial vehicles.
If a driver is already struggling with limited sleep, this can get even worse. They’ll grab caffeinated and carbonated drinks to help stay awake and energized for the long trip, resulting in high caffeine and sugar intake. Paired with a role that requires them to sit for hours at a time, too much caffeine and sugar can increase drivers’ risk of obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.
Commercial driving comes with a lot of occupational stress due to long hours, tight timelines, social isolation, and even fear of violence. Separation from their loved ones, pets, and support networks only makes it worse—especially for long-haul drivers who are on the road for days at a time. Because of this, truckers can be prone to stress-induced mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Stress can also contribute to physical health issues, and increase the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease.
4. Long hours sitting at the wheel
Driving for long hours isn’t just stressful—it’s physically exhausting. After a long day on the road away from family and friends, it can be hard for drivers to find the energy for exercise. Putting off even a short workout “until tomorrow” can seem like the only option after a long, hard day.
Because drivers do spend so much time sitting, though, it’s essential that they do make the time to exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes every day. Exercise can boost both their mental and physical health, reduce stress, help them get better sleep, and even lower the likelihood of chronic conditions. In other words: it can help solve a lot of the problems we’ve listed above.
Treating your drivers' health as a long-term endeavor
You now know all about the health risks of long-haul travel—so what do you do about it? There are a few ways to get started, from researching how to keep your drivers healthy on the road to giving them the resources and support they need to stay healthy. What's most important, though, is remembering that keeping your drivers healthy goes beyond ensuring that they take their DOT exam. It's a long-term endeavor that needs your support.
For more information on health-related trends in the trucking industry, download our whitepaper: "DOT Regulations: Addressing the rapid rate of change in the DOT-regulated world"