Long-haul trucking is the backbone of the American distribution and supply chain network. But despite the hard work and important contributions that truckers make to the US economy, they suffer many health problems and occupational hazards that often go overlooked and unaddressed. It’s important to stay healthy on the road, and many common health problems can easily be avoided and treated if given the proper care and attention.
Common Health Problems
Trucking is demanding because it requires long periods of sedentary sitting, punctuated by brief periods of heavy and potentially dangerous work. Truckers can legally drive for up to 15 hours at a time if they take a thirty-minute break. That is not nearly enough time to stretch, exercise, and care for the body.
These long hours of uninterrupted sitting lead to heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and tension, pain, and stiffness in the muscles, back, and neck. Truckers also contract diabetes twice as much as the general population. 14% of truckers are diabetic, compared to 7% of regular society. When truckers aren’t sitting, they’re changing heavy tires on the side of the road, moving bulky cargo, pumping toxic gas, or fixing tough-to-move parts on their truck. This puts extreme stress on their body and leads to frequent injuries, accidents, and long-term health problems.
Truckers also suffer mentally and emotionally. Truckers can develop extreme fatigue, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, and addictions from hours of loneliness in an isolated, boring, repetitive, and physically taxing job. Unfortunately, studies have reported higher drug use among truckers. The DOT requires all commercial truck drivers to pass random drug tests to prevent drivers from putting themselves and other in harm’s way.
How to Prevent Illness and Injury
Fortunately, there are ways to significantly reduce the risks of physical, mental, and emotional illness among truck drivers. Healthy habits such as 30 minutes of daily stretching and exercise, a cleaner diet with less processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables, eight hours of sleep, more time spent socializing, and refraining from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and stimulants on and off the road can greatly reduce the health and injury risks associated with trucking.
These habits can help prevent and also reverse certain health conditions, leading to a fit, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle even in a challenging industry. These habits may not seem significant. However, engaging in supportive and healthy behaviors consistently over time can make drastic statistical and practical differences.
Finally, truckers tend to put off or ignore health problems and are often overlooked and underserved by healthcare providers. Truckers need adequate medical coverage and encouragement to seek medical attention and routine checkups to identify and treat potential health problems before they become serious issues.
Why It’s Important to Stay Healthy
Trucking is a physically demanding job, and truckers need to stay fit since they have a sedentary job to make money and enjoy life with their friends, families, and communities. Nobody should have to suffer just to make a living. And there is no point in succumbing to illnesses, injuries, and preventable health problems if help, prevention, and treatment are available.
Truckers support our country’s economy. They should not do so at the expense of their well-being and physical health. Truckers deserve support, admiration, respect, and encouragement to take care of themselves using available resources and methods. Truckers need to know their contributions matter, and that their health is a priority. If truckers take care of themselves, they can take care of business – and keep on trucking!