We see countless trucks on the road every single day and it may have never crossed your mind that truck drivers are in a profession where they face numerous health risks. To raise awareness to this issue, the top health concerns were addressed by Brittany Thomas, a Nurse Clinician (BScN) working at the Montreal General Hospital. Thomas provides helpful tips for truck drivers to maintain their health on and off the road.
Skin Cancer: Truck drivers are exposed to the sun for extended periods of time increasing the risk of skin cancer. Primarily, the left side of their body.
Thomas: “Sunscreen is extremely important to help protect against UV radiation. A sunscreen of 15 SPF or higher should be worn every day on exposed skin including the face. Many do not realize that even in the winter, it is important to wear sunscreen. Additionally, you can include hats, clothing that covers arms and legs, sunglasses, and taking breaks in the shade as needed.”
Depression: Truck drivers are often isolated for long periods of time away from their families and friends. This can be a leading factor to feelings of loneliness.
Thomas: “It is important to keep regular contact with loved ones while being away. Video chatting or calling loved ones can help. It is a good idea to speak with your loved ones and arrange a schedule for when you can contact them. Additionally, keeping pictures of your family on your dashboard can help minimize feelings of separation. If possible, try to socialize with other people when you stop for breaks to help reduce loneliness.”
Stimulants: Truck drivers are to stay awake for long periods of time and must continuously be alert and perform well. Due to this, they must often depend on stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, sugar, and more to stay awake and focused.
Thomas: “It is important for truck drivers to be careful of what they are using as stimulants. Avoid using energy drinks as they can have negative long-term health effects. When consuming high levels of sugary drinks and food, a sudden “crash” or burst of energy can occur. Coffee would be the ideal option, but keep in mind the amount of sugar and cream added and do your best to limit it; consume everything in moderation. Other ways to help conserve energy can be eating healthy snacks, meals, staying hydrated, and taking breaks when you can.”
Lung Complications: Truck drivers are more likely to be exposed to hazardous chemicals that can impact the body such as diesel fumes. Also, it was reported that truck drivers are more likely to smoke to stay awake. This can also lead to issues such as lung cancer.
Thomas: “To protect yourself against harmful fumes it is important to wear a mask and do your best not to inhale too deeply when being exposed. Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. If you are a smoker, and quitting smoking is not an option for you right now, there are other options you can try to help reduce the number of cigarettes you are smoking. These include nicotine gum, nicotine patch, or lozenge. Something you can try is to change your pattern to help weaken the strength of the craving.”
“If you would like information or to get help with smoking cessation you can use this resource “I Quit Now” to talk with a specialist: 1-866-527-7283”
Stress and Fatigue: Truckers work long days in a high stress environment as they must always meet schedules and stay alert. In some cases, truck drivers will develop sleep apnea.
Thomas: “As a nurse, I understand this issue. Stress and fatigue are hard to manage in a work environment that has an unpredictable schedule. If you are too tired to drive, do not drive. Your health and safety for yourself and others on the road is very crucial. In the end, you know your limits and your body so do your best not to push yourself too hard. Proper stress management skills are extremely important as stress and fatigue can also lead to depression and anxiety. This is specific to each individual; you can find their own stress management skills and try to implement it into your daily routine while on the road.”
Healthy Diet: Being on the road so many hours at a time, it is difficult to find healthy food options as you are most likely to stop at gas stations and only have access to fast food and processed snacks.
Thomas: “I understand the difficulty of not having healthy options accessible. If possible, try to carry healthy snacks with you such as fruit, veggies, granola bars, air popped popcorn, nuts and seeds. It may not be realistic to meal prep for the whole duration of the trip but try to bring your own meals for the first few days. Afterwards do your best to always choose the “healthier” fast food options available on the road. Also, drink plenty of water and always choose water over soda.”
Body Pains: Sitting for so many hours at a time can result in posture issues, pains from sitting too much. The options to change positions are very limited.
Thomas: “Truck drivers should pay attention to their posture while driving. It is important to maintain good posture as much as possible. This means, not having your seat too forward or too back. If your buttocks are hurting, try a seat cushion to help prevent discomfort. Whenever you take a break, it is important to use some of this time to stretch your body.”
Low Physical Activity: Sitting in a truck for so many hours make it difficult for truck drivers to get their bodies moving every day. On average, an active individual walks 10, 000 steps daily.
Thomas: “I know for truck drivers it is not realistic to get in 10, 000 steps a day. This is why it is important to take other actions such as maintaining a healthy diet whenever possible, staying hydrated, and stretching on your breaks. If you have a longer break and are not using it to nap, you can take walks outside. If you are not able to get any physical activity while on the road, it is important to stay active on your days off.”
High Rate of Musculoskeletal Injuries: This can be caused from loading and unloading.
Thomas: “It is important to be cautious of your physical form when loading and unloading trucks. Never lift anything solely with your upper body weight and make sure to use your legs. You should bend down, place your hands on the box, sit back up with your back straight, shoulders back, and use your legs to stand. Place the box down the same way you picked it up. If ever you feel any pain and discomfort, do not continue to lift or do any heavy work. Go see a doctor to prevent worsening any injury. Take time off to heal if you have been injured. These injuries can have long-term effects on your body.”
Chronic Diseases (such heart disease, diabetes, hypertension): A result of all mentioned can lead to serious diseases.
Thomas: “Since truck drivers are at risk of chronic diseases, I suggest going for yearly checkups with your family doctor or with any doctor to make sure you stay healthy.”