Episode #:158

Episode File Name:  Truck Driving Tips

Host: The trucking industry is one of the largest employers in North America.

Trucker drivers work in unique conditions that present health and safety challenges for themselves and their employers.  Irregular schedules, long hours, little physical activity, limited access to healthy foods on the road, and stress make healthy living a challenge for long-haul truck drivers. Truck drivers have a greater chance of developing many chronic diseases and health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity compared to other adult workers. In addition, in 2012, US heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers experienced three times as many non-fatal injuries and musculoskeletal disorders from falls, slips and trips, overexertion, and lifting and lowering objects compared to other adult workers.

A work life on the road comes with its challenges but with awareness of the daily issues facing truck drivers, making adjustments to the physical environment, and taking steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, these workers can stay healthy and keep moving.

Let’s talk about stress and fatigue

Commercial truck drivers work extremely long days in a high-stress environment. Their job requires them to meet tight schedules and stay alert for many hours a day.

To ease the stress and reduce the likelihood of driver fatigue employers should:

·         ensure on-time delivery expectations do not lead to hours-of-service violations,

·         educate drivers on safe behavior, and

·         ensure entry-level drivers receive adequate training.

To reduce the need for speeding or skipping rest breaks, employers could set limits on maximum driving distances and allow staff to make overnight stops.  Delivery schedules should include sufficient time for drivers to take into account foreseeable weather and traffic conditions.

Diet can also play a big role in keeping truck drivers healthy.

When the highway is where you spend most of your working hours and you are under time pressure, gas stations and truck stops are often the only places for something to eat. These can be difficult places for finding nutritional, fresh and healthy food options.

Many drivers report unhealthy eating habits, which consist of fast food, high sodium content, and no fruits or vegetables.

Preventing health problems related to diet starts with eating healthier and smaller portions.  Truckers should be encouraged to:

·         bring their own healthy food options such as fruits and vegetables on the road,

·         drink water instead of sugary drinks like soft drinks,

·         take the time to be more physically active, and

·         try to keep their weight within their ideal range.

Anyone who spends a lot of time in a vehicle is likely to experience the aches and pains that come from prolonged sitting. Truck drivers experience this type of pain more often as it is more difficult to shift body positions while driving.

Discomfort and lower back pain are frequent complaints reported by drivers. In the UK, the term “repetitive driving injury” has been used. These injuries include foot cramps, low back pain, stiff neck, and sore shoulders from poor posture, stress, tension, and staying in one posture for an extended period. Repetitive Driving Injury is a form of work-related musculoskeletal disorder.

Poor posture can result from personal driving habits, or from an improperly adjusted or fitted seat. The shape of the vehicle seat may put pressure on selected parts of the legs, back and buttocks. This contact can lead to pain or discomfort at pressure points and may affect blood flow to the legs and feet. Low frequency whole-body vibration in trucks can also contribute to effects on the lower back.

Some tips for preventing back pain from sitting for long periods include:

·         Empty your back pockets before you drive so your back isn’t tilted to one side.

·         Don’t slump in your seat.

·         Use a lumber support, cushion, or rolled towel to support your lower back.

·         Change the seat position a few degrees every 20 or 30 minutes.

·         Adjust your mirrors after you have adjusted your seat to avoid twisting and stretching.

·         Adjust your seat and steering wheel so you can press the pedals without moving your lower back away from the back of the seat.

·         Adjust your seat so that your knees are at the same height or slightly lower than your hips when driving.

·         Take a break - get out of the truck to stand, stretch, and walk to help circulate the blood in your legs and give a much-needed rest to the muscles needed to sit. It only takes 5 minutes every hour.

·         Stay fit – maintaining strong abdominal muscles will support your back and reduce the likelihood of back pain.

Long-haul truck drivers are also at increased risk of workplace violence, injury due to manual handling of loads, effects of shift work, etc.  Employers and drivers need to be aware of the risks and put prevention strategies into place – for the long haul.

For more information, resources and safety tips for truck drivers, please visit www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.