Hotshot truckers are at risk of certain health conditions because of their work environment. Many truckers have to endure sitting for a long period of time, not having adequate sleep, skipping meals, lack of exercise, and unavailability of healthy food on the road. If one or all of these factors are part of your regular routine, you’ll be vulnerable to health issues that you could have easily avoided.
Knowing the health risks associated with your work, as well as being able to determine its early symptoms and ways to avoid them, can greatly help improve your overall health. Here are the top 8 hotshot trucker health risks you should watch out for and what you can do to avoid them:
Getting enough rest and sleep is important to avoid fatigue. This condition has several easily recognizable symptoms including chronic tiredness or sleepiness, dizziness, headache, sore muscles, moodiness and slowed reflexes among others.
Driver fatigue is dangerous if you are on the road as it can impair your decision making, judgement and response time. Every year, there’s an estimated 100,000 reported cases of crashes resulting from drowsy driving. If you are towing a heavily loaded trailer, the potential risk of getting into an accident and involving others on the road is even higher.
How to avoid fatigue
- If sleeping on your vehicle on a truck stop, park in a safe and quiet location if possible. It’s also a good idea to invest in a decent pair of noise-insulating earplugs to reduce the surrounding noise.
- Invest in a comfortable bedding as it can make a big difference when it comes to getting quality sleep.
- If you are sensitive to light when sleeping, you may also consider getting a blackout blind for your vehicle to prevent the light from leaking in.
- If despite all your efforts you still find it hard to sleep comfortably and adequately in between your trips, you may also consider just getting an affordable room to sleep in during the night. While it may not be a practical idea, especially on a long-haul trip, it may be the only way you can avoid suffering from fatigue and avoid the risks associated with this condition.
Obesity is a known problem in the trucking industry. According to a 2007 study published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 86 percent of the truck drivers in the US are overweight or obese. That is based on the total estimated 3.2 million truck drivers in the country. The figure makes sense when you consider the sedentary lifestyle of truckers combined with unhealthy food options available at rest and truck stops.
The problem with obesity does not stop there. A number of other health issues are associated with this condition including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression, among others.
How to avoid obesity
- Find time to exercise. Try doing a short jog, some pushups or stretching exercises before going to sleep, after waking up or whenever you stop for a break. You may also consider carrying dumbbells with you and do some simple weight exercises. Making an effort to include short exercises between your trips makes a big difference.
- Make healthy food choices. Most stops have limited healthy options so proper meal planning before the trip is key. Pack some healthy food including fruits, vegetables, nuts, homebake bread and oats for your trip. Doing this will not only save you time standing in queues, but it can also save you money and treat yourself with a healthy snack or meal.
- Drink more water and avoid high in sugar drinks.
3. High Blood Pressue
High blood pressure or hypertension is a silent killer because many people are not even aware they have it. This condition can lead to coronary artery disease wherein the vessels around the heart is unable to transport enough blood to the organs in our body. In worse cases, it can also lead to kidney failure.
How to avoid high blood pressure
- Find time to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.
- Limit your consumption of salt, alcohol, caffeine and food high in saturated fats as they are known to cause a spike in your blood pressure.
- If you have a known condition, take your medication as scheduled. Even if you feel better, you shouldn’t skip taking your medications. Moreover, schedule a doctor’s appointment regularly to monitor your condition.
4. Heart Attack
Symptoms of heart attack include pressure or squeezing pain in the chest or arms, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea and discomfort from the jaw down to the arms. Recognizing these symptoms and getting medical help as soon as possible is key to survival in case of a heart attack.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately one American will have a heart attack every 40 seconds. About 14 percent of those who suffered from heart attack will die from it.
While we don’t want it to happen, should you suffer from this condition while on the road, medical help may not reach you on time. That is why, it’s important to keep your heart healthy to reduce your risk of heart attack.
How to avoid heart attack
- If you have high blood pressure, manage it with medication.
- Keep a healthy lifestyle which includes exercising daily and eating more fruits and vegetables.
- Always rehydrate by drinking water, especially before going to sleep.
- Stay away from alcoholic beverages, foods that are high in saturated fats, and smoking as they are among the most common risk factors.
Hotshot trucking comes with some pressure from work, family and authorities which in turn can cause stress. More often, the pressure is even higher if you are owner-operator because you have to deal with everything from paperwork to the actual delivery of cargo.
You might think that stress is not a very serious condition. But according to WebMD, constant stress could lead to other serious health issues including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems, among others. That is why it is important to deal with stress while it’s still early.
How to avoid stress
There’s no surefire way that works to avoid stress. More often, it is on a case-to-case basis and depends on the person. However, getting good sleep and staying fit can help. Emotional support from family and friends can also help you cope.
6. Trucker’s leg
You might have already heard this term from other truckers. Trucker’s leg is a peripheral arterial disease (PAD) caused by reduced or blockage of blood flow in the body, excluding the heart. Symptoms may include sores in the leg, muscle pain, weakness or lack of sensitivity in the affected areas, and sometimes hair loss.
Individuals who are overweight or with high blood pressure are more at risk of trucker’s leg. However, even a healthy person can suffer from trucker’s leg due to long hours of driving while the knees are in a bent position, reducing the blood flow to the feet and lower legs.
How to avoid trucker’s leg
The best way to prevent PAD is to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Since you are always on the road, you can still keep an active lifestyle by doing exercises and stretching during stops. You should also work to control your cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels. Moreover, maintaining a low-cholesterol and low-fat diet helps.
7. Leg and foot injuries
Leg injuries are the third most common injury that truck drivers suffer from, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2010, there were about 274,210 reported cases of lower extremity injuries which included injuries to the knee, ankle and foot.
Serious leg and foot injuries may leave a trucker unable to do simple tasks that involve bending and lifting. In worst cases, it may even be difficult to operate the gas and brake pedals. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may cause a trucker a number of work days, or it may become impossible to continue working as a professional driver.
How to avoid leg and foot injuries
Leg and foot injuries can be caused by factors within or outside of your work. The key to preventing them from becoming serious is to recognize the symptoms and to not ignore those symptoms. If you constantly feel a dull and achy pain in your knee, ankle or foot area, see a doctor to check it and recommend a suitable treatment.
8. Back pain
Sitting for a long period of time in a vehicle that is vibrating and shaking, combined with poor posture puts you at higher risk of back pain. Eventually, this problem can also lead to neck pain. While this condition is not 100 percent avoidable, there are some tips that can lower your risk of back pain.
How to avoid back pain
- Invest in an ergonomic seat cushion that can provide the proper support and posture for your back. Using this allows you to drive with less strain on your back.
- Give your body some good stretches. Your muscles need them especially when you are from a long drive.
- Be extra careful when lifting and bending. Don’t put too much pressure on your back to avoid strain.
It can be challenging to stay healthy if you spend more time on the road. But, it is far from impossible. Achieving success is a matter of self-discipline and consistency in doing your healthy routines. The tips we mentioned above on how to avoid some of the health risks associated with the nature of the job should also help.