More than 3.5 million professional truck drivers are responsible for moving about 71% of freight in the United States. Drivers supply people and businesses with the food and supplies they need for daily life and business operations. With so many people reliant on the trucking industry, it is imperative that truckers stay healthy. Here is a closer look at what truckers can do to keep themselves from getting sick.
Staying Healthy on the Road
A single trucker often drives over 100,000 miles in a year, traveling all over the country and working long hours to complete their routes. This type of schedule can be grueling, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of becoming sick. Some ways to do that include:
- Getting enough sleep: Truckers can drive a maximum of 11 hours after taking a total of 10 consecutive hours off from work, so be sure to use your off-time to get enough rest. Sleep deprivation is dangerous when driving, but it can also negatively impact the immune system. Being well-rested can help you feel ready for another long day of driving and improve your overall health.
- Maintaining a healthy diet: Constantly being on the road means meals aren’t regularly scheduled. It can be easy to grab unhealthy and convenient snacks when stopping to fuel up, but a consistently poor diet can be detrimental to your health. Try to incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats into your diet whenever you can. Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Exercising: Truck driving means traveling thousands of miles, so the work is mostly sedentary. Take time each day to get from behind the wheel and get some kind of exercise. That doesn’t mean you need to search for a gym, though — you can stretch your legs and go for a walk. Exercise can improve your mood and reduce the risk of illness, too.
- Managing stress levels: Truck driving can be a stressful occupation. Drivers spend their workdays alone, dealing with traffic and road hazards, and they spend weeks apart from family and friends. High levels of stress can affect the immune system. Find ways to manage your stress by listening to music while you drive or doing something you enjoy on your off-time. Video chat with family and friends when you take a break from driving.
How Truckers Can Prevent Infections
Maintaining your overall health goes a long way in staying healthy. Truck drivers can also take multiple preventative measures to reduce the chance of contracting and spreading infection. Here’s how you can keep yourself and others safe, whether on the road or elsewhere:
- Wash your hands: Washing your hands frequently can do a lot in preventing infection. Use soap and warm water to create a generous lather. Thoroughly wash between your fingers, the front and back of your hands and beneath your fingernails before rinsing and drying. If you do not have soap and water available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect surfaces: Frequently touched surfaces can spread infection. Droplets from someone who is coughing or sneezing can land on surfaces. If you come into contact with a contaminated surface, you face exposure to an infectious pathogen. Regularly wipe down surfaces in and on your truck, including the dashboard, steering wheel, radio controls, gear shift and door handles. Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, particularly if you don’t know when your environment has last been cleaned.
- Keep up to date on vaccinations: Flu season fluctuates each year, but it usually begins in the fall and peaks in late winter or early spring. Getting the flu vaccine each year is one of the best ways to prevent contracting the flu.
- Practice social distancing: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends social distancing during times of pandemic. This means people should avoid close contact with one another, and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
- Wear PPE: Personal protective equipment (PPE) reduces the risk of workplace hazards. PPE can include gloves and face masks when dealing with infections or diseases. Talk to your trucking company about what kind of PPE it provides its drivers.
- Avoid working while sick: If you are sick, take time off work. Monitor your health for any symptoms of illness, such as fever and cough. Going into work deprives your body of the rest it needs, and you are more likely to spread the illness to others.
How Truckers Can Prevent Airborne Illness
Certain illnesses, such as the common cold, can spread through the air. These particles can hang in the air and enter the body when someone breathes. Truckers may not have to worry about working in a crowded office, but they can still come in contact with airborne illnesses. Here are a few preventative tips:
- Allow good ventilation: Fresh air certainly has its benefits. Poor ventilation can cause reduced air quality, which increases the risk of contracting an airborne illness. Use a fan or open the window to promote good air exchange.
- Use good coughing and sneezing etiquette: If you are sick, it is important to practice proper protocols for coughing and sneezing. Always cover your face when you feel a cough or sneeze coming, but never use your hands — use a tissue or the crook of your elbow instead.
- Practice good hygiene: While airborne illness can pass through the air, you can also contract one of these infections by touching contaminated surfaces. Always practice good hand hygiene and avoid touching your face.
- Wear a mask: Wearing a mask, such as an N95 mask, can significantly reduce the risk of contracting and spreading airborne illness. If you do not have access to N95 masks, even surgical face masks or simple face coverings can diminish the spread of infection.
Other Sickness Prevention Tips
Avoiding exposure is one of the best ways to avoid being sick. If you know someone is sick, avoid close contact with that person. If you are living through a pandemic, follow CDC recommendations and practice social distancing. Everyone has a role to play in preventing the spread of sickness. Do your part and stay healthy so you can stay on the road.