5 Common Truck Driver Health Risks and How to Avoid Them

We all know truck driving is no cake walk. Add the frustration of trying to exercise and eat well on the road to the existing occupational stress, and this job can wreak havoc on your health if you let it.

There are some health complications that truck drivers in particular are commonly affected by. Today, I want to take some time to talk about 5 truck driver health risks and how to prevent them from happening to you. Like they say, prevention is the best medicine!

1. Sleep Deprivation

When you get paid for every mile you drive the truck, it can be tempting to skimp out on shut-eye in exchange for a little extra money in your pocket. Don’t fall prey to this temptation! Sleep deprivation can lead to complications like memory loss, weight fluctuations, sleep paralysis (which might I add, sounds terrifying), and high blood pressure. It can also weaken your immune system.

Sleep is crucial for performing your duties as a truck driver responsibly. It’s dangerous to drive down the road when you haven’t gotten enough rest, and it can have a damaging effect on your career if you get caught.

2. Obesity

Overweight man smoking a cigarette

Photo by Alex Proimos

Obesity is a common health issue among truck drivers — 73% of drivers are overweight, and 50% are obese.

After a long, grueling, cross-country drive, it’s tempting to plop down on your bed, pop in a DVD, and seek comfort with a delicious, artery-clogging Big Mac, an order of fries large enough to feed a small family, and of course, a Diet Coke. Do this multiple times a week, and you can see how easy it is to put on weight with this lifestyle.

To combat (or prevent) weight gain, exercise often and watch your diet. I know after driving all day it can be difficult to work up the motivation to go exercise, but force yourself to and you’ll actually feel better afterwards! Make it a part of your daily routine — sometimes it’s easier to just suck it up and get it out of the way first thing in the morning.

Exercising doesn’t have to be a strenuous P-90X sweat-fest. Take some laps around your truck. Walk around the parking lot. Do some jumping jacks or lift some barbells in the cab of your truck.

You can make healthy meals right in your cab by stocking up on good food at your local grocery store before leaving for a trip. If you have healthy food readily available on your truck with you, you’ll be less inclined to stop for the greasy fast food options. Consider investing in a crock pot – you can make delicious, healthy meals with very little work! Just plug it in, chuck ingredients in the pot, and let your meal cook while you’re driving. Can’t get much easier than that.

It’s important to eat well and stay fit, because obesity can lead to further health complications, like my next point – heart attacks.

3. Heart Attacks

Heart attacks are a health complication that can stem directly from obesity. Obviously you don’t have to be overweight to have a heart attack, but not maintaining a healthy lifestyle can certainly increase your chances of suffering from one.

Know the signs of heart attacks. Chest discomfort/pressure, pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, and light headedness are all warnings of a heart attack. If you’re experiencing any of these, call 911 pronto. Prevent heart attacks from the get-go by exercising, eating healthy, and keeping your blood pressure down.

4. Strokes

As with heart attacks, it’s important that you’re aware of the warning signs of a stroke. Remember the acronym, “FAST.”

F for face – when you smile, does your face droop?
A for arms – Raise both arms. Does one drift downward?
S for speech – repeat a simple phrase — something like, “The cat jumped over the fence.” Is speech slurred or strange?
T for time – if any of these symptoms are present, call 911 immediately. The quicker you call for help, the better the chances of a positive prognosis.

5. Cancer (Skin, Lung, and Bladder/Kidney)

Truck Driver Sun DamageSkin Cancer

Have you seen that picture floating around online of the man who’s been a truck driver for like 30 years? And one side of his face looks much older than the other as a result of sitting in the sun all day every day? When driving, you should wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Some trucking companies also allow films you can place over your cab windows.

Lung Cancer

You may want to brace yourselves. This may come as somewhat of a shock, but…smoking is bad for you. I know, I know. Alert the press!

I’m sure you’ve never heard this little nugget of advice before, but to prevent lung cancer, stop smoking. Did you know 67% of truck drivers smoke? Not only can cigarettes lead to lung cancer, but they can also cause every single other thing on this list – heart attacks, obesity, strokes…the list goes on.

I’m not going to elaborate on all the ways to quit smoking because I’m sure you all know how Google works, but just know that it IS possible to quit as long as you have the motivation to! I realize some people just aren’t interested in quitting, regardless of the health concerns – you have to want to quit to be successful. But for those that do want to quit and make a conscious effort to do so, kudos! Your lungs will thank you for it. Ahhh, fresh air.

Bladder & Kidney Cancer

And finally, make sure that you’re not holding it in when you gotta, ya know…..go. This can lead to bladder and kidney problems. Stop when you need to. Even if you’re trying to get to a receiver on time, it’s always best to stop instead of risking complications with your health on down the road. If you can’t find anywhere to stop…keep an empty water bottle on hand.

Hopefully by becoming aware of the possible truck driver health risks, you can make an effort to turn your habits around and take preventative measures against these health conditions. Remember that your health and well-being are always more important than a truck load of stuff. Be proactive, and if you ever feel like something just doesn’t feel quite right, schedule a trip to the doctor!

Sources: How Stuff Works, Stroke.org, PubMed Health