How To Stay Healthy as a Truck Driver

Driving a truck is a demanding, stressful job even in the best of times.  We all know it is more essential now than ever for drivers to be on the road delivering goods, but a truck driver’s health is the major challenge. That challenge is only getting more difficult as the average age of drivers keeps going up since aging increases the risk of health issues.

Setting Fitness Goals and Forming Good Habits

Quality sleep, proper nutrition, a driver fitness program, and personal hygiene make up the all-important combination that will give you the fuel to conquer the day ahead.

Sleep is Necessary

Drivers must deal with ever changing work schedules and hours, which means they must navigate staying healthy while working night shifts. Along with that adjustment comes how to stay mentally healthy as well and getting quality, restful sleep.

Avoid Caffeine

As you get later into your workday, steer clear of coffee, which can cause sleep disturbances. Coffee is tasty and comforting — but remember that it can affect your body for five hours or longer after consumption. Plan your coffee intake so that it does not prevent you from getting good sleep.

As your shift is coming to an end, make sure to prepare your mind and body for a good night’s sleep. For two to three hours before bedtime, avoid heavy or spicy meals, and halt your intake of caffeine drinks. In addition, avoid nicotine and other stimulants. Prolonged exposure to light from electronics and television just before bedtime may also disturb your sleep.

Prepare for Better Sleep on the Road

Now you need to find a safe spot, without constant disturbances, to park your rig. With your rig settled in, make sure your sleeper is “Bunk Ready Fit.” Close all curtains and truck shades. Use eye masks and ear plugs, if needed. Block out any unavoidable disturbances by using a fan or “white noise” machine. Silence your phone. Assign a unique, audible ringtone to important contacts to minimize unwanted distractions. This will help throughout the day, too.

Studies have shown that a cooler bedroom temperature is more conducive to a good night’s sleep. Find your room-temperature “sweet spot.” We spend about a third of our life in bed, and you need to make sure you get the same quality of rest when you are on the road as you do at home. In a previous post on, we began a four-part series about staying healthy while working as an over-the-road driver. In that column, we explored Step 1 on the road to better health: Getting good-quality sleep is step 1.

Meal Plan

Step 2, proper nutrition. Good nutrition is the key to maintaining your health, both on the road and at home.

Ensuring you provide your body with proper nutrition is just like making sure you are taking all the correct steps in technology and aerodynamics to improve your truck’s fuel economy. Shouldn’t we apply that same principle to our own body engines? It’s time to start putting better “fuel” into our bodies in an effort to produce better health outcomes, such as better “mileage” and a longer, healthier life.

We know certain foods are bad for us. These foods produce unwanted weight gain and create health issues, which equals extra stress, especially when you as a professional driver start to prepare for upcoming DOT recertification exams.

So, why do we put bad “fuel” in our body’s engine? We wouldn’t run bad fuel in our trucks. 

Here are the top reasons drivers choose unhealthy options: 

  • Fast food is convenient and cheap. 
  • It relieves the stress of finding something to eat. 
  • As a driver, I feel deprived because I’m away from home, so I feel entitled to finding something easy and tasty to eat, even if it’s not that healthy.

When we coach drivers, we ask them to make good nutritional decisions at least 50% of the time. It’s about taking small steps to equal big results. Try these simple steps to improve nutritional input.

  • Eliminate one bottle of soda per day; most have about 240 calories with 65 grams of sugar.
  • Eliminate one high-sodium food each day. This will reduce your sodium intake by about 800 mg, which adds up to 292,000 mg a year. This drastically reduces your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Examples of high-sodium foods include soups and gravies, soy sauce and other sauces, salad dressings, salami, bacon and other cured meats, pretzels, cheese puffs, popcorn, chips and other snacks, pickled foods, fast foods, table salt, etc.
  • Add one high-fiber food per day. This will reduce your risk of diabetes, help control blood sugar, assist in weight control, clean out your digestive tract, reduce your risk of stroke, help prevent IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) issues and heal skin problems. Here are a few high-fiber options: Beans, peas and legumes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, 100% whole-grain products, apples and pears, and berries.
  • Try to include a good source of protein in your morning meal. This will help “fill” you up while providing you good fuel to start the day.

Establish a Fitness Routine

The next step to staying healthy on the road — and at home — is exercise. Exercise is essential not only to maintaining a healthy weight, but exercise also supports the body’s biometric levels — blood pressure, blood glucose (or blood sugar), body mass index (BMI) and LDL cholesterol. You don’t have to be a triathlete or a marathon runner to make a difference in your body’s health. Small steps can equal big results. Take into consideration your personal fitness condition; then figure out what exercise you will do (not necessarily the one you should do). Walking even 1 mile each day, at a steady pace, can burn about 110 calories, lower stress, and increase your energy level.

Here are four steps to help you get started.

  1. PlanSit down and write down exactly what goals you want to achieve. These goals can range from weight loss to building strength and endurance, or even relieving depression.
  2. Set a goalSet realistic goals based on your environment and daily tasks. Start out with something simple and manageable. Depending on your current health condition, play it safe and make your workout times short in the beginning; always put safety first to avoid injuries. Now that you’ve set your goal, write down how you plan to get there. It’s impossible to reach goal without a roadmap. This is no different than what you do naturally every day as a driver — you map out your route and know where you are headed to pick up or deliver that next load.
  3. Get startedBegin your workout routine slowly; two to three times a week is great. To maximize your time, your workouts should consist of a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
  4. Stay motivatedThe key to long-term success, being healthy and staying the course is knowing how to motivate yourself daily. If you do the same thing every day, you will quickly reach a plateau in results. 

Adding new movements to your workout routine is important. Change your exercises every four to six weeks; otherwise, your muscles will adapt to a certain repetitive motion and will become slow to change, whether your goal is growth, weight loss, strength or endurance. Not only do your muscles need to be “shocked” every now and then, but learning new exercises also helps prevent boredom from setting in.

Don’t think of exercise as a chore; it’s an opportunity to change your life for the better. Don’t be hard on yourself if you hit a plateau, because you probably will. Instead, use that plateau to motivate you more to get past it. Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling — it’s okay to have fun while doing it. Adding a buddy to your fitness schedule will help.

Finally, never beat yourself up if you can’t work out a day, or even for a week. Whatever you can do, or have time to do, is better than nothing, so don’t stress out about it. And remember, staying fit isn’t necessarily about the exercise you SHOULD do; it’s more important to find the one you WILL do — and then stick with it.

The next step is to protect your personal “engine” from freezing up, locking up and shutting you down in the current dangerous landscape the coronavirus has created. 

Your Health Matters

Your job as a driver is tough enough without adding more challenges; it’s all about prevention. Just as you must get your rig winter-ready, you must get your body ready, not just for winter but every day year-round.

Professional CDL drivers are often at a high risk for flu and other illnesses, mainly due to personal health levels as well as the environment in which you work. The constant contact with fellow drivers, going in and out of terminals and travel centers, heightens your risk. The life of a driver means using multiple public restrooms, standing in fuel lines as others cough and sneeze around you, and using public showers on a regular basis.

Steps to Maintain a Strong Immune System

Here’s a list of suggested proactive measures we’ve put together, but remember, it’s always safe to consult your doctor.

  • Mask up, stay hydrated and wash your hands (a lot). Next, take steps to ramp up your immune system and keep it running strong to help fight off germs and viruses.
  • Take a good multivitamin. It may improve your overall well-being. Vitamins are essential for professional truck drivers due to the difficulty in finding proper nutrition from foods on the road. When taking any form of vitamins, it’s a good idea to consume them right after you eat. Many professionals recommend zinc supplements, as they may help stimulate the immune system.
  • Take extra vitamin C. It will support your immune system and could reduce the severity of a cold.
  • Utilize garlic, my favorite natural immune booster. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and one of the best forms of supporting your immune system. Don’t worry about offending others with the odor; in this case, keeping everyone at a safe distance is a blessing. Garlic is available in pill form, but pure garlic is most effective. Slice the cloves into small pill-size pieces and swallow them whole as you would a vitamin; this will not give you the aftertaste or odor that chewing will.
  • Be sure to eat in the mornings and include a good lean protein source. During the winter months, oatmeal is a great-tasting, high-protein breakfast.
  • Don’t go long periods without eating. Your system will become weak, and the immune system will lower its protection.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds multiple times a day, and wear gloves when you can.
  • Carry (and use) hand sanitizer.
  • Wipe down your steering wheel and door handles daily.
  • Always carry a clean handkerchief.
  • Exercise regularly and keep your circulation running strong. Walking is a good choice.
  • Always cover your hand with a paper towel before touching the bathroom door when exiting. Also, when possible, use your knuckles, not the palm of your hand, to push open ANY door.
  • Use the crook of your arm (the inside of your elbow) to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

The sedentary and stressful lifestyle of professional drivers, marked by poor nutrition and rest opportunities often creates poor health. As drivers age, this risk for poor health increases.  Left unaddressed, it has devastating consequences for drivers and their employers. The good news is that by learning and embracing a few simple steps, drivers can improve their wellbeing and reduce their chances of dangerous and costly health conditions.

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