Crashes involving trucks are a daily reality, with anything from fatigue to driving under the influence of alcohol being cited as the cause. Long haul drivers are subjected to challenging conditions, under pressure to meet deadlines, work efficiently despite weather and road conditions.
Chris Barry, MD of HCV (Commercial Vehicle Underwriting) says that tired and overworked drivers are often the cause of collisions but they can take steps to improve their health and better equip themselves to deal with the stresses and fatigue of a long haul drive.
“Many companies offer wellness programmes but it’s up to the individual as well to control their own health and well-being,” says Barry.
Here are a few tips from HCV to maintaining a healthier lifestyle on the road.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Eating correctly is the first step to overall health. Chips, chocolates, sweets and fast-food may be the easy choice but they will only make you feel sluggish and tired throughout the day. Ditch the junk and opt for healthier snacks like fruit, vegetables, or even a few brown bread sandwiches with healthy fillings to boost your energy and help you stay focused.
Lose the booze
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol lowers your ability to concentrate on tasks and keep your train of thought. If you do drink alcohol, never drive under the influence and make sure you keep it to no more than 14 units (one unit = 250ml of a 4% beer – note this isn’t a can of beer which is 330ml) a week.
When you’re behind the wheel, you’re seated for long stretches. It’s really important to exercise regularly in order to keep fit and maintain a higher energy level. Exercise will also help prevent certain illnesses and diseases. Taking a brisk walk around your truck a few times may help with circulation. During this break you can inspect your truck and ensure that everything is in order and as per regulation. This way you are up to date on safety checks and you’ve squeezed some much needed exercise in one go.
Focusing on the road for long periods of time is exhausting, so it’s important to get as much rest as you can, when you can, to avoid fatigue while behind the wheel. Aim for six to eight hours of sleep a night, making sure to switch off cellphones and cutting off as much light as possible for a restful night’s sleep.
Make regular stops
Find a safe spot to pull over or, better yet, pull into a rest stop when you start to feel tired and take at least 10 minute rest. Take a walk and stretch your legs. A great way to get your blood flowing is to touch your toes and hold this position for a few seconds at a time.
Crack open a window
The cab can get stuffy over a long-haul drive – especially in winter with the heater on. Before you start to feel a little drowsy, roll down the window and take a few deep breaths of the fresh, cool air. This will help wake you up until you reach a safe place to stop for a break.
Drinking too much coffee or sugary, caffeinated energy drinks while driving long distances does more harm than good, severely depleting energy levels and causing your energy levels to ‘crash’ shortly after you finish the drink. Have the occasional coffee to stay alert, but try to drink chilled water to keep your mind and body fresh while in transit.
Switch on the radio
Listening to music or talk radio stations keeps you alert. Remember to keep the volume loud enough to hear, but not too loud, to make sure you can still hear what’s going on around you.
Most importantly, these tips are just a guideline. If you are experiencing excessive fatigue, rest is the most important solution. HCV works with its clients to help truck drivers learn the best ways to manage the demands of long-haul driving, helping protect the drivers and other road users from the common pitfalls encountered by the trucking industry.
Driver Health Aids
FleetWatch has long supported the quest to improve Driver Health. There are many programmes that can assist a driver control his health from eyesight check, blood pressure, diabetes, and so on – companies and drivers are urged to make use of such programmes such as those offered by Trucking Wellness, and Wellness Days offered by Engen in conjunction with Trucking Wellness.
FleetWatch has a number of posters and booklets such as Sharing the Roads in Harmony, the Engen Driver Health Book, Driver Management book and our Driver packs – all geared to assisting the operator and driver to be manage driver health in a more constructive way.
Download Engen Driver Health Book click below. Copyright.