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What About Drivers?

By on September 1, 2018

Truck & Trailer Maintenance Critical to Success

By: Siphiwe Baleka, Founder, Fitness Trucking

Imagine if America’s Space Agency, NASA, sent astronauts into outer space without specific training in the effects of zero gravity and without giving them space suits. That would be very bad for the astronauts and NASA as well.

But that’s exactly what many in the trucking industry are doing—sending good men and women into an environment, with well-known health risks without giving them any training or protection. Consider the environment of long-haul OTR drivers:

  • Living in a box
  • No access to a kitchen
  • Food storage limitations
  • Limited access to farmers’ markets
  • Limited access to gyms

Meanwhile, statistics for OTR drivers reveal that trucking is among the unhealthiest occupations in America.

  • Highest rate of obesity, 69%
  • Highest rate of metabolic syndrome
  • Lowest life expectancy, 10-15 years less than the average North American male
  • High number of premature fatalities

To obtain a CDL, a driver must learn a lot of information about truck and trailer care and maintenance. Drivers are issued manuals containing rules and regulations published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Drivers must learn how to conduct a pre-trip inspection and operate the truck safely. Schools, training programs, computer-based training modules, online material, and a host of other resources are available to drivers. However, of the three main components—tractor, trailer, and driver—which one is the most important? The driver, of course! 

Shortcomings of Driver Training

Most drivers receive scant, if any, proper training about taking care of themselves while pursuing a career in the trucking industry. The topic is a lot more complicated than saying, “Eat right and exercise.” Frequently, drivers’ schedules are erratic. Sometimes, you’re driving during the day, sometimes driving at night, other times not driving at all. Meanwhile, when a driver does sleep, often it is interrupted by appointment calls, having to pay a lumper, or walk in your bills, various alarms, movement from getting loaded and unloaded, and most of all, having to go to the bathroom! Most drivers are not educated about how the irregular hours, changing schedules, and interrupted sleep will disrupt their circadian rhythms.

What are Circadian Rhythms?

Your body is in constant communication with the environment. For example, when the sun sets and the light levels, atmospheric pressure, and temperature change, they send signals to your body that it also needs to change, to remain in harmony with the environment. These natural or “divine” instructions from the environment cause your body to secrete hormones like melatonin and serotonin that alter your body’s biochemistry.

These hormones make you feel relaxed and cause you to fall asleep. However, if you have a load that delivers early in the morning, and it is only midnight and you have two hundred more miles to drive, do you shut down? No. In fact, you do whatever you can to ignore and override those signals telling you to sleep to be healthy! The more you do this, the more you disrupt the system for regulating your health! After a year, the circadian rhythm can become dysfunctional.

Add Impact of Hormones

That’s just the beginning! The hormones that regulate metabolism are called serum leptin and ghrelin. These hormones are produced during sleep. Once your circadian rhythms become dysfunctional and you accumulate sleep deprivation, the production of serum leptin and ghrelin is disrupted, and your metabolism also becomes dysfunctional. 

When that happens, the result is one of two things. You don’t receive the signal that you’re hungry, so you skip meals and only eat once or twice a day. That in turn causes the metabolism to be in the “off” mode, since it has no food to digest during most of the day, and the body simply stores fat. Conversely, you don’t receive the signal you’re full, so you feel hungry all the time and eat to fight driver fatigue and consume excessive portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This over eating is the result of hormones, not lack of will power or gluttony. In both cases, you can store fat and gain weight.

“…take control of your metabolism, turn it on and keep it on, so your body burns fat while you’re driving.”

But did anyone tell you that within the first year of your driving career, both your circadian rhythms and metabolism would become dysfunctional? Did anyone provide education about what you can do to protect yourself?

Fortunately, you can manually take control of your metabolism, turn it on and keep it on, so your body burns fat while you’re driving. This is what I have been teaching drivers to do for the past five years. My training program is now being taught at carriers and school bus companies and hopefully, the industry will make it a requirement for obtaining a CDL, so that no driver is sent out like the astronaut without a space suit.

To learn more about controlling your metabolism and keeping it functional during your driving career, get the book 4 Minute Fit. It was written to be the training manual for driver care. You can also watch informative instructional videos at TruckerTerritory.ProgressiveCommercial.com/truck-fit/.

About Warren Eulgen

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