Essential Health & Wellbeing Tips for HGV Drivers
The HGV driver shortage has been making headlines across the globe for the past several months. With recruitment pressure increasing by the day and debates continuing to echo through the halls of parliament, it can be easy to forget those bearing the brunt of it all.
With a job that is high pressured at the best of times, it is more important than ever that drivers take the time to prioritize their health and wellbeing as the post-pandemic shortage continues to impact the logistics sector.
A reported 61% of HGV drivers have two or more of the following health conditions:
· High cholesterol
· Lack of physical activity
· Smoking dependency
· Six or fewer hours of sleep per 24-hour period
The SHIFT Study is an on-going longitudinal study run from Loughborough University and takes place within 24 transport depots owned by DHL within the Midlands. Key findings from the study have shown that:
‘Long-distance lorry drivers are more likely to be overweight or obese than those working in other occupations. This increases their risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and sleep disturbances. Due to the nature of their jobs, lorry drivers are faced with many barriers when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. They spend long periods of time sitting, their opportunities to be physically active while at work are limited, the food available at rest stops tends to be unhealthy, and working shifts means they get less sleep.
As a consequence of these working conditions and unhealthy lifestyle choices, lorry drivers have a lower life expectancy than the average working person. They are currently an ‘at-risk’ and underserved group in terms of health promotion efforts given the well-being of lorry drivers can directly affect the safety of other road users.’
Quick Health Tips for Drivers
Putting The Right Fuel in Your Body
As a driver, you’ll know how important it is to take good care of your vehicle and keep it maintained. Why not do the same for yourself?
Driving is a sedentary job which makes the quality of your food intake more important as eating unhealthy food will further the negative effects of inactivity. Try to avoid fast food and other junk food while you’re on the road. It can be tempting to pull into a drive-thru but most large supermarkets will have sufficient parking for your HGV, enabling you to pick up a healthier and more nutritious alternative.
Many petrol stations will have a selection of pre-made salad and fruit bowls full of slow-release carbs that keep you fuller for longer. Other filling snacks you can pick up include:
· Hummus and vegetables (like carrots or cucumbers)
· Pasta Salads
· Mixed Nuts / Berries
· Cereal Bars
If you have the time, taking your own prepared food is always the best option and is much more sustainable for your health over time. Swap the burger for a homemade chicken salad or pasta and you’ll find you have much more energy throughout the day.
Get Plenty of Rest
It’s important that everybody gets their daily recommended hours of sleep. The majority of healthy adults will need 7 – 9 hours sleep each night in order to function at their best. For HGV drivers, it’s not only recommended but essential that you make the most of your rest periods and breaks.
Working long hours with intense periods of focus makes it easy for your body to become fatigued – leading to drowsiness. Research by the AA Charitable Trust found that up to 25 % of fatal accidents are caused by drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel, so HGV drivers are responsible for making sure they keep on track of their rest and sleep times.
Keep up to date with UK and EU Drivers Hours regulations and remember that no delivery is more important than the safety of yourself and those around you.
The NHS Eatwell Guide says that adults should be drinking 6 to 8 cups or glasses of fluid a day. Water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, all count. Long working hours and intense periods of concentration can cause you to dehydrate quicker, and while it can be tempting to pick up an energy drink or sugary coffee – these drinks can actually drain your energy levels rather than boost them.
Two cups of coffee per day is acceptable for drivers to take in, however, any more may have an adverse impact on your sleep schedule. Instead, a large refillable water container to keep in your truck is a great option to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day without having to stop off anywhere.
Your body will only tell you it’s thirsty when it’s already dehydrated, so ensure you stay alert by drinking plenty at regular intervals.
Keep It Clean
The COVID-19 pandemic brought cleanliness to the forefront of everyone’s mind and made it more important than ever to regularly disinfect your personal spaces. As well as for health reasons, keeping your vehicle clean is key to having a positive headspace and mental health.
Living in a confined space can make tidying up a difficult task, but it’s important to take the time and effort to keep the inside of a vehicle clean and organized. Maintain your truck’s interior by learning how to care for it properly.
Taking the time to pick up rubbish, arrange belongings and wipe down surfaces can benefit your overall mood, health and driving performance. A well-kept cab can:
Preserve the quality of the interior
Prevent germs and bacteria from growing and spreading
Make your truck appear more professional (which can help during inspections)
Prevent distractions while driving
Exercising Body and Mind
As mentioned earlier, driving is a sedentary job and, according to a study by the National Institute for Health Research, 84% of UK drivers have an issue with being overweight or obese.
After a long day of driving, it can be tempting to just relax, sleep and unwind without having to get hot and sweaty. With just a short 15-minute workout you can get rid of daily aches, pains and stresses and give yourself an even better night’s sleep afterwards.
You might think you cannot do any exercises while in your seat, but that’s not true. You can do stretching exercises that involve muscular contractions against resistance without movement, holding for a few seconds and releasing. For example:
Isometric exercises: Place your hands on either side of the steering wheel and press in to work your chest; pull back on the steering wheel to activate your back, shoulders and arms; or place your hands on the steering wheel and push, careful to maintain good posture, to work your triceps and chest. Hold each position and pressure for 10 to 12 seconds, breathing normally
Posture and core exercises: Sit up tall, imagining that a string is pulling you up through the car roof. Bring your shoulders back and tuck your chin back so your ears are in line with your shoulders. For an extra challenge, squeeze your abs to draw your belly button as close as possible to your spine, then hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. Work up to 10 repetitions
For a more intense workout, some truck stops have gyms suitable for a quick energy release. Health Apps such as ‘7 Minute Workout’ app has users work through 12 high-intensity bodyweight exercises with 30 seconds per exercise and 10 seconds of rest between exercises. This app is great for truckers not only because of its manageable workout times, but because it relies completely on bodyweight and doesn’t require any other fitness equipment.
On your rest days, it’s also important to keep your mind active.
Audiobooks and podcasts are great for keeping you stimulated mentally while you’re driving. As long as you make sure you are connected safely through a handsfree or Bluetooth device, you can use sites such as Audible to enjoy an enormous range of audiobooks to suit everyone.
Once you’re off the road, it’s a good time to employ some brain training with the help of puzzle books such as Sudoku. This simple puzzle is popular across the world and books can often be picked up at petrol stations and supermarkets. Regularly completing Sudoku puzzles has been proven to:
· Improve concentration power
· Reduce anxiety and stress
· Improve memory
· Help you make decisions quicker
If you are a HGV driver looking for information and advice, or if you are considering a career as a driver – contact us to be connected with our expert team of Skills Coaches.
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