Truck News


A driver’s health scare can be a wake-up call for all of us

Sometimes you will have an experience or hear of one that wakes you up to what's really important in your daily life. This was the case for me a couple of weeks ago.

Sometimes you will have an experience or hear of one that wakes you up to what’s really important in your daily life. This was the case for me a couple of weeks ago.

I came face to face with an example of how shaky life can be on the road for all of us. It is an anecdote involving a 911 call and a driver in distress.

Here’s how the story unfolded as related to me by the guys in dispatch as I prepared to leave on my last trip.

A cell phone call came in to the dispatch office that day from one of our drivers experiencing severe chest pain and shortness of breath. This was a single driver doing open board highway work and at the time of the call was on Hwy. 1 in the boondocks of Saskatchewan.

He had pulled off the road near the town of Tompkins which is about halfway between Maple Creek and Swift Current. Our dispatcher called 911 from southern Ontario and related the situation to the operator.

Within a minute of making that call our office received a call from the 911 operator in Swift Current telling them that an ambulance had been dispatched from Gull Lake and would be to our driver within 15 minutes.

About a half-hour later, our dispatcher reached the driver on his cell. He was still very much in physical pain and distressed but was in the ambulance and on his way to the hospital in Swift Current.

We all usually experience similar feelings when we hear a story like this. Our first reaction is one of concern for the person we know. Our second is often surprise that it could happen to that person, since we were just talking to them the other day and they were just fine, giving us no indication of poor health or cause for concern.

We are then often struck by how lucky we are to live in a part of the world that provides us with emergency medical care, even when we are alone and in the middle of nowhere.

The 911 emergency system is pretty incredible. Finally, we start to look at our own state of health and how we would cope in a similar situation.

There has much been written in recent years about the shorter life expectancy for truck drivers in comparison to the rest of the population. The average life expectancy for a North American male is 76 years. Truck drivers can expect to live 10 to 15 years less than that.

That’s a sobering thought. Coping with personal health issues as a truck driver is no easy task. Finding the time to exercise and maintain a routine that provides you with the rest you need to fight off fatigue is a challenge.

It’s also very much a personal choice as to how you choose to live your life.

I make no secret of the fact that I have made significant lifestyle changes over the past eight to 10 years to improve my own health. Those changes included quitting tobacco, getting some daily exercise, and eating healthier.

There has been no quick fix solution for me and it has taken a long time to break old habits and develop new ones.

As I look back, it has been well worth the effort but the temptations to indulge in “comfort” foods and to not bother to go for that daily walk or run are always there.

As I write this, I am finishing up a week of vacation time. I have been enjoying the week with my father who has made the trip from Vancouver Island to visit his kids here in Ontario.

He is 88 years young and lives every day to the fullest. As we enjoy each other’s company this week, I am reminded of why I take the time to look after my health.

I think we have the obligation to live each day to the best of our ability. We may not always succeed but we can always keep trying.

There has been a tremendous focus in our industry of late on health and lifestyle issues. As a driver myself, I believe that these lifestyle changes are the wave of the future for the industry.

I intend to buck the trend and retire as a healthy husband, father and hopefully grandfather, by the time my retirement rolls around. I’m running in my first 10-kilometre run of the summer season shortly.

Committing to an organized activity is a great motivator and it puts you in touch with others that are committed to the same healthy changes in their lives.

I’m happy to report our driver that experienced the heart attack is now in Calgary recovering from the ordeal.

-Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at can also follow him on Twitter at

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