Effective maintenance strategies involve virtually every part on a truck. There’s a good reason. Properly maintained components will always help to avoid the costs of unexpected downtime.
The health and well-being of the person behind the wheel deserves an effective maintenance strategy of its own.
When you think about it, the choices of a proper diet, exercise and other healthy habits are all known to have an effect on the likelihood of injuries and collisions that can occur over time.
Consider the difference made by the choice of food alone.
Every option can have an impact on fatigue, affect the body weights that contribute to stress-related injuries, and lead to the health issues that take workers off the job.
While the realities of the long-haul trucking industry can present a number of challenges to a driver’s health, it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road.
A choice of proper food at a truck stop is a good place to start. Canada’s Guide to Healthy Eating indicates that an adult’s daily diet should consist of five to 12 servings of grains, five to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit, two to four milk products and two to three servings of meat or alternatives.
A quick survey of any truck stop buffet will certainly identify a number of less-than-healthy options (gravy is not recognized as one of the food groups), but there are alternatives to be found. Sugary foods such as french toast can be avoided in favour of fruits, salads or oatmeal during a breakfast break.
The fatigue-inducing starches, such as a plate full of pasta, can be passed by in favour of larger servings of vegetables.
And when it comes to choosing meat, options such as fish or chicken will be better than a pile of roast beef.
The choice of snacks and drinks found in a cab will also have a dramatic impact on driver health. Foods such as fruit and granola bars will always be a better option than a bag of chips and chocolate bars.
In addition to having an impact on general health, these choices can have a direct impact on driver fatigue.
The same heavy meals that cause a driver to feel sluggish in the short term can also lead to the long-term weight problems that contribute to conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea. (Officials in the US have even mused about mandating related screening programs for all drivers).
Many drivers may even be surprised to learn that caffeinated drinks can actually work against fatigue management strategies. The same cup of coffee or tea that offers a short burst of wakefulness can have an impact on sleep patterns many hours later when it comes time to climb into the bunk.
The drinks are also classified as the diuretics that can lead to headaches and stress the heart.
Just like the choice of a proper diet, a focus on exercise can have its own dramatic influence on a driver’s health.
A commitment to walking around the truck stop or warehouse before returning to a trip will certainly help to promote better health in general. It also offers an important opportunity for stretching techniques that will help to reduce stress-related injuries.
It isn’t the only way to reduce the frequency of the latter issues.
By taking a few moments to properly adjust a seat and mirrors, drivers can play a key role in addressing back problems.
The seat, for example, should always be set so that the knees sit slightly higher than the hips.
The headrest should also be positioned so that it does not push the head forward.
Simply by pulling a wallet out of a hip pocket, a driver will also help to reduce unwanted pressure on the nerves in the legs.
When it comes time to climb out of the cab, meanwhile, it is better to adopt a three-point exit strategy rather than taking the leaps that can lead to twisted knees and broken ankles.
It is simply a matter of keeping one hand and two feet -or two hands and one foot -in contact with the vehicle at all times.
They may all seem like small steps, but they will contribute to the most important preventive maintenance strategy of all.
-This month’s expert is Evelyn Cartmill, STS senior advisor, CHRP, CRM. Evelyn has served the trucking industry for over 14 years in the areas of Human Resources, Safety and Compliance. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Markel Safety and Training Service, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers. Markel is the country’s largest trucking insurer providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry.
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