Drivers deserve Preventive Maintenance of their own

4 minute read

Every professional fleet manager will recognize the importance of Preventive Maintenance programs. The ongoing focus on equipment health can keep trucks running like they should, maximizing performance, reducing defects and ultimately avoiding the failures that can lead to unplanned breakdowns.

A Preventive Maintenance program that focuses on driver health can deliver benefits of its own.

Healthier drivers are simply more alert at the wheel, less prone to workplace injuries, and enjoy added protection against everything from heart attacks to diabetes. Looking at this strictly from a business perspective, these factors could reduce everything from the number of collisions to workplace injuries and the cost of medical benefits.

Of course, the realities of trucking present a number of challenges to driver health. Hours of Service rules lead to ever-changing bedtimes that can wreak havoc with circadian rhythms, which govern sleep. Truck stops, fast food outlets and convenience stores offer plenty of temptations in the form of salty, fatty foods. And every shipment can take a driver thousands of kilometres away from the treadmill in their spare bedroom.

I know. I’ve been there. As an owner-operator I faced many of these challenges, and I was losing the battle. A visit to my doctor proved that my weight was getting out of hand and I had to do something about it. Luckily, I was able to shed 30 pounds in a year and get my health back on track.

The difference can be realized with a little planning and education such as Behind the Grille – Chewing and Changing Gears, a Healthy Foods Facts Sheet, developed by a collaborative partnership between McMaster University Department of Family Medicine, the City of Hamilton Public Health Services, transport truck drivers and trucking industry representatives.

When I was taking regular trips to Calgary, for example, I found a pool and gym with plenty of truck-friendly parking next to the Saddledome Stadium. A pair of rollerblades in the bunk made it easy to explore local parks wherever my reset period was scheduled.

Parking strategies in each truck stop offered some healthy benefits of their own. Spots found well away from the front door encouraged a short walk before and after every meal. A restful sleep could even be protected by parking at the end of a row and lining up the wheels to ensure the sleeper did not sit alongside a rumbling reefer.

Sleepers can even be transformed into rolling gyms. One carrier, for example, developed a DVD that leads drivers through a series of exercise routines using a set of rubber resistance bands. The edge of a bunk becomes the exercise bench and the bands support the techniques that will improve flexibility and strength.

As important as these activities will be, they also need to be matched with the careful choice of the right fuel.

While diesel fuel has shed unwanted sulphur to protect Diesel Particulate Filters, a healthy diet needs to shed everything from unwanted sugar to fat and salt, all of which is identified on the side of every package or can.

For that matter, a close look at a typical truck stop menu will quickly identify healthier options than burgers and fries. An order of grilled fish with a side of vegetables will certainly digest much more easily than a heavy meal, especially when it has to be eaten right before climbing into the bunk. Still insist on a burger? Lettuce and tomato will obviously be healthier than a layer of bacon or cheese. And an egg sandwich on a whole grain English muffin or bagel could probably do without the added sausage patty or cheese.

Snacks deserve some attention of their own. Protein-laden options like granola bars will always offer more lasting energy than the chocolate bars found on the same rack of a convenience store. Those looking for a crunchy snack may even want to try a mixture of unsalted almonds, dried fruit and whole grain cereal. There can even be differences between one healthy snack and the next. A Greek-style yogurt, for example, usually offers twice the protein found in another yogurt.

Any sleeper could easily be stocked with healthy options such as canned tuna, bananas and apples. Those who cross the border will simply want to keep the stickers on any fruit to prove its point of origin.

It is just one other step to consider in the trip planning process, but it may play a key role in the most important Preventive Maintenance program of all.