Recognizing and Preventing Depression in Truck Drivers

All too often, the reality of life on the open road does not measure up to a driver’s expectations. Many new drivers are lured into the field with promises of big money, time at home, paid time off and on-the-job training. Once the newness of the job has worn off, however, reality begins to take a toll on a driver’s mental health.

Hardships of Over The Road Driving

In truth, driving a semi truck full time is an incredibly difficult job. The term “road warriors” is very fitting once the hardships are factored in. Depression in truck drivers can be the end result for many who are unprepared for the realities of life in an 18-wheeler. Some of these hardships include:

  1. Loneliness – The life of a trucker is lonely and solitary as drivers spend hundreds of thousands of miles each year behind the wheel. Yes, Bluetooth headsets enable drivers to reach out to family and friends and chat as they make their way across the state or country, but when each phone call is over, the driver may still feel isolated.
  2. Lower than expected pay – Many drivers have taken on this type of job in an effort to help with bills at home. When they find out that their pay is not as much as they were promised, many drivers feel trapped in a career choice that they do not know how to get out of.
  3. Poor nutrition – Studies about the link between nutrition and mental health have been performed for years and findings usually state that eating less nutritious foods leads to declining mental health of truck drivers and feelings of overall happiness. Drivers who spend much of their time on the road have a difficult time eating healthy foods, and may have more depression because of it.
  4. Feeling of powerlessness – Though many drivers are in the job to help out with expenses at home, they often feel as if they cannot do enough from the driver’s seat to actually help with things that are going on at home. When they find that loved ones are ill, that cars have broken down or that there is a home repair waiting to be done, these feelings of powerlessness can build to an uncomfortable level.
  5. Ongoing stress – There are many stressors that come along with a trucking job. From government regulations, schedule changes and logbook rules to other drivers on the road who are not paying attention or seem to hate all semis. Finding ways to manage these stress levels in the cab of a truck can be difficult if not impossible.
  6. Irregular sleep schedule – New logbook regulations create an irregular schedule for most drivers on the road today. Instead of being able to stop and sleep when they feel drowsy, many are required to keep on driving in order to get the maximum number of driving hours allowed by law. Day and night are no longer taken into consideration, only the computer in the truck that tells a driver when they may and may not be driving. Unfortunately, this disruption of circadian rhythms has also been linked to depression.

Ways to Prevent Depression

Truck drivers and employers who understand and are willing to address the possibility of depression for over the road drivers can often make changes that help to prevent the dark cloud from settling in the cab of the truck in the first place.

One thing that can help drivers is a sense of community within the trucking industry, and with the benefit of the internet, finding a community can be as easy as the click of a mouse. Some companies work to keep drivers talking and connecting based on age group, experience or route similarities. Other companies have found that pairing an older driver with a younger driver, even if they drive different vehicles, can form a mutually beneficial teacher–student relationship. There are many driver forums available on the internet where drivers, in their downtime, can ask questions, tell about the hardest part of their day or just chat with someone who understands.

Having healthier eating habits can help drivers fight depression as well. Employers can help in this effort by making sure each semi has a working refrigerator and microwave, so drivers will not feel fatty truck stop food is their only option. Some employers even host incentive programs based on healthy eating options or weight loss among a group of drivers.

Exercise might be the very last thing on a driver’s mind, but getting regular exercise has been proven to be effective in fighting depression. Trucking companies should have exercise facilities available at the hub offices and should take time to train drivers on how to get exercise when they are not at the hub. Some drivers carry a bike so they can take a short ride when time allows while others keep a set of exercise bands in the truck so they can stretch and get some exercise before they go to sleep.

Realizing that depression among truckers is a very common problem is the first step in helping to find a cure. Employers and drivers who work together are sure to find a solution that benefits everyone involved.

Do You Carry the Right Tools for Getting Your Semi Unstuck?

If your loads are always delivered to well-paved parking lots, chances are good that you never need to worry about getting your semi unstuck. Sadly, any trucker who’s been in the industry for more than a few weeks knows that smooth, well-paved lots and yards are not always the norm. Instead, drivers of 18 wheelers encounter many unexpected driving surfaces from soft mud and gravel to snow and ice.

Be Able to Identify a Potential Hazard Spot

Any driver who has managed to get their rig stuck would be the first to tell others to avoid this at all costs. A semi truck stuck in mud can cost the driver hours of stress and unpaid labor and may still result in the need for an expensive service-truck callout. Being able to identify and avoid places where a semi might get stuck is the first and most important step in avoiding them. Some places truck drivers should avoid, if possible, include:

  • Muddy lots
  • Any driving surface with soft sand
  • A yard with ice or snow
  • Loose gravel

Anytime drivers question the firmness of a parking lot or delivery site they should park the truck and take a stroll in order to test the safety of the driving area. Sadly, being able to identify possible hazards does not always mean that a trucker can completely avoid them. Many drivers in colder climates know that the chances of finding a well-plowed place to park and sleep at night are slim to none. At other times, drivers may pull up to a delivery address to find that the entire lot is under construction and is covered in mud, sand or loose gravel. Skipping out on the delivery to avoid getting stuck is just not an option.

Carrying the Right Tools

There is a certain peace of mind that comes with being prepared for any occasion. This is especially true if you know, as most truckers do, that money is made when the wheels are turning. On rare occasions where a parking lot or job site is not ideal, knowing how to get an 18-wheeler unstuck and having the right tools can save both time and money. Following is a list of tools that can be carried easily in any 18-wheeler.

  1. Heavy-duty chain – Truckers know that calling a tow truck or service truck is expensive and time consuming. Those who carry a heavy-duty chain with them may be able to ask a fellow truck driver for a quick pull in order to get unstuck.
  2. Shovel – Though the thought of digging a semi truck out with a shovel might be overwhelming, there are certainly times when a shovel can help free a tractor trailer stuck in mud. A shovel can assist in moving ice or loose sand, or can be just the right tool for a driver who needs to add a dry material such as dirt or ashes to the area just under the wheels for additional traction.
  3. Tire chains – Though chains are not always required, especially in warm-weather areas, it is always a good idea to keep a set stored in the truck. Not only do they come in handy when driving on snow or ice, they can give much-needed traction in mud or sand.
  4. Traction aids – There are many traction aids available that can be easily carried in the cargo compartment of a semi. Tire claws and traction jack boards are only a few. While it may cost a little bit to outfit your rig with these items, they can save a lot more money down the road when you don’t have to call for a tow truck.
  5. Rock Salt – Having a 5-10 lb. bag of rock salt in the semi can also help in case a trucker is stuck on ice an unable to free the rig.

By having these items easily available, truck drivers are able to get on the road more quickly and get back to earning.

Know Your Rig

Knowing and understanding the vehicle you drive is a must for all drivers, but those who drive 18-wheelers can really benefit from a little additional knowledge.  For instance, drivers who understand that tires heat up as they are rolling down the road may also understand the importance of letting the tires cool down, then rocking their entire tractor trailer forward and back a few times so that the snow or ice which has melted around the warm tire will not freeze the vehicle into that spot come morning.

The more steps a truck driver can take to be prepared before getting into a sticky situation, the better. A few tools carried in the cargo box can make all the difference.

Tools Every Truck Driver Needs On the Road

In their quest to make their deliveries and keep clients happy, truck drivers have to make sure they bring everything they need to keep their operation, truck and health going strong while out on the open road. There’s a lot that can go into a truck driver’s toolkit, but knowing the most important items goes a long way in saving room, time and potentially even money along with the trucking company’s reputation.

High-Quality Sunglasses

New truck drivers might not realize how being exposed to abundant sunlight for long period of time can have a negative effect on their driving abilities. Sunglasses are essential tools for truck drivers, mainly because they keep them from getting headaches, becoming tired and straining their eyes, which can lead to more problems later on. Because shades are likely to break or become lost, it’s a good idea to buy more than one pair at a time for quick and easy access in case the current pair becomes damaged while out on the road.

Flashlight

The exact opposite of sunlight, darkness can also prove problematic for drivers. A good flashlight helps drivers see better at night, inspect their trucks while stopped after the sun goes down and feel safe. Drivers will have several different flashlights to choose from, including shake flashlights. In any case, it’s best to have plenty of batteries available.

Backup Smartphone

While everyone has a smartphone, it’s especially important that truck drivers have backup smartphones with them as part of their must-have truck tools. It’s also worth considering having a phone devoted specifically for trucking. Trucking phones should have high-definition cameras to take images of or scan important documents, and apps designed to improve productivity as well as find great prices on fuel. Some truckers might prefer to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives, and having two different phones can go a long way in achieving this goal.

Utility Knife

Utility and pocket knives are great for a number of uses both on and off the road. Twine can be cut from a haul, and drivers can also use the blade of a knife to take tire tread depth measurements.

GPS Navigation

This one might seem obvious, but it’s important to point out here that any GPS navigation devices truckers buy to add to their truck driver tools should be made specifically for OTR truck drivers rather than passenger automobiles. It’s also best to opt for devices with high-quality maps that are upgraded on a constant basis to account for things like construction, traffic jams, road closures and the like.

Work Gloves

There’s more to truck driving than just sitting behind the wheel; it can also be quite physically demanding work. For that reason, drivers should have a good pair of work gloves with them at all times. Cowboy gloves are a good option for protecting the hands and making work easier.

Mallet & Hammer

Along with a utility knife, a mallet and hammer can also make a truck driver’s job that much easier and more efficient. Not only can the combination be used alone, it can be used with other tools as well. And speaking of tools…

Spare Parts

Even a well-tended truck can have its share of problems while on the open road. Having such spare parts as air/fuel lines, liquid wrench, antifreeze, bulbs, fuses and brake fluid can take care of emergency fixes and help with on-the-road maintenance.

Spanners

Besides adjustable spanners, oil filter spanners are also good to have in a trucker’s arsenal. That being said, long-haul drivers might find they’re better off with metric and complete US spanner sets. It never hurts to complete the collection by adding socket spanners as well.

Cash

While truck drivers might know where the physical road takes them, there’s no guarantee where the road of life will take them. That’s why it’s a good idea to have physical cash on hand; you never know when a card reader will go down or the nearest ATM is several miles away. Having a couple hundred dollars in physical cash is sure to come in handy sooner or later.

Water

Don’t find out the hard way how much the price of bottled water can fluctuate between different states. Besides the price difference, it’s also a good idea to have water on hand to stay properly hydrated.

Slow Cooker

It doesn’t hurt to have a slow cooker while on the road. Healthy meals aren’t always within easy reach while traveling, but that doesn’t mean drivers have to do without or settle for poor-quality food. Having a slow cooker makes it easy to not only eat healthily, but eat when you want to rather than having to wait to pass a place you like.

Truck driving can be that much more satisfying with the right equipment and tools. Before you set out on the road again, make sure you have these packed and ready to go.

You Can Run A Successful Trucking Company: Here’s How

If you’re a truck driver thinking of starting your own business, or if you just have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to start your own trucking company, you’ll want to proceed the right way. While there’s certainly much to be gained by having your own business, you’ll want to have the right info for starting a successful trucking company rather than a company that’s destined to be an expensive failure.

Make Sure You Have Quality Equipment

No matter how great of a business plan, name or location you have, you’ll need to have it all backed up with the right equipment as you learn how to run a trucking company. Once you’ve compiled a list of all the equipment your company will need, you’ve got to decide whether you’ll be better off renting it all or buying it outright. While buying equipment guarantees you’ll be the owner, you might prefer to lease equipment that’s bound to become obsolete in the next few years. There’s also the fact that you might not be in a financial position to buy what you need, especially if you hope to grow your trucking company as much and as soon as possible.

Identify Your Customer Base

After you’ve decided how to take care of your equipment needs, it’s time to turn your attention to finding customers to deliver to and work with. Load boards are most certainly a great place to start while getting your feet wet, but one of the main problems with these boards is that you’ll probably have to be the lowest bidder. There’s also the fact that you’ll find load boards are quite competitive, making it hard for a new business like yours to get a good foothold.

You’ll be better off splitting your time and focus between load boards and making sales calls to find customers on your own and start forging relationships and business connections that way. Once you’ve managed to prove yourself to customers through sales calls and solid customer service, you could find you no longer need to even think about looking at load boards.

Learn How to Bid and Handle Common Expenses

When it comes to biding, you’ve got to learn how to find the balance between offering customers a good deal and actually making money. This is likely to take some getting used to, so give yourself plenty of time when you’re first getting started.

To help strike an equilibrium, get to know your expenses. For instance, how much do common truck repairs cost? If there are any trucks that will soon need maintenance, how much do you think that will cost? What do fuel prices look like right now, and how might they change in the future? You might also have to charge more depending on where you deliver and how difficult it is to get to your final destination. Always have enough for unexpected emergencies, because there are bound to be more than a few when you least expect or want them.

Don’t Forget About the Back Office

What happens in the background of your business operation is just as vital as what’s going on in the foreground. If your trucking company has more than one employee, you might need office space to keep things running smoothly. If so, decide the size of office you’ll need to accommodate the size of your business, the office equipment you’ll require and what needs to take place in the office.

Should your business grow large enough, you may have to bring on additional employees, like a secretary. Be sure to account for this in your business plan as well as your expenses. In addition to paying a salary, you also have to think about taxes, benefits and the like. Even if you’re just getting started as a single owner-operator trucking company, it won’t hurt to do some research to see what you’ll be expected to handle should you decide to expand.

Anticipate Cash Flow Problems

Even when business is booming, there’s always a chance your business will bust in the future. Rather than wait for that to happen, go ahead and start planning for it now. Something else to consider is the fact that just because you deliver something today doesn’t mean you’ll get paid for it anytime soon; you might have to wait as many as 90 days to receive payment, which can throw your cash flow off track.

Look into freight factoring as a way to keep cash flowing in while still allowing your customers to pay in 40, 60 or more days. This gives everyone the best of both worlds without ruffling any feathers.

There’s a lot to being the owner of any kind of business, but there are special considerations to make when it comes to owning a truck company. Be sure to keep the above info in mind as you get started.

Owner Operator Semi-Truck Financing

Getting a loan on a commercial vehicle can be a complex process. Lenders tend to be more lenient with semi truck loans, because the vehicle possesses high collateral value and is typically only used for business purposes. However, getting semi truck financing isn’t going to be a walk in the park either. You will need to show the commercial lender that you can make loan payments. Here are six things you can do to improve your chances of getting commercial truck financing:

1. Have a registered business.

Most states require an LLC or corporation to register through the Secretary of State. If  you are a sole proprietor, you should be able to show business income through your taxes. As a new sole proprietor, you may want to get an employer identification number (EIN) or have a doing business as (DBA) name. Your lender may also want you to have a CDL, a Motor Carrier (MC) number and USDOT number. Some lenders want to see some experience, at least two years, in the industry.

2. Work on your personal credit.

For new owner operator financing, you may need to have a personal credit score of 600 or more to qualify for financing. If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you may have a little more leeway. As a sole proprietor, you are probably relying more on your personal credit than your business credit. The higher your score, the better chances you have to qualify for a loan and for a lower down payment.

If you have a lower credit score, you may want to find a co-signer or work on your credit score before applying for a loan. If you are behind on child support, have had a recent bankruptcy or repossession or have a tax lien, the lender may refuse financing. Take care of your finances before applying for a commercial loan.

3. Find a good truck to buy.

The lender may have specific requirements about the truck, for example, it may need to be less than 10 years old, or have less than 700k miles on it. This is to protect their investment as well as your business. Older trucks break down more frequently. The collateral value isn’t as high. However, provided the truck is in good condition, it’s easier today to purchase the truck through a private party or even an auction. Generally, you will need this information

  • Make, model, year and mileage
  • Serial number
  • Pictures of the truck
  • Condition report
  • Specifications of the sale, the seller, new or used truck, etc.
  • Check with the lender for everything you need to finalize the purchase

4. You will need money for a down payment and cash reserves.

Most of the time, you won’t qualify for 100 percent financing. Having a down payment of 10 to 30 percent will reduce your loan payment quite a bit and make the lender feel more confident in your ability to repay the loan. Your lender may also want to see a cash reserve of one to three months to cover repairs, insurance and expenses in case you have a slow month. It makes good business sense to have a little extra in the bank. You never know when you may have to wait for payment or have to take time off because you have the flu. Unexpected things can often upset your finances more than you realize.

5. Have insurance lined up.

Generally, you will need insurance to cover the truck before lender releases the money to pay for the truck. The type of insurance your business requires will depend on many factors, as does the cost of insurance. Make sure you have a policy lined up while you’re working with lenders.

6. Work with your lender.

Traditionally, owner operator loans were only available through financial institutions, such as banks or credit unions, but there are many more lenders in the marketplace today. Many online lenders have almost instant credit decisions, allowing you to have more options for commercial truck loans.

You may want to consider each company carefully before applying. First, lenders may have different qualification requirements. They may also specialize in different types of loans or only work with certain leases. Every lease application can affect your personal credit. Do your research first. Don’t just take the first approval you get. Read all the terms and conditions of the loan application before signing.

Enjoy Financial Freedom

Owning any type of business doesn’t mean that you will be free from responsibilities. You may not have a boss looking over your shoulder any longer, but your stakeholders will be expecting you to make payments on time. However, when you purchase your own new or used semi truck, you are on track to having financial independence. It will take hard work, but you can do it. Just make sure you take the time to understand the requirements of owning your own truck.

Best Tips for New Truck Drivers

The trucking industry is booming in the United States. Being a truck driver has a lot of rewards, but it can also be quite stressful and overwhelming in the first few months as you learn how to do everything that is required of you. Even experienced drivers hit curbs or miss a turn, but they know how to avoid turning that small mistake into a larger one. We’d like to offer these new truck driver tips to help you make the most of your new career. Here are some of the most common rookie truck driver mistakes:

Being Unorganized

One of the most common rookie truck driver mistakes is neglecting your paperwork, mismanaging your time and not handling money wisely. When you are unorganized, it leads to stress and frustration which can definitely affect your driving.

  • Know the rules that affect your hours of service. Plan for rest stops and breaks before you get out on the road.
  • Make sure you understand the regulations on your current load.
  • Do your paperwork as you go. Don’t try to remember it at the end of the week. Spending 15 to 20 minutes every day handling the paperwork ensures you get paid on time and avoid hefty fines for not having an up-to-date logbook.
  • Track expenses. Save receipts. Keep your cab clean and tidy. Have all paperwork for the current load at the ready to provide it when it’s needed.

Getting Lost

You’d be surprised how many truck drivers get lost on their first few runs. When you’re in the cab, it’s easy to miss exit signs or signs that alert you to a truck-only route. You have a lot on your plate, but if you do take a wrong turn, the worst thing you can do is to panic. The mistake isn’t necessarily in getting lost, but in how you handle finding the right route. Instead, stay calm and be prepared to get out of the situation.

  • Find a safe place to pull over
  • Check the GPS and make sure the address is entered correctly
  • Call the company and ask for directions once you can describe where you are
  • Get on the CB radio and ask for help

Avoid getting lost by not relying on just the navigation system to get you where you need to go. Google Maps won’t always tell you about truck-restricted routes or low bridges. Use a motor carriers’ road atlas to plan your route in advance. As a driver, you have to be efficient while considering practical routes for your larger vehicle.

Not Taking Care of Yourself

As with any job, you may have to work when you’re tired of stressed, but as a truck driver, you are handling tons of equipment and product on the road. Dispatchers, family issues, law enforcement, fatigue and weather changes can all lead to catastrophes with devastating results if you lose your cool. You have to take care of yourself by taking breaks and sleeping adequately on those breaks. No assignment is worth an accident.

Take care of your health with these newbie truck driver tips

  • Don’t abuse caffeine or energy drinks. In a pinch, they can keep you going for a little while, but when the effects wear off, you will figuratively crash.
  • When you take breaks, use them to take care of yourself. Stretch your legs by taking a walk. Take a shower. Get sleep. As a driver, you are expected to keep your blood pressure within healthy guidelines. You can’t do that without taking care of yourself.
  • Eat well. Shop at the grocery store for fresh fruit and healthy snacks to pack in the cab with you. When you do eat at a restaurant, choose lean meats that are broiled or grilled, not fried or sautéed. Ask for salads and vegetables instead of French fries and starches. Better nutrition makes you feel better and more alert.
  • Face it, you may get homesick. Have a way to deal with those feelings. Ask your family to make videos that help you keep up with what your kids are doing. Call your friends and family when you have time. Focus on your goals, much like an athlete does when they’re training. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

Not Asking for Help

So many people avoid using the resources available to them, but as a truck driver, you need to know when to ask for assistance and use the information that your company is giving you. The safety department in the organization is not an enemy. The safety officers are just as concerned with your success as you are. Your dispatcher may not be happy when you are running late, but it’s better to keep them informed than to try and pull the wool over their eyes. Ask for help when you need it. Always thank people for information and advice, even if you disagree. You never know when you may run into that person again. Be gracious and leave a good impression.

Defensive Truck Driving Fundamentals | Trucking Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents consistently rank in the top three causes of death each year for every age group. Many people are scared of flying, but the real danger in today’s world is actually driving or riding in a car. Defensive driving isn’t just a class that people take after they get a ticket. Defensive driving tactics are ways to prevent accidents from occurring. When you consider that 1 in 4 fatal work injuries involves a vehicle accident, you can see why commercial vehicle defense driving is so important to your business.

One key element in defensive truck driving is to be aware. Distracted driving is one of the biggest reasons people get into accidents. Commercial vehicles are often much heavier and larger than standard vehicles. It takes more control and more time to handle your vehicle. You cannot control what any other driver does. But you can be defensive in your own driving.

Be Prepared

Before you ever get into your vehicle, you should make certain that it is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit with you, medical supplies, water, a blanket and other items that are important to your survival if you are in an accident. Know the conditions of the places where you’ll be driving. It’s much different driving through a sand storm in Arizona than in the mountains in Kentucky. But don’t stop there.

On the road, stay alert:

  • Make note of safe areas where you escape potential accidents
  • When you spot dangerous behaviors of another driver, remove yourself from their vicinity. Change lanes, slow down, speed up and move around them if it’s safe.
  • Use a technique known as “high eyes driving.” Don’t fixate on the car in front of you. Look at the road horizon to know what’s up ahead. This will give you ample time to react if there is an emergency ahead of you.
  • Minimize lane changes. A driver who stays in his or her own lane at a steady speed will rarely experience a rear end accident. The most common accidents occur when vehicles change lanes.

Avoid Road Rage

Even calm and reasonable people can get frustrated on the road. If you’re worried about meeting deadlines or are subjected to another driver’s bad driving, it can make you uneasy. Don’t give in to temptation and try to teach the other driver a lesson when you see someone behaving dangerously on the road. When you get stressed, put in music to help you relax. Contact your dispatcher to explain the situation. Remember your limitations. It’s better to be a little late than to get in an accident or even get a traffic ticket. Stay calm and don’t give in to your emotions when you’re on the road.

Create Space Around You

When driving at high speeds, you need to give other drivers plenty of space. Don’t tailgate other drivers. In bad weather, make sure to give extra room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Slow down when a driver cuts in front of you. It might be frustrating, but it’s better than rear-ending another car.

Keep Other Vehicles in Your Sight

As a commercial vehicle, you are probably very visible to other drivers. However, the same cannot be said of them. Install mirrors on your vehicle to avoid blind spots. Not every driver on the road realizes that you may not be able to see them. Don’t make sudden lane changes or exit without signaling. You have to drive defensively to avoid accidents.

Know When and How to Swerve

Sometimes, you have to make quick judgements to avoid a deer in the road or run into another car. Understand that you may have to kill an animal to prevent humans from being injured. Know how to handle the vehicle if you do have to swerve to avoid an accident. When you swerve, you need to correct your vehicle to avoid ending up on the side of the road. Take a defensive driving class that lets you practice handling your vehicle under hazardous conditions.

Avoid Driving Impairments

As a commercial driver, you are aware that drinking or using illicit drugs will get your licensed revoked. However, there are other impairments you may not think about. Some over-the-counter medicines can cause drowsiness, such as antihistamines, cold and flu medications and even antidiarrheals. Combining some medications can also cause your driving to be impaired. Don’t do any activity that takes your eyes and ears away from the road. Eating, drinking, talking on the phone and changing the radio station are considered distractions. And focus on the road when you see an accident. Turning your head away to glance at the damage can leave you vulnerable to another accident.

Defensive driving is really about focusing on the road and other drivers while you’re in the vehicle. Something all drivers should be doing anyway. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on them. You can only control your own vehicle.

How to Lower Blood Pressure for DOT Physical

High blood pressure is a common condition that many Americans deal with. Blood pressure is the measure of the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the amount of resistance in your arteries. As you pump more blood through narrower arteries, blood pressure increases.

Considered a silent disease, as there may be no symptoms of the condition, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke. Your arteries become weakened due to the constant pressure of blood flowing through them, leading to kidney failure, damage to the blood vessels in the eyes and fluid backup in the lungs.

Blood Pressure and Your DOT Physical

Truck drivers are required to have blood pressure under 140/90. The medical examiner electronically transmits the result of your physical to the DOT. Instead of stressing over your blood pressure before a physical, it’s best to address and find ways to keep it lower, not only for your livelihood but for your overall health.

Drivers with blood pressure over 140/90 can still get certified to drive, but the certification will only be for 1 year or less depending on the level of hypertension. To keep your certification, your blood pressure will have to be below 140/90 or you will be disqualified to drive. You can lower your blood pressure with medication, through lifestyle changes or both.

Here are some short-term ways to reduce your blood pressure:

  • Drink water instead of soda, coffee and juice. Water lowers your sodium levels, which contribute to high blood pressure. Coffee is known to increase blood pressure.
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Increase your intake of potassium. Bananas, oranges, carrots and leafy greens are packed with potassium.
  • Reduce your stress. Meditate. Take deep breaths.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – or DASH diet can give you some good guidelines. Reduce the amount of salt you eat. Beet juice has been shown to measurably reduce blood pressure.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

While these steps may lower your blood pressure for DOT physical, you still have to address the long-term effects of your career. Sitting in one place for long periods of time can negatively affect your health, not only increasing your risk of high blood pressure but also diabetes and cancer. Whether or you not you are diagnosed with hypertension at your DOT physical, you have to take steps to take care of your health. You’ll be more alert, faster and more efficient.

Exercise and lose weight

Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart. This lowers your blood pressure because it takes less effort to pump blood when your heart is stronger. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination each week. That’s 30 minutes each day, give or take a couple.

Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, your heart works harder to pump blood through the arteries. Even a modest loss of 5 to 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.

Eat healthier

It’s not easy to eat healthy on the road unless you plan ahead. Pack your cooler with fresh meals made with lean cuts of meat and lots of vegetables. Keep fruit and fresh veggies on hand for snacking.

When you do eat fast-food or at a diner, choose grilled or baked fish and chicken over fried. Go for the salad bar and load up on spinach, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. Opt for a low-cal salad dressing. Skip the French fries and get broccoli or roasted potatoes.

Drink water. Making sure you are hydrated keeps your hypertension under control. It also benefits every system in your body. Watch your caffeine intake. Limit sugary drinks for your heart’s sake.

Don’t smoke

When you smoke, it temporarily raises your blood pressure putting stress on your cardiovascular system. Premature deaths caused by smoking are the most preventable death in the United States. It only takes seven days for nicotine to leave your system when you stop smoking. You can deal with the physical aspect of quitting. To deal with the psychological triggers, such as boredom or smoking after dinner, you will need to make a plan to replace smoking with something else. You can do it.

Get enough sleep

Regular, deep sleep plays a part in lowering your blood pressure. Eating healthier and exercise are conducive to sleep, but if you’re struggling with sleep, try blocking out light and sound or investing in a better mattress. Use your downtime to take care of yourself. You deserve it.

Limit your alcohol intake

Even though you may not have many opportunities to drink because of your job, when you’re off-the-clock, you shouldn’t binge on alcohol. One drinking session can increase your blood pressure temporarily, putting unnecessary stress on your heart. Repeated binge drinking is a precursor to hypertension.

Winter Preparedness Checklist

During cold conditions, your business’s equipment is stressed. It’s not just your heating system, but the electrical, the windows and plumbing can all be affected by the cold. Use this checklist to prepare your business for brutal winter conditions.

Trucking companies need to be especially cautious and ready when the winter weather hits. There are simple steps you can take to prepare your fleet for winter driving and help avoid issues like frozen truck brakes.

Protect Your Business During a Cold Snap

When your business faces extreme temperatures, winter weather preparedness is very important. Preparing for winter season includes taking care of your building and your employees:

  • Have a chain of accountability within your organization. Ensure maintenance, building owners and business owners are working efficiently to get the building ready. You don’t want to duplicate efforts, but you need to make sure everything is getting done.
  • Inspect the building, making sure windows, doors and dampers are closed. Caulk all openings where cold air can enter the building. Have snow and ice removal arranged before you need it. Schedule a maintenance check during a storm or cold weather to keep everything running or at the least, to know when you’ll need to call in repairs.
  • Inspect the roof for leaks and debris. Make repairs when necessary.
  • Give your employees emergency contact information for snow removal, heating repair, utilities and road conditions. Have a plan for employees who cannot get out in bad weather conditions to keep everyone safe. Get your employees to sign up for weather alerts, either by text or through another app.
  • Expect flooding. Keep vulnerable equipment and stock out of harm’s way. Either move it to a location where water can’t reach it, or move it up on raisers.
  • Keep cold-weather gear on hand for employees, such as flashlights, blankets, gloves, hats, snow shovels and ice-melt chemicals. Make sure everyone knows where it’s stored and that it’s there for their use.
  • Make sure you have a list of client and employee contact information somewhere other than your computer, phone or electronic device. If the power goes down, you may not have access to that information.
  • Consider leaving a trickle of water running to keep constant movement in the pipes to prevent freezing. Know where the water shutoff to the building is. Turn off the water if the pipes do freeze, to prevent a leak when the water comes back on.
  • If the building does remain empty for a long period of time, have someone assigned who can check indoor temperatures and other issues.

Keeping Your Heating System Operating Efficiently

The heating system not only keeps your employees comfortable during the cold, but it also protects your inventory, equipment and plumbing from freezing. While some of these ideas need to be in place before a cold snap, preparing for winter season will keep your building from being affected in the cold:

  • Insulate all pipes. Inspect the sprinkler system and plumbing annually. Replace damaged insulation when necessary.
  • Inspect outside dampers. Clear all vents from snow and ice accumulation quickly.
  • Your heating unit requires power to operate. Have generators on standby to keep equipment operating through any conditions. At the very least, have non-electrical portable heaters for outages.
  • Be prepared to supply back-up power to heat tracing systems, if you have it.

An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure, in this case. Protecting your pipes before extreme cold temperatures will prevent many problems, saving you the cost of repairs and downtime.

Protect Electrical Equipment

Cold, freezing conditions can cause power outages and downed wires. When electricity is restored, the sudden surge of power can destroy modern technology that is sensitive to power surges.  When cold weather is coming in:

  • Unplug equipment, isolating it from the source of power, protecting it from power surges. If the equipment must stay running, have a backup plan. Install surge protectors, batteries or another power source.
  • If you plan on relying on generators during a power outage, test them before you need them. Have a plan to refuel generators if the outage is extended.
  • When power is restored, plug in devices and turn them on one at a time.

Reminders for Good Measure

  • Check your business insurance policies to know what is covered and what isn’t. Know your biggest risks and find ways to minimize loss instead of relying on insurance. Keep the policy number and claim information handy, to know who to call when damage occurs.
  • Take pictures of the building before the storm. This will help you identify damage that occurs during a storm.
  • Have a procedure for handling damaged equipment and inventory.
  • Take pictures of damage. Call the insurance adjuster ASAP.

Have a contingency plan in place if the worse happens. Know who to call for restoration. Have a place to set up temporary shop if a disaster strikes your building. Although you may be limited if your business is a restaurant or retail shop, you should at least stay in touch with customers and clients to limit the impact.

Keep Truck Brakes Working in the Winter | Trucking Safety

The winter temperatures and elements are hard on any vehicle. The extra moisture in the air and on the roads wreaks havoc on every system in your rig. When water gets into the air brake system, it can cause corrosion and freezing, taking your rig out of commission for hours, maybe even days. The salt and chemicals used to keep roads free of ice and snow can get into the air brakes and cause corrosion and damage.

Frozen truck brakes and winter damage are preventable, though. How can you keep air brakes working in winter? You’ll need to take steps to winterize your rig and watch for damage. Preventative maintenance is key.

A Clean Air Supply

Whether you have foundation drum or air disc brakes, you should drain the air tanks of moisture and contaminants. When the air temperature shifts 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more, moisture can accumulate. If you experience this shift in a 24-hour period, you should check the air system after driving for another week.

Winterizing Drum Brake Components

Check the chamber housings for damage and corrosion. Corrosion attracts corrosive materials, leading to failure of the housing. Check that the chamber’s dust plug is correctly installed. Lubrication is an enemy of corrosion. All components in the drum brake need to be properly lubricated, the automatic slack adjusters, clevis pin connection points, cam tubes, shafts and bushings.

Any worn rubber seals can cause air to escape and moisture to invade the system. Get your rig checked before you drive in the colder months. Remember that it gets much colder in the mountains as early as September and can stay colder until May or even June, depending on the elevation. Always consider your route and the conditions under which you be driving.

Air Disc Brakes Winterization

Visually inspect the ADBs. Look for cuts and tears in the boots. A small tear allows moisture and contaminants to enter the caliper, causing it to corrode. Replace if necessary. Make sure the pads move freely in the carrier. If not, you’ll need to remove them, clean the carrier surface with a wire brush and then replace the pads. Check the thickness of the pads and rotors. Minimum rotor thickness is 37mm; friction thickness is 2mm or greater.

Replace Cartridges

If you drive in harsh or cold climates, replace the air dryer cartridge before the season. This prevents moisture from getting into the system and causing frozen truck brakes. Make sure to replace it with the right cartridge. An oil-coalescing cartridge needs to be replaced with a similar product to maintain the quality of the air.

Examine the air dryer’s purge valve. Look for signs of corrosion or an accumulation of grit. Clean it or replace it if necessary. This simple maintenance item can prevent malfunction during the harsher winter weather and save you time and headaches down the road.

What About Using Alcohol?

A traditional solution to treating frozen brakes is to add alcohol. Most experts agree that while this may solve your immediate problem, it will lead to long-term issues. It can damage the seals. Some air brake systems have an alcohol evaporator, which does keep air lines and reservoirs free of ice. However, you should only use approved products in this component. Check with your mechanic before trying to unfreeze air brakes using an alcohol product. It will be frustrating to be stuck, but if your vehicle is down for maintenance later, you haven’t saved that much time.

Driving Tips for Winter Safety

If you’re driving with air brakes in the winter, you have to keep the system dry and the pressure up. Make sure to allow even more stopping distance on wet and slippery roads than you would on dry roads. If your system doesn’t have antilock brakes, pump lightly on the brakes to maintain steering control.

Always check your truck before heading out on the road. Make sure the minimum operating pressure is no less than 100 psi for a truck with an air-brake system. It should not take longer than 2 minutes for air pressure to rise from 85 psi to 100 psi.

If you’re inexperienced in driving under winter conditions, check with your company to see if they have some training or another driver who can work with you to let you gain confidence in handling the rig in snow, ice, sleet and/extreme cold. It’s important to know how to handle mountains, country roads and city byways under wet and cold conditions. While it can be humbling to ask for help, if it saves your life, your truck and the lives of others on the road, that should be your concern.

Check all the components of the air brake system regularly throughout the winter to ensure proper performance. Poor maintenance can result in senseless deaths and injuries. It’s important to stay on top of brake maintenance all year long, but even more important in winter months. Take good care of your truck, and it will take care of you.