Trucking Trends- Where Are We Now?

The American Trucking Association recently released ATA American Trucking Trends 2016, a comprehensive analysis of the state of the trucking industry. Overall, it was a strong year for trucking and we hope it was a great one for you too.

What’s the Current State of Trucking?

Looking at where the industry is now can help you decide the best paths as you guide your business into the future. Here are a few statistics pulled from the report. What did 2015 look like for you? More information is available from the ATA.

  • Trucking Still Dominates Freight– Trucks carried more freight than any other method, approximately 70% of domestic freight tonnage.
  • Trucking Gross Revenues– Trucking collected more than $726 billion in gross freight revenues during 2015. This was a record setting year for freight revenues.
  • More Money Spent on Trucking– In 2015 trucks received 81.5% of the nation’s freight revenues.
  • Number of Trucks in Operation– More than 3.6 million Class 8 trucks were in operation in the U.S. during 2015.

Where Is the Trucking Industry Headed?

There are certainly challenges in the trucking industry, including increased regulation, fluctuating fuel costs, and driver shortages. As a driver it can be hard to know what the future holds. In addition to the annual Trucking Trends report, the ATA recently released an industry forecast, looking at the future of freight. Let’s take a look at a few highlights.

  • Expected Tonnage Growth of 35%– Between 2016 and 2027 overall freight tonnage is expected to grow 35%. The amount of freight moved by trucks will grow about 27%.
  • Pipeline Use Expected to Grow– The use of pipeline to move freight is expected to increase from about 10% to 17%. This will result in loss of market share by other methods of moving freight including trucking, water, and rail.
  • Truckload Volumes to Increase– Truckload volumes are expected to increase about 2% each year until 2022 and 1.6% annually from 2022-2027.

What Do These Numbers Mean for Me?

Only time knows exactly what’s in store for the trucking industry, but these two reports from the American Trucking Association are positive news for the industry. Right now trucking is still the predominant method for moving freight and revenue and truckload volumes are on the rise. Strong growth is expected to continue over the next several years.

As the industry changes, your insurance needs may too. We are here and ready to help you adjust your policies and find the right coverage for your situation. As your needs change, get in touch and we’ll help you keep your policies up to date.

A Successful Trip Starts with a Pre-Trip Inspection

At Western Truck Insurance Services our motto is “Travel with Care”. We want you to get there safely, happily, and carefully every single time. Now, we can’t guarantee your safety each time you get behind the wheel, but we do know a secret to greatly increasing your chances of a successful trip: pre-trip inspections. They are required by law for a good reason, but all too often drivers slack on this important safety check. Have you mastered the pre-trip inspection?

How Long Should My Pre-Trip Inspection Take?

Are you a whiz at rushing through the pre-trip inspection? With a safety check this important, slow down and take your time. Five minutes isn’t long enough for a good inspection. How long should you spend? It really depends on your speed and familiarity with the truck. A good inspection might be over in 20 minutes or may take longer, 45 minutes or more. Make sure you check everything from the gladhands to the tires, and don’t forget about checking your tarps and binders too. Quality, not quantity, is what really matters on your pre-trip inspection.

When Do I Need to Perform Pre-Trip Inspections?

The FMCSA rule § 396.13 requires that drivers “be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition” before operating a vehicle. If you’re driving a truck you haven’t driven before, this will require a thorough inspection before you set off. If you’re more familiar with the vehicle and been driving it all day, a quick check may be in order. Daily inspections are a must and ideally you’ll be checking in for safety hazards throughout the day as well, just to make sure things are working as expected.

What Do I Need to Inspect?

Inspection requirements can vary from company to company and even from state to state. Know your specific requirements and when in doubt, over-inspection is better than under-inspection. This guide from the state of Oregon could easily fit on a single page (front and back) and serves as a helpful reminder of some components you may be missing. Think about keeping a copy of this, or something similar, in your truck to help jog your memory on those inspections. At a minimum the FMCSA rule § 396.11 requires:

  • Service brakes including trailer brake connections
  • Parking brake
  • Steering mechanism
  • Lighting devices and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rear vision mirrors
  • Coupling devices
  • Wheels and rims
  • Emergency equipment

We’ve noticed that tarps and binders are often under-inspected, but can really lead to damage and injury when they aren’t in good repair. Check your tarps and binders too. When they start wearing out, replace them.

Will Anyone Know if I Skimp on Inspections?

It’s a busy day and you’ve got hundreds of miles to go before you run out of hours or maybe you’re fighting the clock with a daylight hours only restriction. You may think that skipping one inspection isn’t going to hurt anyone. Truth be told, it might. Pre-trip inspections are one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from potentially deadly crashes. Shirking those inspection duties can spell bad news if your logs are checked. If you get in an accident, that’s one of the first things they’ll look for. Even if no one else finds out you were lazy when inspecting, you’ll know. Do your inspections and do them right.

We want you to get home safely and know that pre-trip inspections are one of the keys. If you’ve been slacking on your inspections, make a change and do them right. Believe us, the hassle of the inspection is nothing compared with potential repercussions of an accident. And if you do run into trouble, know that we’re here and ready to help you.

Our Favorite Apps for Truckers

Make the most of your smartphone. This handy device isn’t just for checking emails and making calls on the go. With the right apps your phone can quickly become an indispensable work tool, something you use just as often as your logbook or your pocketknife. Here are some of our favorite apps for truckers.

Find a Truck Stop

When you need a hot shower or want to spend an evening streaming Netflix, you need the amenities of a truck stop. Wherever your travels take you, find a truck stop with ease using Trucker Path Pro. One of the top rated apps for finding truck stops this app can help you find and compare options, check fuel prices, and see real-time parking availability. If you have a specific chain you like to frequent, look for their specific app (most big name truck stops have one), but this app is ideal for checking out a broad range of available options. Available for Android or Apple.

Find a Rest Stop

Need a potty break? The USA Rest Stop Locator app can help you stretch your legs, check your load, or find an easy access bathroom anywhere in the U.S. Choose your state or browse the map and quickly find the rest stops nearest you. Available for Android or Apple.

Stay in Touch

You miss a lot when you’re away from home, but video chat apps can make it easier to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Skype is available for most mobile devices, including Android, Apple, Blackberry, Amazon Fire, and others. You can Skype with others for free if they use the service too or can call landlines around the world for set, per minute or per month fees. The Facebook Messenger app also offers video call options.

Log Your Hours

Ditch the paper log and go electronic, without having to spend a fortune on expensive software. If you want a highly quality, easy to use electronic log, try KeepTruckin, our recommendation for ELD mandate compliance. This program automates log audits, alerting to anytime there is an hours of service violation. If you’re tired of faxing in paper logs, go electronic with one of the most affordable and convenient options available. Free and paid plans are available.

Keep Up On Inspections

Manage your required inspections in a snap with the DVIR 2.0 Pre-Trip Inspection app. The app allows for the required signature and reports are easily emailed for up to 100 days. You can even add custom inspection criteria as needed. Available on Android.

Truck Insure On-the-Go

Sending insurance certificates has never been easier. Our mobile app allows you to quickly send your insurance information to brokers, clients, and others with just a few clicks. Fax and email sending options are available. If you use Western Truck Insurance Services for your truck insurance needs, this app is a must.

Do you use any of these handy apps? Which ones are your favorite?

 

Stop Smoking and Drive Healthier: 5 Resources for Quitting on the Road

Odds are, you’re a smoker. Most truckers are, just about 51%. As you well know, smoking is terrible for your health and quitting is hard. Make a healthier choice for yourself and quit smoking. These resources can help.

There is no one guaranteed solution for quitting smoking. Find resources that look like they will help you and try them. If it isn’t working, try something else. Stick to your goal and don’t give up. Quitting is possible and you can do it. Make the decision to quit today and then find a plan to make it happen.

1-800-QUIT-NOW

All states have a dedicated quitline to help smokers as they decide to quit. Services available and hours will vary by state. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get in touch with your state’s quitline. Another available option is 877-44U-QUIT, available Mon-Fri from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

Freedom from Smoking Online

Support groups are an excellent resource as you quit an addictive habit, but many drivers, especially long haul and over the road truckers, may have a hard time hitting a weekly meeting due to their varied schedule and time on the road. Freedom from Smoking Online is an adaptation of the American Lung Association’s highly successful group program. It can be done on your own time, from anywhere with an internet connection. There is a small fee to register for the program, but with all the money you’ll save when you no longer buy cigarettes, this program is very affordable and is an excellent option for those wanting a group style program without the weekly, in-person meetings.

Smokefree TXT

Are you running low on data? Do you want support without having to use the internet? Smokefree TXT provides 24/7 support and encouragement for those that are trying to quit. Each day you’ll receive approximately five encouraging text messages, helping you to stay on track. To sign up visit https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/smokefreetxt

Quit Day

QuitDay.org hopes to add 10 healthy years to your life by helping you to ditch the cigarettes. Their website will help you understand why you smoke and will help you identify common setbacks met during the quitting process. They have a page specially dedicated to helping truck drivers quit smoking.

Apps for Quitting

Are you an app lover? Use one of these free apps to help you quit (links are to Android apps, but Apple versions are available too):

Tips for Success

Quitting smoking can be especially difficult for truck drivers. You spend hours alone driving, time that you probably filled with cigarettes. These tips may be helpful.

  • Try Sunflower Seeds and Gum– Many truckers find it helpful to stock up on sunflower seeds and gum for those long, boring stretches where you’re used to smoking. Make sure you have something to do as you drive so you can break the smoking habit with a healthier option.
  • Talk with Your Doctor– Your doctor may be able to prescribe treatments to reduce your urge to smoke. Ask them about your options.
  • Get a Buddy– Everything is more fun when you do it with a friend. A quit buddy may make it easier to stop smoking. This resource guide from the University of Alabama will help you enlist a family member, friend, or fellow trucker for help on your quitting journey.
  • Do it for You– Quitting is hard and the only way to be successful is to want it. Why do you want to quit? Remind yourself of the reasons that you’re quitting every time the going gets hard.

Live longer and feel better. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you have to smoke like a trucker. Quit smoking today!

Driving Is Not a Form of Exercise

How many hours did you spend sitting on your bottom yesterday? Truck driving is a sedentary career and many drivers find themselves sitting a little, or a lot, too much. Aside from securing loads and walking across the truck stop many truckers spend the entire day sitting down. And when you’re in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from home, you may not have easy access to the gym, team sports, or other physical activities.

This can have disastrous consequences, not just for your waistline, but for your health in general. A 2014 study found that long haul truckers were twice as likely as the rest of the population to be obese (69% of drivers are considered obese, 17% morbidly obese). Break the cycle and take control of your health. You can exercise and stay fit on the road.

Why Should I Exercise?

Do you really need to exercise? The answer is a great big yes! According to the CDC, exercise has the following benefits:

  • Controls weight
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of some types of cancer
  • Strengthens bone and muscle
  • Improves mental health
  • Improves your ability to perform daily activities
  • Increases your chances of living longer I Haven’t Exercised in Years. How Do I Start? If you have health conditions that may affect your ability to exercise, talk with your doctor about what you can and can’t do before getting started. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and working up to a more strenuous activity level as you can. You may feel that you’re too busy to exercise, but the truth is, it doesn’t take much time to really see the benefits. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week, just a bit more than 20 minutes a day. You should also strength train your muscles two times each week. You can fit this in, even on your high mileage weeks. Ways to Incorporate More Exercise into Your Life on the Road
  • Make the commitment today to improve your health and exercise a little more. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lifetime of poor health. Make a change today!
  • If you’re short on time, work up to a more intense exercise regimen and you’ll only need 75 minutes of exercise a week, plus strength training two times. You can achieve better health in just 10-20 minutes a day.
  • How Much Exercise Do I Need?
  • If you’re like many truckers, it has been years since you regularly participated in physical activity. Start slow. The CDC explains, “Cardiac events, such as a heart attack, are rare during physical activity. But the risk does go up when you suddenly become much more active than usual. For example, you can put yourself at risk if you don’t usually get much physical activity and then all of a sudden do vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, like shoveling snow. That’s why it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase your level of activity.”
  • It is never too late to start exercising and to improve your health.
  • Break it Up– You won’t always have an hour to exercise, but you can find 10 minutes, even on a busy day. Try exercising for 10 minutes, or more, each morning before you start rolling and another 10 minutes each night when you finish off for the day. Alternately, you could take a 10 minute exercise break each time you stop for fuel or a bathroom break.
  • Stock Some Equipment– Going to the gym isn’t generally feasible when you’re on the road, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your own gym along. You can easily fit some resistance bands, a kettle ball or weights, and a jump rope in your truck, everything you need to exercise on your own.
  • Make Yourself Accountable– If you want to be successful with your exercise program, make yourself accountable. Ask a friend, fellow driver, dispatcher, or family member to check in on you often. Report your successes and failures. Accountability can help you to exercise, even on those days you don’t feel up to it. Exercising on the road can be tricky, but you can do it. These resources may help you to succeed.
  • Resources to Help You Succeed
  • Fitness Blender– Stream workout videos right to your phone, laptop, or tablet with Fitness Blender. Many of their workout videos are completely free and require minimal to no equipment. Daily Burn is another option, but does require a small monthly membership fee.
  • Fitness Apps– Fitness apps can make accountability easier as you track and monitor your progress. PC World put together an excellent list of the top fitness apps of 2016.
  • Have you gotten your exercise in today?

Saving Money on the Road- 3 Tips for Truckers

Do you have a money problem? Many truck drivers struggle with their finances, relying on payday advances and loans to pay the bills. If you’re sick of living paycheck to paycheck or want to finally build up some emergency savings, this guide will give you some actionable tips for saving money on the road.

If you’re already in the hole with too much credit card debt or in the habit of payday loans, making financial changes isn’t going to be easy. Stick with it, even when it is difficult. A better financial future is possible, but you are going to need to put in some work to get there.

Stop Eating Out

What does your typical dinner look like? If you subsist on burger, fries, milkshakes, and truck stop fare, you’re not doing your body or your budget any favors. If you spend just $10 a meal, three meals a day you’re spending just over $200 a week on food, just on yourself. Save yourself a ton of money and stop eating out.

Without a stove, microwave, and sometimes without even a fridge, eating on the road can seem impossible, but it is doable. Salads and sandwiches are easy to throw together on the fly. Make a quick trip to the grocery store and pick up a few essentials (packaged lunch meat, cheese, bagged salad mix, salad dressing, peanut butter, bread, snacks, etc.) to stock in your truck. If you don’t have a fridge, stow your food in a cooler and replace the ice as needed.

By skipping the restaurants and eating on your own you can easily cut your food budget in half, or more, and you’ll eat better too.

Make a Budget… and Stick to It

If you want to spend less and save more a budget is essential. A budget does more than tell you what to spend; if done correctly it can help you notice spending problems and curb expensive habits.

When you’re on the road you’ll need two budgets: one for your family back at home and another for your expenses in the truck. Base your budgets on the amount you earn during a low mileage week. On weeks when you earn more, put the extra in the bank or use it to pay down debt. This is an excellent way to build up your savings.

Make sure you’re tracking your spending. Write down each purchase and keep a log of what you’ve spent. Go back to analyze your purchases and see how you stacked up. Find problems and make changes as needed.

Don’t Get Cash Advances or Payday Loans

When you’re in a cash crunch a payday loan is incredibly tempting, but these loans don’t actually fix your cash problems; they just delay them. Borrowing $150 from your next check means that you’ll start that month $150 short. Next month you’ll need to borrow more, just to stay afloat.

Live within your means, even if that means scaling back. Find a way to spend less so you can stop relying on payday loans to get through the month. If you’re currently living in the payday loan cycle, get out by creating a new budget (using your low mile income) and spending the extra to pay down the debt.

Other Ideas for Saving Money on the Road

These three tips are biggies for getting your spending and budget under control, but they aren’t the only ways to save. Try some of these bonus ideas too.

  • Automatic Bill Pay– Automatic bill pay is a lifesaver when you’re on the road. Skip the late fees and know that your bills will always be paid on time.
  • CDL Discounts– Many hotels and restaurants offer CDL discounts. If you’re going to eat out or stay in a hotel, it doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s a discount.
  • In-Network ATMs– If you need to get cash, use an in-network ATM so you don’t have to pay expensive fees. If you can’t easily find access an in-network ATM, use your card as debit when buying groceries and get cash back to skip the fees.
  • Truck Stop Rewards– Truck stop reward programs offer some great perks, including shower credits and free drinks, and many don’t charge for signing up

What are your secret tips for saving money on the road?

Eating Right- Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers

When you live your life on the road, eating right can seem impossible. Who has time or the tools needed to cook healthy foods? Eating right is a bit more challenging than driving through your favorite fast food restaurant, but it isn’t impossible (or even that hard) when you get in the habit, even for truck drivers. And since diet has big implications for your health, a few changes are worth it. Here’s what every trucker needs to know about eating right.

Why Is Eating Right Important?

They say, “You are what you eat,” and when it comes to your health, this is certainly true. Many diseases are diet related including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. Seeing that truckers are already at an increased risk for many of these problems, a good diet is essential.

What Can You Do?

Changing the way you eat is challenging. You’ll be more likely to achieve success if you take small steps. Don’t get discouraged if your diet isn’t perfect from the start. Add in one or two positives to your diet at a time and keep working until you’re where you want to be. Take the first step toward your diet transformation today. Here are some ideas for incorporating healthier foods into your diet on the road.

  • Stock Up on Fruits and Vegetables– What’s your favorite snack on the road? If you love chips or candy, consider making the switch to fruits and vegetables. Pre-sliced apples, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, etc. are easy to eat on the go and can be purchased prepared and ready to eat. If you don’t want to hassle with refrigeration or a cooler and want foods that will last for months, opt for dried fruits like raisins, banana chips, or dried apples.
  • Go Nuts!- To satisfy your salty cravings with a healthier choice, opt for nuts and seeds. Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pistachios are all healthy and delicious options. Remember, heavily salted nuts aren’t the best choice if you want to keep your sodium levels where they should be. Opt for lower salt options.
  • Make it Yourself- You might not have access to a full service kitchen in your truck, but there are many things you can make yourself to skip the drive through and eat healthy. Canned tuna and chicken can be used to make tuna or chicken salad. Pair with crackers and veggies for an easy lunch or make a sandwich. For breakfast, make some oatmeal, eat yogurt, enjoy a hardboiled egg, or choose a healthy cereal option (granola is a great choice). When you make food yourself you can control what goes in and you save money too. Eating right doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Skip Soda– Diet or regular, soda isn’t a healthy choice. To prepare yourself for healthier eating on the road, have plenty of water on hand. Choose water instead of soda. At first you may need to cut back gradually, especially if you’re hooked on caffeine, but this one change can make a big difference in how you feel.

When You Do Eat Out

Eating out is inevitable as a truck driver, but there are things you can do to eat healthier at restaurants. Try these tips. (For more ideas, see this great slideshow from WebMD.)

  • Plan Ahead- A little research before you head to a restaurant can give you good ideas for which foods to choose. This slideshow from the Food Network gives healthy suggestions for many popular chains (including some fast food options). If you don’t plan ahead, ask which options are heart healthy, lower fat, etc.
  • Avoid Fried Foods– Skip the fried foods and opt for boiled, broiled, and grilled instead.
  • Choose Healthy Proteins– You can find healthy protein options at almost every restaurant. Limit your red meats and opt for leaner chicken instead. Fish is a great choice when you can find it. Seafood is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Don’t Forget the Veggies– If you’re eating out, find a way to include a vegetable (or better yet, two) with every meal.

Tips for Success

You can do it. You can eat healthier on the road. It will be hard, but once you start seeing the positive health benefits, you’ll know your efforts are paying off. These final tips will help you achieve success.

  • Try and Try Again– Don’t worry about your slip ups as you work toward eating healthier. Try your best and then try again.
  • Small Changes Matter– If you’re not ready for a perfect diet, make small changes. Switching soda for water a couple of meals a day is better than doing nothing. Adding in an extra vegetable will have positive benefits, even if you change nothing else. Small changes can make a difference in your health.
  • Prepare– Healthy eating requires a little preparation. The time to decide to eat right is now, not when you’re starving and needing a snack. Stock your truck with easy to eat, healthy options now so they are there when you need them. If you want to eat better tomorrow… buy the right foods today.

Life on the road does make it difficult to eat right, but you can do it. What changes will you make to your diet for a healthier tomorrow?

Preventing Rollovers- What Can You Do?

This summer the NHTSA issued a new rule requiring electronic stability control systems (ESC) on new commercial heavy trucks and large buses starting in 2017. It is believed that the new rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries, and 49 deaths each year. In the meantime, what can you do to protect yourself? Many trucks currently have ESC, but for those that don’t (and even those that do), these tips could be lifesaving.

What Causes Rollovers?

The standard answer when it comes to rollovers is that the crashes are caused by driving too fast. This is a factor, but it is so much complicated than that. To prevent rollover, drive a safe speed of course, but also try some other strategies.

  • Pay Attention to Your Center of Gravity- The center of gravity is important in keeping things from toppling over. When driving a car, your center of gravity is almost always the same, but when driving a tractor-trailer, it can change depending on what you’re hauling and how it is loaded onto your trailer. Pay attention to your loads and drive carefully until you’re familiar with how a particular load is situated. Strap and secure properly. If a load isn’t fully secured it can shift as you drive, changing the center of gravity and potentially leading to a rollover. Drivers of cargo tanks should be especially cautious as liquids inside of the tank move as you do and can topple the tank rather easily.
  • Focus on the Road– Many drivers believe that rollovers are most common when entering and exiting the highway. While these are certainly times to be cautious, rollovers can happen at any time and are actually more likely on the roadway itself. Maintain focus at all times and look for hazards (sharp curves, soft shoulders, steep grades, hard berms, curbs, narrow driveways, limited visibility, etc.).
  • Watch Out for Vehicle Tripping– Vehicle tripping is a primary cause (95%) of single car rollovers, but is also a major contributing factor to tractor-trailer rollovers. This occurs when the tires strike a curb or fall into a soft shoulder. It often occurs during turns. To reduce your risk of tripping allow 3-4 feet between the tractor tires and the curb, giving room to the trailer’s tires should it shift a little during the turn.
  • Survey Before You Go- You can prevent rollovers before you ever get behind the wheel. Look at your expected route in detail before you head out. Look for hazards and areas where you’ll need to be extra vigilant. If you can, talk with others that have recently been on those roads and in the area for up to date advice on road conditions, weather, etc. Use your dispatcher and fellow drivers as valuable resources for knowing what’s ahead.
  • Don’t Get Complacent– Whether you’ve been driving for 1 year or 20, accidents can happen. Don’t let your familiarity with a particular route or your experience driving lull you into complacency. Driving a big truck is always dangerous and needs your full attention. Vigilance can prevent many rollovers.
  • Turn Left– When available and safe, left hand turns into a driveway are much safer than right hand turns. Turning left gives the rear tandem more room to track the tractor’s path.
  • Don’t Let Pre-Trip Inspections Slide– They take just a few minutes, but are so important. Always perform a thorough pre-trip inspection and don’t start driving until you’re confident that your truck is road-worthy and safe.
  • Speed Matters- Finally, remember that speed is an important factor in many rollovers. Speed limits aren’t always a safe speed to drive. Determine your speed based on road conditions and the weather and never exceed the maximum speed limit for an area. When approaching a turn, drive slower than the posted recommendations on the yellow safety signs. Safety experts recommend at least 10 mph less than the recommended speed for tractor/trailer combos. When going downhill, look at your speedometer rather than relying on feel. The bigger the vehicle, the slower it feels.

For more great tips on avoiding rollovers, watch this video from the FMCSA. It was created with cargo tanks in mind, but is packed with valuable tips for any tractor-trailer driver. Travel with care.

 

 

Sleep- Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers

Are you getting enough sleep? Many truckers don’t and it can have a negative impact on both quality of life/health and safety behind the wheel. What can you do? How can you get enough sleep with the crazy hours trucking brings? Getting plenty of sleep as an over the road trucker isn’t going to be easy, but with these tips you can get the most ZZZZs possible even if your situation isn’t ideal.

Why Is Sleep Important?

The Department of Transportation estimates that fatigue related causes account for about 13% of all truck accidents. It can also increase your risk for negative health effects including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes (all things that truck drivers are at risk for). Getting sleep on the road is difficult, but the risks of not getting enough sleep are worse. Make sleep a priority.

What Can You Do?

Getting enough good quality sleep is difficult when you’re on the road and dealing with variable schedules. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Avoid Drowsy Times- Your body is most drowsy from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you can, stay off the road during these particularly drowsy hours.
  • Nap Properly– A nap can be a great way to fight fatigue, but only if you do it properly. An effective nap should be more than 10 minutes but less than 45 minutes. Give yourself 15 minutes to fully wakeup before you get back on the road. Short naps have been shown to restore energy more effectively than coffee. Naps work best if they are used preventatively before you get tired, rather than after.
  • Skip the Tricks– What’s your secret to staying awake when tired? Many drivers rely on caffeine, an open window, loud music, and other tricks to stay awake on the road. These tricks may increase alertness for a few minutes, but they aren’t effective or reliable. Skip the tricks and pull over for some shut eye if you’re feeling drowsy. Caffeine can be a tool you use, but use it wisely.
  • Turn Off Your Alarm– During the week, you’ll likely need an alarm to get to deliveries and pick-ups on time, but when you’re home for the weekend or taking a restart, turn off the alarm. Let your body get the rest it needs and sleep until you’re no longer tired. These periods of rest can help you from becoming severely sleep deprived.

While fatigue is possible at any time, it is especially common during periods of shift or schedule changes. These tips will help you adjust:

  • Stick with Your Schedule/Routine– Limiting the changes your body goes through can help you adjust to a change. Try to stick with your typical work schedule, even if you’re home for a few days. If you do need to change your schedule, keep your pre-bed routines in place and use light and dark to help you adjust.
  • Get More Sleep– When going through times of adjustment, increase your sleep if you can. Getting more sleep helps your body adjust to the changes.

Sleep Disorders- Do You Have One?

In the U.S. alone 70 million people have some sort of sleep disorder, or a condition that keeps them from getting sufficient restorative sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), insomnia, and restless leg syndrome are common sleep disorders. If you have one, work with your doctor to minimize its impact on your sleep and to find effective strategies for getting the rest you need. Talk with your doctor about sleep disorders and be aware of the signs of sleep disorders so you know if you’re at risk.

Tools for Better Sleep

The North American Fatigue Management Program is a great resource for truckers, their families, and others involved in the transportation industry. They have two great courses on fatigue that drivers should consider taking: Driver Education (focused on fatigue and fatigue management) and Driver Sleep Disorders Management.

Make the commitment today to getting better sleep. Your health and safety depend on it. And keep checking back for more tips on truck driver health and safety.

The 5 Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers

Are you taking time for your health? When working long hours on the road and rushing to that next drop it is easy to let the little things, like healthy eating and exercise, slide. Perhaps this is the reason (or at least a contributing factor) that truckers have an average life expectancy several years shorter than the general population. Healthy habits are possible, even on the road and taking the time for your health will pay off with better productivity, better health, and a longer life expectancy.

What can you do to make positive changes for better health? We’ve got 5 essentials for health and wellness just for truckers. Today, we’ll give you a quick overview of the 5 essentials. In coming weeks, we’ll dive into each one a little deeper, giving you actionable changes you can make. A healthier you awaits!

Health Essentials on the Road

We’re not going to tell you to spend hours at the gym or to stock your fridge with veggies… we know that those regular health tips just don’t cut it when you’re living in a sleeper, crisscrossing the country, and driving all day long. These essentials are designed for truckers… things you can actually do to make positive changes for yourself, even on the road. We’ll introduce them here, but come back… we will be delving into each one in depth in the coming weeks.

  • Sleep… Sleep… Sleep- Fatigue is a big problem for drivers and a major cause of accidents. After being awake for 17 hours you’re twice as likely to have an accident. After 24 hours you’re 7 times more likely. The FMCSA is making efforts to reduce fatigue with their HOS rules, but there are many things you can do on your own as well. Hours on the road certainly impact your ability to sleep, but there are many factors that contribute to fatigue which are under your control. Getting the sleep you need will have positive impacts for your safety on the road and your overall health.
  • Eat Right (Even on the Road)- Fast food can seem like the only option (and let’s face it… some days it is), but you can eat right even on the road. Making little changes to your diet can have a big impact on your health. Learn how much food you need, how to make healthier choices when eating out, and strategies for maximizing your diet. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly.
  • Driving Is Not a Form of Exercise- Get up and move. I know this is easier said than done when you spend 10+ hours a day behind the wheel, but daily exercise is important for everyone. Staying active can lower your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes, all big problems for truck drivers. Get up and move. Even a little exercise is better than none.
  • Stop Smoking- Smoking is a notorious bad habit for those in the trucking industry. One study found that 67% of long haul drivers smoked. This can have serious negative health consequences. What can you do? How do you stop smoking while on the road? We’ve got some ideas for you.
  • Foster Healthy Relationships- The road can be lonely. How do you foster relationships with family and friends when you never see them? We often think of our physical needs when we talk about health and wellness, but those emotional and mental needs are important too.

Join us as we explore the 5 Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy. Commit to a healthier lifestyle today.