Security Tips for Trucking Companies

The trucking industry is a prime target for theft and criminal enterprise. Thieves look for vulnerable trucks where cargo can easily be stolen. Fortunately, drivers can take measures to protect valuable cargo. Low-tech measures, such as king pin locks, glad hand locks or fuel-line shut-offs might slow the bad guys down, but aren’t always enough to protect a truck.

Security Starts With Awareness

Tight security for truckers starts before drivers ever get into the cab. Training employees about security issues can help them be more aware and understand why certain procedures are so important. Here are some tips to help your company implement solutions to cargo theft

  1. Use technology to route shipments. GPS tracking systems can now send a security alarm to the company if a truck goes off its route. Factor in security when routing. Avoid hot spots where cargo theft is higher.
  2. Have drivers maintain regular contact with dispatch.
  3. Keep cargo moving, because it’s more likely that a load will be stolen when it’s unattended. Teams are recommended to help keep cargo on the road and to give drivers another person to lean on when tired or losing focus. If a team isn’t a possibility, drive in tandem with another truck.
  4. Never leave trucks unattended or allow drivers to take a load home. Emphasize that drivers should always stop in well-lit places or a secure yard.
  5. When parking, put trucks tail to tail to prevent rear trailers from being opened with goods on board. Alternatives to parking tail to tail include parking against a building or another object that doesn’t allow the door to be opened.
  6. Offer specialized training against cargo theft. Teach drivers what to look for and how to drive with increased awareness.
  7. Make sure drivers know to be careful about what they say. Don’t talk about the cargo in the truck or give out route information, especially on the CB.
  8. Ensure all drivers follow delivery and pickup protocols. Make sure drivers request ID from personnel who unload trucks. Audit protocols periodically.
  9. Check for dishonest employees. Run background checks on all employees who have access to shipping and routing information. Watch for employees who are loose with standards and don’t allow security breaches to go unnoticed.
  10. Use low-tech measures. Drivers should take the keys with them when the truck is unattended and doors need to be locked. Before walking away from a trailer, check locks. It’s easy to be talking to someone at a rest station and forget.
  11. Be suspicious of people who claim you hit their car. This is a ruse that thieves use to get people to stop.
  12. Work with other trucking companies to get information about potential issues in your community and industry. Alliances can really increase the safety of cargo and drivers because you work together to prevent theft.
  13. Many thefts occur close to pickup points and terminals. Be extra careful after picking up a load. Give drivers time to get away from the pickup point before stopping.

When All Else Fails

Fleet owners should have a plan in case a driver is hijacked. Giving the load over to a thief is generally preferred than getting hurt or worse to protect the freight. Instead of fighting, teach drivers to be a good witness to give law enforcement a better chance at apprehending the criminals.

Observe everything. Don’t just look at what is happening but pay attention to sounds and what is being said. Notice details. Keep a business card with company information and contact phone numbers in your wallet or on your person. Notify the authorities immediately.

Cybersecurity Issues

It doesn’t matter whether your company is small or large, cyber threats are a growing problem in today’s business industry. Hackers aren’t only trying to steal information or data. Some just want to create chaos by disrupting the infrastructure of an important industry. Cyber security for fleets has to be a priority. Here are some tips to help your company create and maintain a plan that prevents security issues:

  • Train employees to generate strong passwords and to recognize phishing emails
  • Have a way to encrypt emails which contain secure information
  • Use best practices for security protocol
  • Use comprehensive antivirus and malware programs
  • Update software and operating systems for security patches
  • Limit password attempts
  • Be proactive in maintaining your website and OS
  • Backup your software
  • Have a disaster recovery plan in place
  • Review your IT department and update as necessary

Audit Your Security Infrastructure

Don’t be afraid to check drivers and other employees to ensure that they are operating securely. You may find gaps in your plan by conducting audits. Talk to others in the trucking industry to find out how their businesses are operating safely. Make safety and security part of your regular risk management plan to prevent theft or hacking.

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Rush Hour Traffic

Ask any truck driver how they manage to avoid rush hour traffic and you’ll likely get a sarcastic answer or a chuckle in response.  This may be due to the fact that rush hour, in some locations, never really ends. Instead, the heavy flow of traffic continues night and day without really ever ceasing.  A few examples of cities like this include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas.

Meet the 14-Hour Clock

While some truckers respond to the humor that there is never an end to rush hour, others may react with a surprising level of frustration. Instead of talking about frustrating traffic, you may find yourself in a bizarre conversation about a 14-hour clock and forced bedtimes. Those not familiar with the ever-tightening driving laws in the trucking industry need only ask a driver to understand the startling level of frustration many professional drivers are experiencing.

Basically, the 14-hour “On Duty Shift” law was put into effect in July of 2013. Groups lobbying for safer highways and roadways frequently come up with ideas to help ensure drivers get enough sleep and are not a danger to other motorists because they are driving drowsy. This law states that a driver cannot legally work more than 14 hours out of 24 and no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving.

Unfortunately, work, in this law, is defined as being on duty. And for a trucker, being on duty can mean being stopped in a traffic jam, waiting to have your trailer loaded, completing a pre-trip inspection, even taking time off to use the restroom. This ungainly law creates some truly bizarre timeframes as drivers are completely controlled by a button that starts the clock and a different button that says when their day must be complete.

The 14-Hour Clock and Rush Hour

Before drivers were forced to comply with a clock that was seemingly counting down the minutes before they must stop for the day, many drivers chose to avoid rush hour like the plague. Today, drivers with only a certain amount of time remaining on that clock no longer have the option of pulling into a rest area and sleeping or resting for a few hours while they wait for traffic to lighten. Instead, they must contribute to the traffic problem hoping that commuters in a hurry will leave enough room in front of them and behind them that they will not be involved in an accident.

Methods for Coping with Rush Hour

There are a few tips for professional drivers who simply cannot avoid driving in rush hour. They certainly do not take the stress out of the drive but may help to lighten the load just a little.  A few of these tips include:

  • Know when rush hour hits – Each major city seems to have a life ad traffic pattern of its own. Keep a record of what the typical times of day rush hour occurs and do your best to avoid them.
  • Take a break beforehand – In cases where rush hour cannot be avoided, try to take a quick break beforehand. Even a 10-minute stop to walk around and eat a high-protein snack may help a driver to be at his or her best.
  • Complete focus on the road – Make sure your truck is well organized and things are put away correctly. This way you can make sure nothing starts rolling around in the cab of your truck and your entire focus can be on the road. Also, avoid snacking, changing the radio stations or using the CB radio in rush hour traffic as any distraction can lead to an unfortunate accident.
  • Check Google Maps – Before entering a city where there is sure to be rush hour traffic, take a break and check Google Maps. Quite frequently it will show where the worst traffic spots are and even show different routes that may save time and frustration.
  • Maintain recommended spacing – Maintaining the correct spacing between your rig and the cars around you is easier said than done, especially as some drivers see a truck as the perfect opportunity for a lane change. Be ready for automobiles to pull in front of you, or to pull to close to the back of your trailer and respond appropriately.
  • Pay attention to blind spots – It can be difficult to pay attention to where each car is in relation to your semi, especially in rush hour traffic, but practice can make perfect. Some drivers talk to themselves about which cars are where. This helps them notice when one vehicle disappears into one of their many blind spots.

A New House Bill

A new bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that many drivers are rooting for. This bill would let truck drivers take a break of up to 3 hours that would not count as part of their 14-hour limit. Should this new bill pass, drivers would once again be able to stop and rest before hitting (and contributing to) rush hour traffic.

What to Discuss During a Trucking Safety Meeting

Letting your drivers know that safety is key to success is imperative when running a large or small fleet. One of the most common ways to do this is to hold regular safety meetings where instruction, safety talks, innovative ideas, discussion and policies may all be reviewed

Professional drivers are, in actuality, some of the safest on the roads when compared mile for mile to drivers of automobiles. Not only do they know how to evaluate traffic, control their speed and yield repeatedly, they know that their safety, and that of other drivers on the road may depend on how well they can do their job. Introducing safety videos and holding regular driver safety meetings can reinforce policy, provide new and innovative ideas and remind drivers of required industry standards.

Fleet Policy

Without a stated fleet policy, it is impossible to have a continued company commitment to that policy. A fleet policy should be more than just a set of rules. Instead, it should be written to encourage drivers to engage in a safer driving culture.  Some items in many fleet policies include:

  • Company commitment to safe driver training
  • Driver seat belt policy
  • Definition of driver personal use allowance
  • Expectations for MVR reviews
  • Committee set up to review accidents

Having such safety policies such as these in place is only a small part of making it part of your fleet culture. To do this, management must communicate frequently and positively about each facet of the policy being sure to follow the policy when drivers face both negative and positive consequences.

Ongoing Communication

Driving a semi can be a long and lonely job. Communicating with your drivers can help them feel as if they are truly part of your team. These communications can include tips on getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, a truck related joke of the day, a shout-out to drivers who have exceeded expectations and reminders about safety.  Attaching a safety-related email signature can also ensure that the drivers get the safety message without feeling overwhelmed by it.

Conference calls are another way to communicate with over the road drivers about safety items. Though drivers are not legally allowed to manipulate a cell phone while operating a vehicle, a good Bluetooth headset can make such conference calls easy to attend while on the road.

Many drivers thrive on competition, so company-wide contests that recognize a driver’s commitment to safety are a great idea. The fact that they might increase a driver’s awareness of safety is even better.

Safe Trucks

Let your truck drivers know that the vehicles they are driving are safe. For instance, letting each driver in the fleet know about the tire review and replacement policy may help to put their minds at ease. Nothing is worse for a professional driver as having to wonder when a tire will blow on the freeway, and how far the pieces will fly. By letting your drivers know that you understand their safety concerns about tire wear and tear, you will help your drivers feel safer.

Along with tires, each vehicle in the fleet should undergo routine maintenance, and each driver should be familiar with the schedule. By updating your drivers on this type of maintenance, they will know that they need not worry about the next safety inspection or oil change because you have their vehicle covered.

Insistence on Safe Habits

A fleet policy should always include a discussion about the importance of safe trucking habits. Not only do these fleet safety talks show that managers value the truck and the load, but also the safety of each and every driver. One habit that many drivers forgo is wearing a seatbelt. Managers can use many different reminders, safe driving videos, incentives and tabulations to help drivers remember the real importance of seatbelts in a truck and in a personal vehicle. Managers may also want to remind drivers that seatbelts help everyone on the road, not just the truck driver.

Recognize Safety

Making sure to recognize safe drivers and reward their efforts publicly can help to increase the overall safety of the fleet. Such rewards might include having no traffic violations, no accidents or now insurance claims. Ongoing records of safety such as many years with no accidents or violations should be recognized and rewarded with larger rewards such as paid time off or short paid vacations.

Having a stated safety policy is the most important item on the list for encouraging safety. Making time for regular truck safety meetings runs a close second. Let your drivers know that it is worth the time to learn about how all can be safer as they cross the byways and highways of the United States.

Simple and Delicious Meal Prep Ideas for Truck Drivers

Living a healthy lifestyle and consuming nutritious foods on a regular basis can be a real challenge for those who spend the majority of their time on the road. The stress of irregular work hours and the difficulty of finding fresh, healthy food can make meal prep for truck drivers a nightmare. However, preparing easy meals for truckers can be simple, especially with a bit of preparation and strategy.

Fresh Vegetables

When deciding on food to pack for truck drivers, vegetables are often an easy and delicious choice. They are relatively affordable, high in nutritional value, and easy to find, and as long as you have access to a refrigerator, they are perfect for long-haul trips. Try packing one or more of the following types of vegetables before your next trip:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery

If you find yourself getting bored with your normal vegetable routine, try adding a bit of peanut or almond butter to your celery. Some vegetables will taste even better when tossed with your favorite seasonings or vinaigrette dressing. Just be sure your vegetables are fresh and you don’t drown your vegetables in calorically dense dressings and nut butter.

Fresh Fruit

Much like fresh vegetables, fresh fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes can be tasty and nutritious at the same time. Consuming fruits regularly is a great way to stay hydrated and obtain the important vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay energized and healthy. When choosing fresh fruit, try to avoid fruits that are bruised or dull in color. If you absolutely cannot find fresh fruit near you, look for fruit cups that contain juice instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

Nuts and Seeds

Raw nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds are high in protein, fiber, and “good” unsaturated fats. Many of them also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your chances of heart problems, as well as vitamin E, which can help reduce the amount of plaque that accumulates in your arteries. Roasted seeds are known to be an excellent source of zinc, which has been proven to be beneficial for men’s health. When choosing nuts and seeds, try to avoid items packed in salt, and consume them sparingly—even though they are nutritious, they are still high in fat. If you are really craving something sweet and salty, try making your own homemade trail mix by adding dried fruits and a bit of chocolate to the nuts of your choice.

Boiled Eggs

Eggs are packed full of nutrients, and they are relatively simple to prepare. Eggs are high in protein, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B2. Their whites also contain nutrients such as selenium and cholesterol, and many brands of eggs now contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Boiled eggs will also store well as long as they are kept at a safe temperature.

Greek Yogurt

The nutritional value of many types of yogurts can be questionable, but Greek yogurt is high in protein, and many types are low in sugar. Most brands of Greek yogurt contain anywhere from eight to 12 grams of protein, as well as considerable levels of calcium and vitamin D. The cultures contained in yogurt have also been known to aid in digestive health and regularity. With so much to offer, consuming Greek yogurt is the perfect way to handle your ice cream cravings.

Protein Bars

Protein bars are a popular healthy snack, and they can be found in virtually every grocery store in the country. Once only consumed by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, protein bars have become mainstream and are often substituted for entire meals. They contain relatively high amounts of protein and come in a wide variety of flavors and textures. When choosing a protein bar, be sure to carefully examine the fat and sugar content before making a final decision. In an effort to boost sales and appeal to a wider variety of palates, many protein bar manufacturers have opted to add unhealthy amounts of sugar and fat to their products. These types of protein bars can be immensely unhealthy when consumed on a regular basis.

Muffins

Contrary to popular belief, muffins can be tasty and nutritious. They also store well, making them ideal for long trips. In general, homemade muffins that incorporate fresh oats, nuts, fruits, and seeds tend to be significantly healthier than prepackaged grocery store and coffee shop muffins. They are much lower in sugar, and many people add healthy add-ins such as protein powder to increase the nutritional value.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

As mentioned above, meal prep for truck drivers can be simple with just a bit of preparation and planning. High-calorie, sugar-laden foods may be more convenient, but your body will thank you if you choose to consume the healthier options listed above instead. To make meal preparation easier, try packing items that store well before your trip so you don’t have to keep running to the store.

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.

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.

Ways to Reduce Distractions While You Drive

Tips for Reducing Distractions and Boosting Safety While You Drive

News feeds across the country are filled with stories of distracted driving, and while the statistics are alarming, the consequences are often devastating. In fact, according to the NHTSA, over 3,400 people were killed in 2015 while almost 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that a result of distracted driving. Trucks and other commercial vehicles are not immune or exempt from being included in these startling statistics, making it important for professional drivers to understand not only the dangers, but ways that they can avoid distracted driving.

Know what Distracted Driving Really Is

Though there may be many different opinions about what things qualify as distracted driving, the true definition is pretty simple.  Any item or activity that takes a driver’s focus and attention away from driving can qualify as distracted driving. So really, eating, drinking, having an intense conversation with a passenger or reaching for something dropped on the floor could prove to be a hazardous distraction.

Ways to Reduce Distraction

When drivers attempt to cut any and all distractions and focus on the road, results could be equally disastrous. There must be ways for drivers to keep from falling asleep or becoming hypnotized by the long miles they are driving. Following are 5 solutions for distracted driving that can really help commercial drivers.

  1. Invest in Technology – Though many forms of distracted driving are dangerous, there is one form that is actually illegal. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a ban on texting while driving a commercial vehicle. In January of 2012, this ban was expanded to include holding a cell phone for any reason while driving. Currently, drivers who are found breaking the law could face a fine as high as $2,750 and may not be allowed to drive for up to 120 days.

With today’s hands-free technology, professional drivers are still able to use cell phones to call family and friends, get updates to loading or unloading locations or even check the weather.  However, they must have new enough technology so that they can do these types of activities without ever needing to touch their cell phone. There are plenty of options, both wired and wireless that drivers can purchase. Many prefer a current generation Bluetooth headset that has noise cancelling capability so that the party on the other end of the call will not have to listen to the truck noise in the background.

  1. Plan Ahead – Just as a driver needs to plan which route he or she will take to deliver a load, they should also take time to plan for things they will to listen to, snack on or use while they are on the road. Having a written list of options taped to the dash can make choices simple and keep more attention on the road ahead. There are many blogs and magazines that offer helpful advice on how to stay safe without getting overly bored.
  2. Easy Reach Rule – One good rule of thumb for commercial drivers is that they should never make a grab for anything in their truck that is not within easy reach. In essence, if the driver has to stretch away from the steering wheel any further than a simple arm extension, they are at risk. When drivers are willing to pull off the side of an exit or take a break in a rest area to grab an item that is outside of easy reaching distance, they are helping everyone on the roads to travel more safely
  3. Driver Education – Educating newer drivers about the risks and consequences of distracted driving can also help them make more thoughtful choices on the road. This type of training course should always cover the types of activities that can end up being too distracting, safer ways of staying awake and avoiding boredom, and a real look at fines, accidents and lifelong injuries that can happen when drivers are distracted. It can also be beneficial for drivers to be trained in how to spot drivers of other vehicles who may be distracted, so they will be able to avoid the hazards presented.
  4. Keep it Tidy–It is not an easy task for a driver who spends many hours in the truck to keep things neat and clean. However, neatness does cut down on possible distractions. An investment in small drawers, cupboards or shelves where items can be held is an additional investment in safety, as those items will be much less likely to slide around the interior of the sleeper or cab.

Invest in Safety

By taking time for planning, professional drivers can help to increase safety on each road they travel by decreasing the number of accidents caused by driving distractions. Companies that are willing to take time to educate their drivers only add to safety levels for each individual who is also out on the road.

How Long-Haul Drivers Can Stay Awake While Driving

Though many long-haul drivers may have been lured into the industry by dreams of the open road and freedom from the stress of a 9-5 job, the job of road warrior is anything but a dream. Instead, it is filled with many different types of stress that differ greatly from those in the jobs they may have previously held.

Turning Wheels Mean Dollar Signs

One of the most stressful parts of driving long-haul is often seen plastered on t-shirts, coffee mugs and posters in truck stops across the country. Though the grammar may make some people cringe, the well-known saying “If the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t making no money” is one that is known across all aspects of the industry. In essence, it means that anytime the truck is not moving, it is not making any money for the owner.

This leads trucking companies to come up with creative solutions, such as assigning two drivers to the same truck, each sleeping while the other is driving. It does not matter, however, if drivers are alone, or if they have a partner sleeping in the back of the rig. The long miles drive across the country can feel even longer than they really are, no matter how excited they were to begin driving a big rig for a living.

Boredom Leads to Mental Exhaustion

Current log book regulations mean that gone is the day that a driver could make his way across the country only taking cat-naps. Instead, drivers today have enforced limits on how long they can drive before they are required to take a specific length of time off-duty. There is much heated debate about whether or not the current system of hourly regulations really work out best for those who are behind the wheel, but currently they stand as law.

On average, a trucker drives anywhere between 2,000 – 3,000 miles each week. Even with enough sleep or off-duty time, the long miles put in by truck drivers can lead to a very real mental exhaustion which can, if not recognized and planned for, lead to a driver falling asleep behind the wheel. No matter if they spend those miles listening to talk radio, to music, or talking on the phone via Bluetooth headset (drivers are not permitted to hold their cell phones while they drive), the passing miles and the hypnotic hum of the tires on the road can still lead to boredom and mental exhaustion.

Tried and Trusted Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep

Thankfully, drivers are typically willing to share with each other the tips and tricks that keep them from falling asleep while driving. Following is a list of ways that have been found to work for those who are looking for better ways of staying awake.

  • Healthy Food – Though it is so tempting to indulge in fast food meals while driving, many have found that healthy meals consisting of protein and complex carbohydrates help them stay awake for much longer than foods that are full of fats, salt and sugars. Healthy snacks work as well. Instead of grabbing a candy bar, truckers who want to stay awake prefer trail mix, or a bag of almonds. Having a mini-fridge and a small cooking oven in the truck are not only convenient, they enable drivers to eat much more healthy foods overall.
  • Switch up the Listening – Drivers should change up listening selections while driving. Alternate between music, talk radio, podcasts and digital books. This way, the brain will be entertained instead of falling into a bored, sleepy slump. And if all else fails, turning up the volume to ear-splitting levels and singing along seems to work as well.
  • Cat Nap – Taking a short nap before starting on a long drive can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, studies show that a nap that is under an hour can power you enough to stay awake for many more hours than had you taken a nap that lasted for a few hours. Drivers who find themselves becoming drowsy on the road can always pull over and grab a 20-minute power nap in order to make it to the needed destination.
  • Get Out and Move – Sitting for extended periods of time can be hard on a body too. Any time drivers feel sleepiness sneaking in is a good time to find a spot for some safe exercise. This can be as little as a few laps around the truck or as extensive as some push-ups, squats and a quick jog. Getting that heart rate up means the blood will be less-sluggish upon return to the drier seat.
  • Don’t fall for Caffeine – Good hydration is very important to staying alert. Unfortunately, sodas that are readily available in every truck stop do not aid to overall hydration. Even worse is the fact that drinking too much caffeine while driving can make a driver need to find a restroom much more frequently than if they had simply stayed with water.

No matter the reason for getting into the long-haul industry, the end result is typically the same after many miles driven. Being prepared to combat sleepiness and stay wide awake, no matter how long the road ahead, should be the goal of every road warrior.

Health Concerns All Truckers Should Know About

Though many over-the-road drivers may enjoy their jobs, education about possible health problems that are common for those in the industry is increasingly important. Health problems can all too frequently mean that a driver can no longer certify for a CDL, adding to the nation’s driver shortage. In fact, a recent study completed by the American Trucking Association found that by the end of 2017, the driver shortage could reach 50,000.

Most Common Health Problems

In order to keep qualified and competent drivers on the road, companies must find ways of alerting, educating and incentivizing their drivers to avoid some of the biggest common health problems. These include:

  • Exhaustion – Whether the exhaustion is due to an ever-changing sleep schedule, or to the fact that the time spent behind the wheel can be mind-numbing, many drivers report a feeling of exhaustion a majority of the time. This exhaustion, if not handled correctly, can lead to accidents on the highways. Companies that acknowledge driver exhaustion and provide education, permission for drivers to make needed stops, and incentives for exercise may find that drivers begin to report less exhaustion once beneficial changes become habit.
  • Work-Related Injuries – While some might scoff at the thought of getting a workplace injury while sitting behind the wheel of a semi, drivers experience such health problems all too frequently. Musculoskeletal disorders are often the most common type of injury, as drivers are often tasked to load or unload some or all of the freight in a trailer. Injury of the back and neck are most common. Working with drivers to educate them about the necessity of a proper stretch or warm-up period before lifting may help to alleviate some of these injuries.

Repetitive motion injuries are often experienced in the trucking industry as well, especially in the wrist, hand and knee. This is most likely due to the need for drivers to constantly shift gears (wrist and knee) and keep a frim grip on the steering wheel (hand.) Encouraging drivers to engage in exercises for each of these areas daily may be the answer to this type of injury.

  • Risks of Sitting – A recent study conducted by Harvard University confirmed, once again, that sitting for long periods of time puts people at a heightened risk of death from all causes. Though the exact connection between sitting and poor health was not pinpointed, the chances of early death were found to be much higher, documenting increased rates of death from type 2 diabetes, cancer, and even an increased risk of dementia. This study also found that even people who exercised for up to an hour a day continued to be at risk if they also spent prolonged hours sitting each day.
  • Obesity – It should come as no surprise that the first occupation on the list of highest obesity rates is that of a truck driver. After all, who would not gain weight and keep it on if each day consisted of up to 11 hours of sitting and the easiest meals were the unhealthy offerings of fast food chains or truck stops. Companies that provide drivers with a small fridge and a way to heat healthier options are on the road to helping each driver be more healthy. Incentivizing an exercise program can also give drivers a reason to take regular exercise breaks.
  • Sleep Apnea – A high body mass index (BMI), regularly found in long-haul drivers, can also lead to a disorder called sleep apnea. Basically, a driver never gets good sleep because they stop breathing through the night as their upper respiratory system constricts and blocks air flow. Many times, drivers do not even realize that they are waking repeatedly during the night, they only know that they rarely wake feeling refreshed. Heavy snoring is one sign that a driver may be suffering from this health concern. Companies that offer free testing for sleep apnea, as well as follow up care are sure to find that drivers perform much better and are of better health with the properly prescribed breathing machine.
  • Stimulant Dependence – Sleepy truckers frequently find it simple to grab a stimulant, whether in pill form, in a soda, or an enhanced power bar. The problem comes in the fact that, taken regularly, caffeine builds a dependency in users. Truckers typically need more to stay alert and find themselves with an excruciating headache when they go without caffeine. A better suggestion is to engage in healthy ways of staying alert such as stretching, drinking cold water, and eating apples or baby carrots. By doing this, drivers can grab something caffeinated on occasion without fear of becoming dependent.

The Healthy Driver

When trucking companies and their drivers agree on the fact that driver health is of utmost importance, changes can be encouraged which will benefit all involved. Ongoing education and incentive programs can not only have a positive effect on health, but also on mental health. And a healthy driver is one who can remain an asset long into the future.