Being a professional driver is a taxing job. You have to face many obstacles throughout your day, both physical and mental. There’s traffic, deadlines, delays, stress. The last thing you have time to think about is exercise and eating healthy.
We’ve all been there, you’re running late and forgot to make your lunch the night before. You grab a bag of crisps, some chocolate, a couple of cans of energy drink and you are out of the door to face the day ahead. You get to the yard, do all of your pre-checks, find your route and you’re ready to hit the open road. You put the Culina Group Spotify Playlist on the stereo and as the wheels start to role the engine begins to rumble. But it’s not the only thing. Your stomach decides to pipe up, and join in with the symphony of sound. You decide to wait until you’re further down the road and at least off of the yard before you dip into your hastily grabbed snacks on your break.
First up the trusty chocolate bar to keep those hunger pangs at bay and to provide a nice little sugar boost while stuck in the non-moving traffic. Then you decide to open the large ‘share’ bag of crisps you found in the cupboard. The problem is, there’s no one around to share them with! Before you know it, the bag has gone and you are still no further down the road and at least off of the yard before you dip into your hastily grabbed snacks on your break.
Later in the day, the load is dropped off and you are waiting to be loaded for your next trip. The depot in question is running behind so you are now a participant in ‘The Waiting Game’. You’ve checked your social feeds, caught up on world events, who scored what and where you may have even beaten your high score in whatever game you happen to be playing at the time. But now your arch nemesis, tiredness rears its ugly head. You reach for your trusty can of energy drink to give you the get up you need to get back out on the road and go. You arrive back at base, do what is needed to be done before heading for home. Mentally and physically tired ready to retire to your bed ready to do it again tomorrow.
But why so tired? It’s not like you dragged the load there yourself right? A lot of people think that driving an HGV is easy and that all you have to worry about is getting to your destination on time and don’t hit anything on the way. WRONG! Driving a 40ft plus vehicle is a completely different experience compared to a driving a car. Yes, you have to try and get your load to where it needs to be on time while not hitting anything, but on top of that, you have to be hyper-vigilant, even more so than the average driver. Mainly because other road users around you aren’t aware of the multiple blind spots that an HGV has, not to mention constantly accounting for the weight of your load and how that will affect your driving in whatever weather condition you are in i.e. high winds or rain. The length of time that you spend on the road compared to the average motorist, along with keeping track of your hours as not to be penalised drop on top of that, you could be doing all of this any time of the day or night!
Now let’s re-visit these hastily grabbed snacks and see what they actually do (other than taste good). First off, the chocolate bar. High in sugar and unnecessary calories. Sure it gave you a little sugar boost but it is not sustainable and there are far better alternatives for a healthier boost and not to mention for your waistline!
If you don’t get a tiny feeling of guilt or remorse for eating a whole ‘share bag’ of crisps then this means you do it far too often! We’ve all been guilty of it one time or another, I know I have! No doubt I’ll do it again. With their deliciously high fat and salt content, we know that they’re not good for us but yet we still keep burying our hands into the giant moreish bags. Finally, the energy drink. Again they may give you a short burst of energy but with their high sugar and calorie count they are not good for the heart or the ‘spare tire’.
With the lack of movement and potential poor food choices, professional driving can have a massive impact on your health. It is almost as though the job is designed to make you unhealthy. As an employer that is the last thing we want for our staff. A study conducted in 2012 showed that 28% of HGV drivers were obese. That’s nearly a third of the workforce! It is a serious problem as the DVLA revokes around 1,300 commercial driving licences each year due to health reasons. In order to drive an HGV, a driver has to pass a medical exam every time their licence expires. So to look after your job, you have to look after yourself first.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and you need not live in fear. You are the master of your own health and it is up to you to make those small differences that could pay off big in the long run!
Don’t worry though, we’re not going to let you go through it alone! We’ve found some easy tips, tricks and alternatives to help you on your road to healthy road living. Let’s circle back to those snacks that we were talking about earlier. All you will need is to set aside some time for planning and a set of small portion Tupperware. EASY!
Try swapping out the crisps and chocolates for some of the below healthy alternatives which are all great snacks while on your break.
If you’re a ‘sandwich’ kind of driver why not change your white bread for brown or 50/50? Get the ‘lighter’ or sugar-free mayonnaise and sauces. I used to complain that ‘they weren’t the same’, then I switched myself and I can honestly say you won’t be missing anything while eating smarter in the process. Make small changes to your everyday food items. Have skimmed or a dairy alternative milk in your hot drink, and try and cut the sugar out if you can. Maybe try sweeteners?
We get told this a lot, and for good reason. It was found that 75% of the UK population was chronically dehydrated. Which is hard considering that we are made up of 65% water. Bear Grylls says ‘if you’re thirsty, then you are already dehydrated’. So it is recommended that you drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. Water not only helps flush toxins through the body but also helps brain activity and concentration levels while keeping you alert. Which I think we can all agree, helps while driving.
The human body is designed to run on around 8 hours of sleep each night but not everyone is. Being an HGV driver, it is crucial that you are functioning at 100%. With unorthodox shift patterns, this can be hard but the tiredness will only increase if you don’t give your body what it needs.
I know, I know. When can you get the time to exercise? Well, there is a gentleman by the name of Siphiwe Baleka who is a truck driver from the states. He wanted to change the least healthy profession in the country into the most. To do this he developed a series of exercises that drivers can do while they are in the yard waiting to be loaded. This increased blood flow and gets more oxygen into the body and most importantly the brain. I’m not saying you have to run around the site until you are a sweaty mess. Just something that gets the heart pumping and loosens the muscles.
By doing some exercise along with eating better you should start to notice a difference. Not only in your waistline but also in your wellbeing. Mental health is as important if not more so as this affects how we interact with our friends, family and ourselves and should not be overlooked.
So in conclusion, eat less, eat better, eat smarter. Stay hydrated and gets the sleep you need and you can be a healthier and happier HGV driver.
The above advice and information are great for both body and mind but please remember safety first, never eat at the wheel if you are in control of the vehicle. Having to take on hi-energy drinks to fight tiredness could find you guilty of an offence of driving a vehicle when you are knowingly tired, so make sure you rest properly, drink plenty of water ensuring both you and your vehicle get to where they need to be safely and in one piece.