Injury Prevention for Truck Drivers
Resistance training, pilates, and stretching are all great injury prevention methods for truck drivers to engage in on a daily basis.
The best part is that these methods help prevent injuries and improve the performance of truck drivers all at once.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that truck drivers perform some form of regular exercise or resistance training to help prevent injury. Truck driving, much like any other physical job, can take a toll on the body if not properly taken care of. OSHA’s recommendation for preventing and reducing injuries is to exercise muscle groups with the same frequency as they are used for work activities. For example, if a driver spends his day sitting at the wheel, he should also spend some time exercising his hamstrings by stretching them or by doing lunges.
Additionally, OSHA recommends that truck drivers perform some form of aerobic exercise each day to help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Aerobic exercise can alleviate stress and improve the mental state of a driver.
Resistance training is another great way for truck drivers to prevent injury and improve their performance at work. Truck driving is an extremely physically demanding job, requiring that drivers spend hours sitting in one position. Resistance training helps build strength and improves muscle tone by engaging different muscle groups while sitting at the wheel. Performing resistance exercises also helps produce more testosterone and growth hormone.
Top 5 tips for drivers to optimize their health and proactively prevent an injury from occurring:
Perform a couple of warm-up exercises prior to getting into the truck. This can be as simple as a couple of small squats, turning your head side to side, and pinching the shoulder blades together a few times.
Use any breaks that you have to increase your physical activity for the day. Take a small walk when you can. Research proves that taking a small walk to break up periods of prolonged sitting will decrease fatigue.
Use a device to monitor physical activity – research shows us that using a device like a Garmin or Fit Bit can influence behavior change from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle.
Plan out your drinks throughout the day. Water is the best to remain hydrated, however, if you suspect that you are taking in too many sugar or caffeine-based drinks start to make a diary and write down every drink you have for one week. Look for patterns that include not enough water, and too much sugar.
If you are feeling back or neck pain throughout the day, make use of ‘Pause Exercises’. Examples of this are rolling the shoulders repeatedly or performing pelvic tilts when you are stopped at traffic lights.
Your spine and joints love movement, so try not to deny them that!
Ice or heat therapy for back and neck pain will help your body recover faster if you are physically overworked or working in a very hot climate.
What are some of the common work-related injuries truck drivers experience?
The most common truck driving injury is low back pain, which many researchers believe is due to a combination of repetitive bending, sitting, and reaching. Other small muscles associated with gripping (such as the arm and knee tendons), as well as the discs themselves can also become injured from constant pressure while driving.
The most dangerous form of driving is sleeping behind the wheel. Research has shown that these accidents happen more often than we would like to think, and as many as 13 Americans are killed every day while driving while asleep.
Truck driver’s hands and feet are always on the pedals, steering wheel, gas/brake pedals, horn button, or floor controls. They also use their arms to lift heavy loads, park their trucks, climb stairs and open their doors all day long.
How are truck drivers injured?
Research shows that drivers have a greater chance to fall off of their trucks, get thrown from their trucks, or bump into things than passengers.
Injuries and accidents are more common during the off-season or during inclement weather. The same factors that can deter a passenger from driving can also keep a truck driver from driving. The worst part about this is, there is no one else to take over.
What is the impact of injuries among truck drivers?
Annually there are 1.17 million injuries that occur in the workplace. These injuries cost $215 billion per year in direct and indirect costs (also known as the cost of lost productivity).
The average worker spends $5,103 each year on health care related to work injuries. These direct costs are even higher when you include lost productivity, wage replacement, and non-pecuniary (pain and suffering) losses.
Although it is typically considered a leading cause of job-related injury, truck driving is not usually considered the leading cause of work-related injuries. It is more common among trucks that do a lot of heavy hauling or off-road driving rather than those that carry freight over long distances.
The most common types of injuries that occur among truck drivers are sprains and strains, cuts, back injuries, and fractures.
Types of injuries that result from accidents occurring while working in the truck include head injuries, concussions, back injuries (including spinal cord compression), fractures or breaks, organ damage, and death.
How can we prevent truck driver work-related injuries?
Before a truck driver starts his/her shift, make sure all of the vehicle’s doors and mirrors are locked.
Have your employees wear safety belts when operating heavy machinery such as tractors, backhoes or motor graders.
Truck drivers need to be aware of the risks associated with fatigue and sleep deprivation while driving. They also need to be aware of the dangers of texting while driving so that they can avoid distractions that lead to accidents.
Use seatbelts at all times when driving trucks and other heavy equipment.
Have a zero-tolerance policy for texting while driving—even if it is a quick message about an upcoming delivery or customer delivery.