Category: over the road drivers

Reducing Stress while Truck Driving

“That stresses me out!” This is a phrase that we hear often about a variety of subjects. Stress is something that all people deal with to some degree, as it is a biological response to a stimulus that is perceived as being dangerous or concerning. Stress is a feeling of physical tension and anxiety and cortisol, the primary hormone associated with stress, is known to raise blood pressure and increase heart rates in those with higher-than-normal levels.

The Wear of the Road

Truck driving can be a very rewarding career with the ability to travel across the nation and solid pay after a few years of experience. However, this can also be a very stressful career as it is fast-paced, full of responsibility, and hugely schedule-dependent. Managing the safety of your cargo while providing expedient transport is a big responsibility, and can be very anxiety-inducing when it seems like you cannot make it to your destination on time.

These worries, coupled with long hours, can lead to a lot of stress which can be unhealthy for extended periods of time. This keeps your body running in survival mode which can lead to many ill effects on your health like, an increased risk of heart attack and stroke (According to the American Psychological Association). The good news is that stress is manageable with some effort and this means that you can remain calm and secure even in the worst situations.

Stress Management Tips

Stress seems like an insurmountable wall when you experience it firsthand, but it is possible to overcome the anxiety of the moment. One of the best things to remember when facing a stressful situation is that it will not last forever, and you will be free from it soon. If you find yourself experiencing stress, try to breathe slowly and evenly to lower your heart rate and blood pressure to reduce the panic response your body is producing. It may help to go to a quiet room or pull off at a truck stop to walk around for a minute or two. After you have initially calmed down, it is important to address the stress.

The best way to keep stress under control is by being aware of the things that cause you stress and learning how to better approach them before they upset you. Writing down things that cause you stress, and attempting to remove your exposure to them can be one strategy of reducing the number of stressors you are exposed to. If you cannot avoid the things that are stressing you out, it may be a good idea to find ways to better cope with them- this may take time and some compromise. For example, if you find yourself worrying about time, it can be a good idea to write down a schedule and try to stick to it. Simply writing down tasks you need to complete or times you need to arrive at various destinations can help you reduce the load on your brain and keep your thoughts organized.

A Note of Encouragement

Stress can be difficult and unhealthy, but it is possible to reduce the amount of stressful thoughts. Getting organized and giving yourself mental breaks, while trying to maintain regular breathing, goes a long way in reducing the stress you may experience. There are plenty of resources, with a wide array of strategies, available to help keep your stress at bay. Some may work better than others, so it is important to explore and find the strategy that is best for you. 

Cargo Securement Tips of the Trade to Avoid Downtime

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Depending on how you’ve been taught, you might think that a strap is a strap and a chain is a chain. Securing your cargo might be something you haven’t given a lot of thought to in a while. Something to think about is that there are rules in place that you could be unknowingly violating. These rules are in place in an effort to avoid causing damage to other motorists on the road.

Understanding the proper way to tie down and secure loads improves highway safety and keeps you from the lengthy downtimes involved with violating the rules set out by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

The specific rules to follow come from an older set of regulations given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that took effect in 2004.

The general overview of these rules can be summed up in the following: “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to support and protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tiedowns or a combination of these.”

A rule of thumb to go by from these rules is that one tie down is required for items 5 ft. or less in length and under 1,100 lbs. Two tie downs are required for items 5 ft. or less in length and more than 1,100 lbs., or greater than 5 ft but less than 10 ft. long, regardless of weight. An extra tie down is required for every additional 10 ft.

Officers from CVSA enforce these rules during their routine roadside inspections of tractor-trailers and their drivers. If a truck driver is found in noncompliance, their truck can be taken out of service due to inspection item violations.

The concern, from the CVSA officers, is that improperly secured items can fall off the trailer and damage, injure, or even kill other motorists. The item itself might not directly cause a fatality, but a flying, bouncing, and fast approaching object on the road can cause accidents that could possibly lead to a fatality.

New drivers are spooked easily and aren’t accustomed to objects hitting their windshield. Older drivers with declining vision and reaction time, are also susceptible to crashes involving unexpected hazards.

In addition to following proper securement rules, routine checks of strap conditions not only help secure the load, but can also prevent unplanned downtime due to a failed CVSA inspection.

A variety of things can damage your straps. Get ahead of this and regularly check straps for cuts, burns, fraying, or other damage.

In cases where you do find damaged straps, replace the strap immediately. Spending a little bit of money now can prevent a significant loss of money due to downtime if the strap fails or is found to be damaged during an inspection. Having extra straps in the cab of your truck is highly recommended.

Healthy Meals You Can Have in Your Truck

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Obesity has long been associated with driving a truck.  It’s a mainly sedentary job and despite the lack of physical activity, it can be exhausting. After a long stretch behind the wheel, drivers want to relax and rest up for the next shift.  Fitting in adequate exercise can be difficult so maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging.  

It doesn’t have to be that way.  With effort and planning, it is possible to make healthy meals while you’re out on the road.  One of the keys to healthy eating on the road is to keep your truck well-stocked with healthy choices.  If you don’t have them on hand, it’ll be harder to resist picking up truck stop food.     

Start by using the right equipment.  Space in a truck is always limited so think about the foods you’d like to make in your truck.  There are numerous cooking options such as a hot pot, microwave, toaster, small slow cooker, portable stove, and two-burner stovetop.  A fridge is a necessity and one with a freezer is best.    

When you make your own meals, you are in total control.  How many calories, how much salt, and  fat are entirely up to you.  Processed foods tend to be higher in all of these things, especially sodium, and if you are overweight and have heart issues or high blood pressure, it’s important to watch your salt intake.  

Breakfast

Protein helps you feel fuller for longer. Having a protein-packed breakfast will help keep you from reaching for snacks.  Some delicious ideas to start the day are:

  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter (lots of protein)
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Cottage cheese with fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal 
  • Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Omelets (throw in your favorite protein, cheeses, and veggies)

Lunch

  • Wraps are great for lunch because you can eat with one hand and fill them with anything you like.  Use lean meats like sliced turkey, or tuna, and add tons of fresh veggies.  Use a low-carb or whole wheat wrap to make it even healthier.
  • Soups (pick the non-creamy, low-sodium varieties)
  • Veggie pasta salad

Snacks

If you have a freezer (you should), stock it with healthy treats like frozen yogurt or fruit bars.  Other handy snacks: 

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers
  • Dried fruit (great snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated)
  • Unsalted mixed nuts

Dinner

Meal prep is your friend.  Many websites show you how to make a week’s worth of meals in one day.  Make them the day before your trip and pack them in reusable plastic containers.  Meal prep often involves cooking a protein, like chicken, and then adding rice or noodles, various veggies and sauces and spices, varying them so each meal is different.  It’s an inexpensive way to give yourself some variety in your healthy dinners. 

Rotisserie chicken can be thrown in with some pre-cooked rice and veggies and a little soy sauce, made into a delicious chicken salad wrap, or tossed on a salad. 

Tuna casserole can be cooked on a stovetop or in a slow cooker.  Egg noodles, tuna, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and frozen peas, and you’ve got a hardy meal.

Mac-n-cheese can be made in a crockpot with cheese, macaroni, milk, butter, and eggs.  It’s not the healthiest, but you’ve got to indulge every now and then.  

When you do eat out on the road, try for healthier options like food that is grilled instead of fried, skip the hamburger bun, and drink water instead of soda.

By planning and prepping your meals before you head out on the road, it’ll be easier to maintain a healthy weight, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll feel better about yourself.  

If you’re looking to start a career in the trucking industry, Trucker Search can help. Connecting truck drivers and employers is what we do.  It’s quick, easy, and it can get you that dream job on the open road. Get started today at TruckerSearch.com or call us at (888)254-3712.