driver health

It typically begins with a simple yawn. Next thing you know, your eyes feel heavy. You find yourself turning up the radio or opening a window. Then you realize you forgot the last few miles you drove and wonder how you traveled so far without realizing it.

What’s happening? It’s fatigue, and it’s one of the most common and dangerous safety risks for professional drivers. About 65% of truck drivers say they feel fatigued while driving, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. What’s worse, fatigue plays a role in 31% of all deadly truck crashes, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The good news is that staying more alert while driving is well within your control. Try one or more of these seven smart strategies to beat fatigue behind the wheel. You may just save a life!

1. Take your breaks. Always follow Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and take a minimum of 30-minute breaks every 8 hours. Try to find your own rhythm. For example, you may be more alert if you take shorter breaks every two-to-three hours instead of “saving” your break for that eighth hour on the road.

2. Get your sleep. Aim to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. If possible, avoid or limit driving mid-afternoon (between 2 – 4 p.m.) or overnight (between midnight – 6 a.m.), times when the body is naturally drowsy.

3. Watch what you eat and drink. Skip fast food, vending machines, and other types of food that lack nutrition. Instead, pack healthier meals. Choose fruits, vegetables, nuts or string cheese for snacks. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. But don’t go to bed hungry, either. Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks. Choose water instead so you can stay hydrated.

4. Stay active and fit. While you can’t exercise while driving, you can add some physical activity during your breaks and during your off time. Take a brisk walk. Do some stretching exercises. Aim for 20 minutes of physical activity at least three days a week. Being physically fit lowers your chances of fatigue.

5. Check your medicines. Sleeping pills, allergy medications and cold medications can make you drowsy. Avoid or limit them whenever possible. Always ensure you discuss any medications and their side effects with your doctor.

6. Avoid the traps. Many drivers think that they can fight fatigue by smoking, turning up the radio, or opening a window. Those activities may refresh you for a few seconds, but they won’t keep you alert for the long haul. If tired, do the right thing, pull to a safe area, and take a break!

7. Don’t tough it out. If you start yawning, making sudden lane changes or start to grow irritable, it’s a good bet you’re tired. Find a safe, legal place to park, such as a truck stop or well-lit rest area, and take a break.

More than 40% of truck drivers now live in a state that has legalized the use of marijuana, according to an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) report. However, federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana by CMV drivers who engage in interstate travel.

That means when it comes to the use of cannabis products, professional drivers must say no.

Unfortunately, not everyone is getting the message. The number of positive tests for recreational marijuana among truck drivers increased by 31% over the past year. That’s according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol (D&A) Clearinghouse pulled by Fleet Owner in June.

Clearing the confusion

Make no mistake, marijuana is a serious safety threat. Cannabis products significantly impair a truck driver’s judgment, motor coordination and reaction time. Studies have found a direct relationship between the blood concentration of THC (the primary psychoactive component of marijuana) and impaired driving.

As a result, truck drivers must avoid all types of marijuana and CBD products for recreational or medical reasons.

Making roads safer

The FMCSA’s D&A Clearinghouse is designed to improve public safety on the roadway by helping to ensure any CDL drivers that violate the FMCSA D&A policy are kept off the road. The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that provides real-time, historical data of any FMCSA D&A policy violations.

Companies that employ CDL truck drivers must query the database at the time of employment and at least once every 12 months to see whether a driver’s status has changed. Drivers who test positive for alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines or other prohibited controlled substances without a proper medical prescription must complete the FMCSA’s Return-to-Duty process before returning to any safety-sensitive job functions. The process includes meeting with a Department of Transportation-approved substance abuse professional (SAP) and undergoing Return-to-Duty testing and subsequent follow-up drug tests as determined by the SAP.

CDL drivers who want to view their records must register and create an account with the Clearinghouse using the link below. Drivers must also use the Clearinghouse to give employers additional electronic consent to view any records found. Refusal to provide consent will prohibit the driver from performing any safety-sensitive functions. Employers, testing facilities and SAPs are required to report any FMCSA D&A policy violations to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Drivers will receive notification by mail or email every time their record is modified.

To register, visit You’ll need your CDL number, birthdate, full name and Social Security number.

Driver shortage issues have diminished as capacity has fluctuated. However, the fundamentals behind the driver shortage have not disappeared, and it remains a top industry concern. The right equipment and technology can appeal to drivers and give fleets a competitive advantage when building and retaining their pool of drivers.

[Read more...]Show less

Do you yawn often or feel drowsy when driving during daylight hours? Do you snore while sleeping? Do you have frequent headaches? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

[Read more...]Show less

Federal law has required professional truck drivers to wear seat belts since 1970, and a record 86% of professional drivers use safety belts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported. According to FMCSA, safety belt use remains one of the cheapest, easiest and most important means to protect commercial motor vehicle drivers.

[Read more...]Show less

For many professional drivers, sitting all day can create a range of health issues. Fortunately, there are several ways drivers can improve their health and minimize their risk of developing serious illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Helping truck drivers get healthier can also improve safety on our highways.

There are some general tips for drivers on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website, and Insights sat down with Kevin A. Vrablik, MD, MPH, a board-certified occupational medicine physician with Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and an FMCSA-certified commercial driver medical examiner, who shared five ways drivers can boost their overall health.


Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Driving is a sedentary job. By virtue of that type of work, professional drivers are not expending a lot of energy. Losing weight requires folks to expend more calories than they take in, and there are simple things they can do to add some energy expenditure to their day.

Some drivers are able to get out when their load is being taken out of their trailer or they can try to make a short amount of time for exercise when they have to stop and fuel. Even something as simple as walking three times around the trailer can be helpful. There are drivers who are actually crafting entire workout routines that they can do during stops.


Make better food choices.

Drivers are pressed for time. They have to make their deliveries on time and can only drive a certain number of hours a day. A lot of times that forces people to pick quick, cheap, unhealthy food for energy.

Fortunately, more and more restaurants have some healthier options on the menu. Drivers can also pack their lunches from home and store food in their refrigerators in the truck. Instead of a candy bar, they can have carrots and some ranch or blue cheese dressing, or have peanut butter crackers or apples with peanut butter instead of a bag of chips. Fleet owners can help their drivers by educating them about what is healthy or unhealthy and how to make the right choices.


Stretch regularly.

Sitting for a really long time in one position and being bounced around in a seat that may not have a really good pneumatic shock-absorbing device may pose a risk for back injuries or pain. It could also aggravate underlying problems a driver may have.

Getting up and doing exercises every so often will help keep the back in better shape. There are also some simple back stretches or exercises drivers can do when they are taking a break or when they are done for the day (see box below).


Get tested for sleep apnea.

A sleep apnea study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by FMCSA and the American Transportation Research Institute found that almost one-third of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea—a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep due to the airway collapsing at night, resulting in poor sleep and daytime drowsiness. Sleep apnea is mostly related to weight, but there are people of normal weight who have sleep apnea.

Drivers should be vigilant in watching for sleep apnea symptoms, which include loud snoring, morning headaches and nausea, gasping while sleeping and excessive daytime sleepiness. Drivers can undergo a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea. If they are diagnosed, they wear a mask during sleep that keeps the airway open. A drowsy driver is a dangerous driver.


Avoid excess sun exposure.

If drivers consistently drive with their window down or rest their arm on the door with an open window, they could be exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays. Wearing sunscreen and long sleeves can minimize sun exposure. So will rolling up the window as the window's glass will filter out UV rays.

Four Basic Exercises for Good Back Care

The following exercises are helpful for many people. They can be done every day in the order listed below.

Note: Everyone's body is different. Don't do any exercise that causes pain or gets more difficult to do over time. If the exercise relieves pain or gets easier after a few repetitions, keep doing it.

If you are under medical care for a back problem or if you have back pain, be careful. Ask your health-care provider before you try these exercises.

The Pelvic Tilt

The pelvic tilt exercise helps strengthen your stomach, buttocks, and thigh muscles as well as stretching the lower back muscles. This exercise flattens the back and then let the back return to its natural curve.

  1. Lie flat on your back on a hard surface with head resting on a small pillow.
  2. Bend knees and hips so both feet are flat on the hard surface.
  3. Push lower back flat to the floor. Make sure your back is flat by trying to place your hand between your back and the hard surface. When done correctly, your hand shouldn't fit.
  4. Tighten your "stomach" (abdominal) muscles.
  5. Tighten your "buttock" (gluteal) muscles.
  6. Lift your hips from the floor and tilt your whole pelvis forward while keeping your back flat against the hard surface.
  7. Hold for a count of ten.
  8. Slowly relax.
  9. Repeat this exercise ten times. The best way to do this exercise is on the floor. You can also do it against a wall.

Once you are familiar with the "feel" of the pelvic tilt, you can do this exercise in any position and you can practice at work or at home. The pelvic tilt can be done standing up against a wall or while you are standing in line, waiting at a red light, or wherever you can focus on your back for a few minutes.

Lumbar Stretches

When lumbar muscles are tight, they become shortened and interfere with bending, twisting, and pelvic rotating. Keeping these muscles stretched also helps keep the natural curves of the spine in shape.

  1. Lie flat on your back on a floor or hard surface with your head on a small pillow.
  2. Bend your knees and slowly bring them toward your chest. Reach your hand behind your thigh to help bend the knees. (Note: pulling from the top of the knee isn't good for the knees.) Don't bounce.
  3. Keep your head on the pillow and elevate your butt as high as possible off the floor. Your knees should be as close as possible to your chest.
  4. Hold this position for a count of 10. Relax, but continue to hold onto your thighs.
  5. Again, pull knees as close to your chest as possible. Do this exercise 10 times.

Hamstring Stretches

When hamstring muscles are shortened or tight they interfere with bending. You can stretch them by doing the following exercise. Begin by lying on a hard surface.

  1. With your knees close to the chest but in a relaxed position, slowly extend one leg toward the ceiling.
  2. Flex your foot and push your heel upward to feel the hamstring muscles stretch. Count to 10 while holding this position.
  3. Now bend this leg and bring the knee back toward your chest, while extending the other leg. Repeat Step 2 with the other leg.
  4. Repeat this exercise 10 times, one leg at a time.
  5. When you are done, bring both knees toward your chest and roll to the side as a safe way of returning to a standing position.

Reverse Situps

Many people have weak abdominal ("stomach") muscles and tend to arch their backs while doing situps. That's why we recommend "reverse" situps to strengthen the three groups of muscles that make the abdomen strong.

  1. Sit on the floor in an upright position with knees bent.
  2. Lock hands together behind your head and hold your arms out to your side.
  3. Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly lean back about 15 degrees, which is like going from 12 noon to 11 o'clock on a timepiece. Hold this position for a count of 5, and 10 if you can.
  4. Slowly lean back to the 10 o'clock position. Hold and count again.
  5. Return slowly to an upright position.
  6. Repeat the whole exercise.

For more ideas for simple exercises and stretches visit:

You’re due at your destination in an hour, but traffic has slowed to a crawl. You just got cut off — twice. You’re already feeling worn out. And now rain clouds are gathering overhead. As a truck driver, you face these types of situations all the time. The more prepared you are to handle them, the healthier you’ll be.

[Read more...]Show less

You climb in and out of your cab constantly. You may even be required to climb into the trailer or on top of a flatbed to secure the load you are transporting. This is done so often, that you probably don’t think of the risk involved. But move too fast or carelessly, and you could end up out of service with a serious injury.

Trips, slips, and falls cause around 100,000 work-related injuries a year for professional drivers. They also keep workers off the job for an average of 24 days, according to National Safety Council data. Wintertime is an especially dangerous time for falls due to weather hazards like snow, sleet and ice that impact the central and northern regions of the U.S.

You can avoid trips, slips, and falls by following a few basic steps:

1. Use the three points of contact rule. The three points of contact rule will give you the most stability every time you enter and exit your truck, reducing your risk of a slip, trip or fall. Three points means that you should have two hands and one foot — or two feet and one hand — in contact with your truck at all times. When you climb up or down, grab onto fixed items, such as door handles, the door frame, steps or your steering wheel. Don’t rely on tires or wheel hubs to climb out.

2. Don’t climb and carry. Avoid the temptation to hold anything — a coffee cup, smartphone or logbook — in your free hand when you enter and exit the truck. Doing so will prevent you from effectively using the Three Points of Contact Rule. Always place your items into the cab before attempting to enter your truck.

3. Move slowly and deliberately. While jumping out of your cab may save time, you must never do it. Jumping puts extra strain on your back and joints, which can cause you pain and create injuries over the long term. Jumping also puts you at risk for ankle, shoulder and knee injuries that may occur if you fall awkwardly.

4. Look before you leave the cab. Make sure your vehicle’s handles and steps are clear of ice, snow and other hazards. Park in well-lit areas and on level surfaces so you can climb out of your truck safely. Look for objects blocking your path and move them out of the way.

5. Wear proper footwear. Choose non-slip footwear. Waterproof work boots with textured treads are always a good option.

6. Pay attention. Focus on climbing up and down the stairs only. Don’t look at your phone or other objects. Avoid distractions.

Accidents happen! According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) most recent Traffic Safety Facts report, about 523,796 large trucks were involved in police-reported crashes in 2021. Those accidents led to over 154,000 injuries and more than 5,700 deaths.

[Read more...]Show less

Life on the road means lots of hours behind the wheel. It can also mean way too many high-fat, high-calorie truck stop and diner meals. And sadly, all those calories come at a cost. Studies show that 7 in 10 truck drivers are overweight, which raises their risk for serious heart disease.

[Read more...]Show less

Auxiliary power units (APUs) reduce the need for idling, allowing fleets to reduce fuel costs, increase engine life and improve driver comfort. APUs have traditionally been used in sleeper berths but are increasingly being used in day cabs.

[Read more...]Show less

As fleets work to attract and retain drivers, they are increasingly focused on improving drivers' lifestyles. These improvements can include increased home time, shorter lengths of haul, and late-model equipment with the latest comfort features.

[Read more...]Show less

The driver shortage has hit an all-time high. Comfort and convenience features on late-model equipment can help improve drivers' experience on the road, which can boost recruitment and retention efforts.

"It is so competitive in the driver market, some of the carriers are using truck features as a benefit in their recruiting," said Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing. "You're trying to differentiate yourself from the other carriers and make your drivers more comfortable, so you also get more productivity and greater tenure."

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that by the end of the year the truck driver shortage will hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers.

Increased Comfort

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have worked to increase comfort inside the cab, rolling out better ergonomic designs for dashboard alignment and gauges. They're also building in greater adjustability, such as with electric mirrors, temperature settings, automatic climate control and heated steering wheels. "In some cases, OEMs are trying to make them more car-like," Pagesy said, adding that fleets can also specify a better seat with more back and thigh support. "If drivers are not so fatigued when they get out of the truck, they hopefully have improved alertness and productivity."

Improved Safety

Class 8 tractors are increasingly equipped with safety features, such as active cruise control and lane-departure warnings, which can reduce stress on drivers. "It takes the pressure off of them and allows them to be more alert," Pagesy said. "Power steering and disc brakes have also made it more comfortable for the driver."

Tire pressure monitoring systems indicate any problems with tires, resulting in fewer flats and issues. Pagesy said some trucks are equipped with self-inflating tires, which can provide a significant safety benefit.

Added Convenience

Fueling at Penske locations provides added convenience for drivers. "We pump the fuel for them. At a lot of truck stops, they have to pump their fuel," Pagesy said, adding that Penske also conducts a multipoint inspection and checks the tire pressure, washes the windshield and cleans up the rearview mirrors.

If the fueling attendant finds any defects, the shop can fix them. "It is a convenience and safety issue at the same time," Pagesy said.

With long hours spent sitting in a cab, little opportunity to exercise, few healthy food choices and large amounts of stress, driving a truck brings many challenges. Staying heart healthy may be one of the biggest ones.

[Read more...]Show less

Manufacturers are working to improve fuel economy and lower emissions with their latest equipment releases.

"Most of this is being done with down-speeding the engine and newer engine hardware for efficiency gains, such as lower friction and less parasitic draw items. Also, software will play a big part, such as shifting with automated manuals, fuel maps, etc.," said Mike Hasinec, former vice president of maintenance for Penske Truck Leasing.

[Read more...]Show less

The strengthening economy and robust freight demand have made 2018 a strong year for the trucking industry, but challenges remain, according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). ATRI has released its list of the industry’s top driver concerns, many of which could be addressed by a full-service lease.

[Read more...]Show less