Monday, July 15, 2024
On the Road with Mike MurchisonOpinion/Column

A dead driver delivers no loads: take care of yourself

“Deep Fried Medicare” Photo: Mike Murchison

by Mike Murchison

Nothing like the rhythm off the road. Wheels humming, pistons stroking…. but what happens when YOU have a stroke…?

Driver health is often put on the back burner; it’s often neglected and not addressed until it hits you like a ton of bricks.

As long as the wheels are turning and the load is moving, everyone’s happy. Right? Don’t rattle things. Don’t make any noise or date bring up anything about your health. Got to keep the paycheque coming in.

I didn’t witness the event but sadly, a colleague had a stroke while at a loading facility this week. I didn’t witness it, but had heard about it from the load tower operator four days later.

The Driver is still in the hospital some 400 miles from home base; it is uncertain when he will be released.

Over the years I’ve heard of such events happening. Drives having strokes, heart attacks, major health issues. Even Drivers been found dead in their trucks. Often going unnoticed for days on end.

I can’t think of a sadder way to perish than far from home in a truck. But it does happen; it happens more than you may think.

Trucking by nature is a stressful occupation, whether you run local P&D or run the big road. It can be sedentary for hours followed by short burst of very physical activity: for example, from throwing massive lumber tarps in the winter winds, to hand-bombing boxes in the back of a van or reefer trailer. Or throwing chains and binders off a piece of equipment. 

“Essential Services” Photo: Mike Murchison

The long, sedentary periods can last for hours. Sitting in the seat just driving. Often, I will see drivers who have placed a cooler on the passenger seat. So, you have this constant ‘easy reach’ eating going on while still sitting for long periods.

Obesity is a common thread in trucking. Some are a little overweight…many are severely overweight. I’ve seen and worked with many colleagues on the spectrum.

Add to the equation the high sugar simple carb processed foods sold at truck stops and you have a recipe for disaster. 

I’m not a doctor and I can’t be preaching to the choir. However, I can say this:

Take care of yourselves. You are not immortal or forever young (physically, that is).

The loneliest, scariest place to be is in a hospital far from home. I’ve been there. You’re vulnerable,  uncertain about your future. Your job can be on the line depending on the Doctor’s decisions. And it’s a long process getting your license back, if they decide to pull it due to a medical issue.

Having said all that I will say this: somewhere in the course of the day, now that we are on the back end of winter and the weather is warming (seriously…it is) you might want to give some thought to doing some walking. 

If you can invest in anything that’s worth a damn, invest in yourself. Motion, movement are the key to keeping you one jump ahead of the health hazards that can be right around the corner. Doesn’t have to be a marathon walk; start small.  A few blocks, A few laps around the perimeter of the rest area. Give some thought to putting that cooler in the bunk and getting t  the passenger seat. Finally, water. Drink a lot of it. Helps flush the system and lube up the joints.

It’s a start that may develop into a habit that transcends into a lifestyle.  I know we all have days when we feel like we are at the bottom of the pile and put little value on ourselves. So here are a few motivational reminders of things you may have to look forward to if you put a little more emphasis on yourself.

You keep doing the things you love longer.

You get to enjoy your family and friends.

You get to keep meeting people who may have an impact on your future

you get to be the best version of yourself, and nobody can touch that.

Go look after yourself, Drivers. You’re worth every bit of a good life. A good life that is too often hidden in a job that is disguised as a lifestyle. As we say out on the big road:

Keep the shiny side up.