The past few months have been unique and challenging, to say the least. The coronavirus has put an added strain on the trucking world for both drivers and fleet owners. But as with every challenge, there are lessons to be learned and wisdom to be gained. So, what has the COVID-19 pandemic taught us? Or at least shined a brighter light on so we can see more clearly?
I believe the main lesson to be learned here is that having a healthy and strong immune system is extremely important for all of us, and even more so for truck drivers. We should be more proactive in teaching drivers ways to develop and maintain a healthy immune system, instead of being reactive and waiting until a flu or pandemic occurs.
Here are the three most critical factors for strengthening your immune system.
1. Reduce Stress
The most important factor for our immune system is also the most challenging for many truck drivers — especially now — and that is chronic stress. Truck driving can be extremely stressful, with delivery deadlines, poor road conditions, traffic, and being away from family.
For truck drivers to reduce their stress, they need to approach the problem from various angles. Exercising and spending time in nature are two simple ways to lower stress. This can be as simple as doing stretches and taking a daily walk. Listening to inspiring audiobooks or podcasts are often very helpful in managing stress.
It’s important for fleets to talk to their drivers about stress and ways to relieve it, and even offer coaching or counseling services.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Despite all the challenges drivers face when it comes to getting quality sleep, there are certain things they can do to help improve the quality of their sleep, and sometimes the quantity as well. Start by having a bedtime routine that does not include electronics. Reading, journaling, or listening to relaxing music are all ways to help get the body ready for sleep. Exercising and moving throughout the day will increase melatonin production, which helps with sleep. Drivers should be coached to cut out caffeine at least six hours before bedtime and avoid eating for the last two hours before bed, as digesting food inhibits our deep sleep.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Diet also plays a part in our immune systems’ health. Some research indicates that the “good” bacteria in our gut plays an important role, and a poor diet filled with processed foods destroys that good bacteria. Fermented foods like miso, kefir, sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, and Kombucha can help your gut bacteria and in turn boost your immune system. Replace those processed foods with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Vitamin supplements should at least include a daily multivitamin to help fill in the gaps in nutrients drivers may miss on the road. Some specific vitamins that are believed by some to help include vitamins C, D3, and K2, as well as fulvic acid.
As fleet owners and managers, we need to consider not only how we can best support our truck drivers with this information, but more importantly, with implementing these practices.