This is the first part of the Pre Trip Series.
This part 1 of a 9 part, very in depth Pre Trip series of episodes. Why? Because it is probably the most overlooked and underappreciated way to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. It can and should be used by everyone, even on their personal vehicles.
The parts are as follows:
- The Approach
- Raise the Hood
- Around the Truck We Go
- The Fifth Wheel
- The Trailer
- Inside the Cab
- Gentlemen Start Your Engines
- Are We Ready to Roll? Lets Go Truckin!
Let’s start with a question.
What is the most important thing on the truck?
Because you are important. Your family is depending on you. Your customers are depending on you. The general public is depending on you. You need to look at it as part of your job.
Can you safely operate that 40 ton truck?
Are you sick? Feel like throwing up? Don’t drive.
Are you tired? Do you feel like another 30-60 minutes in bed would be better? Don’t drive!
Yeah, you might end up being late to a shipper or receiver. Your dispatcher might be pissed off. But so what! You are in control of that truck. You are responsible if you crash because your reaction time was slightly slowed due to fatigue or an illness. It all comes down on you if something happens. Not your dispatch, not the shipper, not the receiver. It is YOU! The FHWA has stated for years and years that it is the driver’s responsibility to operate the vehicle in a safe and legal manner. Your employer cannot legally punish you for not operating the truck in an unsafe manner, including fatigue or illness. If you are forced to do so you must cover your ass by marking it on your log that you were forced to drive when you didn’t feel safe. And even that may not save you in a courtroom with some lawyers. What I mean is that if you don’t feel like you can safely go then dont. If the company fires you or punishes you then they were not worth working for to begin with. There are literally thousands of driving jobs in the industry and you can live virtually anywhere for any of the jobs. So don’t sweat it. Remember that your CDL is what brings home the paycheck. Not the company.
Why this episode right now?
Because we just came out of the holidays and this is a time of the year that is well known for overindulgence on food. For me I am at a desperate time in my life. 15 years ago just before I met my wife I was 321 lbs. I was about half way through my career of driving truck and had really let myself go. My A1c had shot through the roof and ever since I have been fighting with my weight. I lose 40 lbs I gain 50. Lose 50, gain 40. I have maintained 250-255 for over a year now and cannot lose anymore no matter how hard I work out or not eat anything. So my doctor has got me set up for bariatric surgery. I’m doing the Gastric Sleeve. There are a ton of steps and appointments to do before the surgery. I’ve already met with a dietician, about the time this episode is posted I will be having a camera shoved down my throat. Then the week following that I will be getting a Psych evaluation. After that I just have to show the remainder of 6 months of weight loss attempts for my insurance. My surgery is scheduled for late June.
I’m going through this because I want to live a long enough to see my daughter grow up and I want to keep driving. I am currently on 5 different meds and about to start another one next week. Plus a cpap machine for sleep apnea. I haven’t had a dot physical card for longer than a year for 15 years. They are normally every two years and I definitely want to go back to every two years. So I have now changed my outlook on my weight to being as part of my job to get and stay healthy. Which has given me a new perspective on everything.
Some tips for staying healthy while driving a truck.
- Take a walk or jog. Get out of the truck, weather permitting of course. You can do this during your 30 minute break. Even a walk for 20 minutes can make a huge difference.
- Do some sit ups/crunches and push ups. While on the bed or on the floor, if you have a freightliner or can fit between the gear shift and bed. The point is to move your body.
- Get some resistance bands. I have several. They were free from the Sparrow hospital group in Lansing. All I did was ask for them. Besides that they are relatively inexpensive at walmart or sporting goods stores. I’m pretty sure they are on Amazon as well. Just make sure you use them.
- Stop eating at truck stops and fast food joints! Don’t eat the 2 for $3 ¼ lb hot dogs from Pilot and Loves. Stay away from the Cinnabons! Back away from the Big Mac!
- Make changes in your diet. Even small ones help. Dont get the extra cheese. Skip the cheesecake. Make your meals in the truck. (See below)
- Switch from mountain dew and pop to water or unsweetened tea. Just the reduction in sugar is a huge improvement. Maybe switch to using Splenda instead. Even Diet Dr Pepper tastes pretty good for being diet. Eventually you will feel more refreshed from the water or tea. And when you do slip up and grab a regular pop you will totally freak out over how sweet it is.
- Start drinking the zero calorie Monsters and energy drinks instead of regular.
- We have to take 10 hrs off a day. Plan it well! 10 and ½ hrs each day of doing nothing is a lot of time to do something. I know I’m probably going to get some crap from some of you but about 90% of being successful at truck driving is time management. Whether you agree with me or not. A pre trip is critical to your day as a driver and it should include a time and place for daily exercise and rank right alongside in importance with fueling and safety checks. Your truck cant and wont operate safely if it isn’t maintained and neither will your body.
The following tips can also save you money. While not initially they will in the long run.
- Get an inverter. I recommend a minimum of 2000 watts
- Get a cooler or fridge and stock it with good food. Not crap junk food.
- Get an electric burner, pots/pans and cooking utensils.
- A Burton stove to go. Also called a lunch box cooker.
- A slow cooker/crock pot.
- A microwave or toaster oven.
- If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated route or are home frequently you can prepare meals ahead of time and just throw them in the microwave, crock pot, pan, etc. If you don’t have time to do this at home try to sweet talk your significant other into doing it for you during your time out.
- Eat more veggies. Higher protein (Lol, BACON!!!!). Cut carbs.
While I am not a doctor or a dietitian I am willing to help if you need. I strongly urge you to do your own research and implement changes in your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be a drastic overnight change. Baby steps are fine. Any steps are preferred over no steps. You can do all kinds of research but nothing will change unless you make it happen.