How to avoid the silent killers on South African roads

How to avoid the silent killers on South African roads

It has been reported by the global organisation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, that truck drivers – especially long-haul drivers – work under physically demanding conditions.

This puts them at a higher risk of a range of chronic health conditions including diabetes, obesity, cancer and hypertension (high blood pressure). Poor health can result in poor reaction times, which notably increases the risk of a collision.

“Health concerns can make a driver a little less engaged when on the road,” says Tendani Ndwamise, direct sector B2B marketer at Shell South Africa.

“Road safety is of huge importance to Shell Rimula through its Real Destination Campaign. As a brand that cares, we encourage drivers to take their health seriously and make use of Shell facilities across the country to rest, service their vehicles and even get medication.”

Here are some health risks that commonly affect truck drivers, in particular, with tips on how to prevent them:

Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation may lead to memory loss, weight fluctuations, sleep paralysis, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.

“There are currently 31 Shell Ultra City sites in South Africa. Each Ultra City has bathroom facilities where truck drivers can shower and refresh, as well as Shell Select Stores that operate 24-hours a day. It’s always important to stop and rest at a safe truck depot before continuing with the next phase of the journey,” says Ndwamise.

Obesity is a common health issue among truck drivers. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are important in combatting weight gain.

“Some laps around the truck, a walk around the parking lot, jumping jacks, or even lifting dumbbells in the cab of the truck – while stationary of course – can help make a difference to health while on a long-haul trip.

“Stocking up on healthy meals before and during trips makes it easier to not fall into the trap of buying fast food,” Ndwamise advises.

The Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders has found that truck drivers are at increased risk of having high blood pressure and developing Type 2 diabetes. If Type 2 diabetes is not managed it may lead to blurred vision, tiredness and lack of concentration, impacting significantly on a driver’s ability to function optimally on the road.

Other chronic illnesses
As they are usually on the road in direct contact with the sun for many hours at a time, drivers should always wear sunscreen – regardless of skin colour – to protect against the sun’s harmful ultra-violet rays.

“Drivers who smoke should make the effort give it up, so as not to risk getting lung cancer. Secondary smoke inhalation – breathing in smoke from other smokers – is also dangerous,” Ndwamise suggests.

“Drivers should make regular stops to go to the bathroom. Failing to do this can lead to bladder and kidney problems,” Ndwamise concludes.

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