Highway Health & Happiness: 12 Tips for Trucker Wellness

Simplify what it takes to be healthy and happy on the road as a truck driver.

trucker health tips and happiness 

Highway health and happiness are both achievable. 

Between endless days driving alone on the road, calling a confined truck cab “home,” and needing to sustain one’s mind and body on whatever the highway has to offer, the life of a truck driver is difficult in ways that the average person may struggle to conceptualize. The miles and years can certainly take their toll. 

While this is true, there are a variety of ways truck drivers can and have remained healthy—physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

This guide contains a comprehensive collection of hacks, exercises, and tips to help support truck driver wellness. Some of these are based on years of scientific research. Others are based on years at the wheel from fellow truck drivers. All are designed to ensure a long and pleasant journey as an over-the-road truck driver. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Adopt a healthier diet by choosing foods with fewer ingredients, stocking up on filling foods, and being mindful of how certain foods affect your energy and alertness.
  2. Optimize your sleep by establishing a pre-sleep routine and creating an ideal sleeping environment in your cab.
  3. Prioritize physical fitness with simple exercises like jumping rope and doing burpees.
  4. Combat loneliness by bringing a canine companion on the road, ensuring you select and care for the right breed.
  5. Utilize ancient Stoic philosophy techniques to manage stress and anxiety by understanding control and adjusting perceptions.


Section 1: Eating Healthier as a Truck Driver


truck driver preparing food to eat

You are what you eat—which, for a trucker, can make you cringe! One of the trickiest aspects of personal health to nail down on the road is your diet. Highways aren’t typically conducive to making healthy eating choices. 

This being said, there are a few simple ways to make sure you’re getting healthier foods into your diet and avoiding much of the "convenient" junk at stops along the way. 

Tip 1: Opt for Fewer Ingredients

In many instances, the more ingredients a food contains, the less healthy it will be for you. When presented with the option, pick up foods as close to their whole-food versions as possible. A few easy ways to do this is to shop the produce aisle for snacks—choosing fruits, vegetables, and nuts that are your favorites. 

Tip 2: Stock Up on Satiating Foods

The problem with many unhealthy snacks isn’t that they are terrible even in small servings but that they quickly leave you unsatisfied and craving more. Sometimes, the key to eating less is by eating foods that satiate you for longer periods of time. Foods that are high in good fats—such as natural nut butters, hard-boiled eggs, natural cheeses, and pouches of tuna—keep you feeling fuller for longer and less prone to snack. 

Other filling foods are those with higher levels of fiber—such as raw nuts, beans, brown rice, fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Tip 3: Consider How Certain Foods Make You Feel

If you’re not sure about how healthy certain foods are, consider how they make you feel 30 minutes to an hour after you’ve eaten them. More often than not, if certain foods upset your stomach or make you feel sluggish, this is because your digestive system is having a hard time breaking them down. 

These foods aren’t only bad for your gut, they’re also likely bad for your focus. Foods that make you sleepy can make you a less alert truck driver and more prone to making mistakes on the road. So, maybe what you need in the afternoon is not yet another coffee or energy drink to stay alert, but a healthier lunch that energizes you instead of leading you to a midday food coma. 

For more truck driving food tips, we’ve already written a guide for you— 16 Simple Health Hacks for Truckers

Section 2: How to Achieve Better Sleep On The Road


truck driver sleeping in cab with eye mask

Recent studies have found that sleep is much more than just a time of rest but also a time when the brain prepares itself for the next day. This includes moving memories from short-term to long-term storage, processing complex information, and even washing metabolic waste from the brain. 

However, for many OTR truck drivers, achieving quality sleep each night is a constant battle. But there are ways to set up your evening routine and truck environment to give yourself the best chance of long restorative sleep. 

Tip 4: Design Your Pre-Sleep Routine

Many wellness guides obsess over the importance of a great morning routine yet fail to acknowledge the routine that matters most: your evening routine. Guarding this time for the purpose of preparing your mind and body for sleep is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. 

Designing your evening routine means shutting down certain stimulating activities in succession leading up to your final lights out. 

  • 5 hours before lights out, stop consuming caffeine to allow it to leave your system.
  • 4 hours before lights out, cease consuming alcohol or doing physical exercise to keep the metabolization process from keeping you restless.
  • 3 hours before lights out, stop eating any foods to begin to give your digestive system time to slow down. 
  • 30 minutes before lights out, turn off all screens—including any TVs, computers, and phones to limit the amount of sleep-inhibiting blue light reducing restfulness. 

Tip 5: Prepare Your Cab For Deep Sleep

The condition of your sleeping quarters can hurt or help your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. However, many of us unknowingly sabotage ourselves with poor sleep environments. Here are a few steps you can take to turn your truck cab into the ultimate slumber cave. 

  • Keep the temperature cooler than normal. When your brain is cooler, it releases more melatonin—the hormone that induces restful sleep. Optimally, strive to keep your cab between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep your truck cab as dark as possible. For the deepest sleep, you may want to consider investing in some true black-out curtains for your sleeper cab or consider wearing a comfortable sleep mask to keep out all light. 
  • Don’t skimp on your mattress. If your bed isn’t comfortable for you, you won’t sleep as well as you could. Invest in a high-quality mattress or even just a good mattress topper to achieve optimal comfort. 

Tip 6: Don’t Stay in Bed if You Can’t Sleep

If you find yourself struggling to get to sleep—either due to a restless body or a racing mind—continuing to lay in bed can make things worse. The answer? Get up! 

If you feel restless, consider quietly walking a few laps around your truck to burn excess energy. If you can’t seem to turn off your mind, perform an analog activity to occupy your thought process. Consider reading a physical book, working on a puzzle, or playing cards. Do any of these activities until you begin to feel tired and then try to go back to sleep. 

For more tips on achieving great sleep on the road, you’re invited to explore our guide, How to Get Quality Sleep in a Semi-Truck: Sleep Tips for Truckers

Section 3: Trucker Fitness Made Simple


truck driver jump rope exercise

Life on the road as a truck driver can take its toll on your physical health. In fact, truck drivers are disproportionately overweight compared to the rest of the workforce and have higher instances of diabetes, blood pressure, and risks for heart disease.

To combat many health problems, it is important that truck drivers tend to their physical fitness on a regular basis. But how is this possible on the road? Well, it is possible—and with only two forms of simple (yet not easy) exercise. 

Tip 7: Bring a Jump Rope On The Road

When it comes to achieving a high level of cardiovascular fitness, jump rope is a frequent go-to exercise for professional boxers, basketball players, Olympic runners, and more. One university study even found that 10 minutes of jump rope produced a similar cardiovascular workout compared to 30 minutes of jogging. 

Jumping rope is also a full-body workout that is low impact (easy on the joints), compact for easy storage, and among some of the cheapest items of fitness equipment that one can buy. 

Tip 8: Achieve Full-Body Strength Training with Burpees

Many feel that proper strength training requires a trip to the gym or lugging around a set of weights. A similar level of strength training can be achieved virtually anywhere without a single weight utilizing one exercise—burpees. 

Burpees, the 6-count burpee in particular, is a bodyweight strength training exercise that activates a majority of muscle groups in the body. Here is how to perform this move. 

  1. From a standing position, reach down and place your hands down on the ground just a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Kick your legs backward in a way that places you in the top position of a pushup. 
  3. Bring this pushup down with your chest nearly touching the ground. 
  4. Bring the pushup back up to the top position. 
  5. Bring your legs back in under your collarbones. 
  6. Stand upright. 
6-count burpee tutorial

When done with proper form in timed intervals (typically 20-minute sessions), burpees can help truck drivers reap noticeable differences in levels of strength, cardiovascular endurance, and a reduction in body fat. 

For a more detailed explanation of jump rope or burpee exercises as well as instructional videos for each of these exercises, make sure to check out our guide, Total Trucker Fitness in Two Exercises

Section 4: Combating OTR Loneliness with Canine Companions—ie, Dogs


truck driver's bulldog

The road can be a lonely place for truckers. Even when distracted by an array of podcasts, audiobooks, music, or even phone calls with folks you care about, there can still be a void felt by being the only soul in the cab. 

When asked for tips for combating trucker loneliness, many experienced truck drivers replied with a similar answer: “Get a dog.” 

Tip 9: Find the Right Dog Breed for The Road

If you decide that a furry friend may be a good idea for combating the loneliness of the open road, it is important to realize that not every breed of dog is best. 

The best dog breeds are those that are: 

  • Small to medium in size for ease of getting in and out of the cab
  • Not prone to shedding too much for cab cleanliness
  • Not susceptible to chronic health conditions
  • Quiet and relatively calm—low energy
  • Affectionate with their owners 

Some of the top recommended dog breeds for truckers are: 

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Shih Tzus
  • Doodle Mixes
  • Heeler Mixes
  • Corgis
  • West Highland White Terriers (“Westies”)

Tip 10: Prepare to Care For Your Road Dog

There is far more involved in taking a dog on the road than just picking up a pooch from the pound and hitting the road. For your cab to be a hospitable environment for your dog, you will need to plan to have all of their food, toys, leashes, and cleaning supplies at the ready.

In addition to things, you need to consider processes. Getting your dog the proper exercise and adapting to potty training in particular are crucial processes. Remember that the transition process will vary depending on your dog, so just be patient. 

For more tips on selecting the right dog and properly caring for it as a truck driver, check out our guide, Trucker-Recommended Dog Breeds for Truck Drivers.

Section 5: Reducing Stress & Anxiety With Help From Ancient Wisdom


marcus aurelius stoic philosophy

Life on the road can be stressful for a number of reasons. Not only are you expected to navigate thousands of miles of highway while hauling massive loads, this is compounded by being away from home for days or weeks at a time—away from family and friends. 

To help you cope with the stress and anxiety of life as a truck driver, an array of tools and remedies exist. Some of these are cutting-edge psychological treatments. Others, as we’ll see, are many thousands of years old. One such avenue to help you shape your thought process towards positive thinking on the road as a truck driver is Stoic philosophy. 

Ancient Stoic philosophy has been utilized by everyone from Roman Emperors to modern prisoners of war to help them manage stress, navigate difficult decisions, and reframe thought processes to their mental and emotional benefit. Let’s explore a few of these ideas. 

Tip 11: Mentally Separate What You Can & Can’t Control

One of the main lessons of Stoicism is that, while you can’t control everything that happens, you can control how you respond to it. Bad weather, equipment issues, traffic—as a truck driver, these are typically beyond your control. Still, these may give you stress and anxiety. 

The ancient Stoics would want to remind you that it is in your best interest to accept these variables for what they are—inevitable. They would encourage you to not allow them to trouble you. Instead, focus on what you can control. 

As the ancient philosopher Epictetus would say, “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control."

Tip 12: Consider How Your Perception of Events Affects Your Mood

What are you currently stressed or anxious about? Is there a chance that the way you’re thinking about it is exacerbating this stress? In other words, is there a chance that it’s not as bad as you’re imagining it to be? Is there a chance that this dreaded fate may never actually happen? 

The ancient Stoics routinely remind their students about how negative thoughts can escalate when left unchecked and unchallenged. Ruminations can spiral out of control to the point of no longer resembling the original concern.

The Stoics would encourage you to think about how you’re thinking about what is giving you stress or anxiety. Is this stress or anxiety helping you? Is there a chance that your worst fears may never actually come to pass? 

Whenever you’re dredging up past negative experiences or stressing out about the future, remember that in this present moment, you’re likely doing just fine. There’s a good chance that you’re ok now and it’s safe to assume that you will be ok later. 

As the Stoic philosopher Seneca would say, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."

For more helpful insights from Stoic philosophy for truck drivers, check out our guide, Managing Trucker Stress with 5 Ideas from Stoic Philosophy.

Balanced Wellness is Possible—It Just Takes Effort

Remaining happy and healthy as a trucker can seem like a lot of work—and it is! However, by building off of the tiniest wins in your daily life, you will begin to see your positive habits begin to snowball into considerable lifestyle changes for the better. 

Your Truck Can Make the Difference

Because your truck is often your home, it pays to consider if it is contributing to your happiness or if it is an obstacle to your wellness. If you’ve determined that it may be time to upgrade to a new or new-to-you used semi truck, your friends from My Little Salesman can hook you up! Since 1958, My Little Salesman has been connecting buyers and sellers of commercial trucks and heavy equipment.

You’re invited to visit our Sleeper Semi Trucks for Sale listings page to find your next rig. Using the intuitive search filters, you can dial in all of your truck preferences to make your shopping experience quick and easy. 

Find Your Next New or Used Sleeper Semi Truck For Sale Today

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About Ken Lane
Ken’s affinity for the heavy equipment industry was fostered as a curious youngster—becoming happily lost on his grandfather’s tractor sales and service lot (his favorite color is still Allis-Chalmers Orange). Since then, he’s perfected the art of turning black coffee into helpful buyer resources and marketing materials for My Little Salesman.
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