The ability to make your own hours as a truck or delivery driver has made the profession of a driver more appealing—especially to younger adults. Companies like Uber, Lyft and Amazon have gained popularity in the past decade as side gigs and even full-time jobs for some.
But what if you were recently diagnosed with diabetes? Can you still be a driver? How do you manage driving AND living with diabetes? This guide is here to help you navigate your diabetes management to keep doing your job as a driver.
Will diabetes impact my driving job?
For many years, US law prevented people from being truck drivers if they had diabetes and used insulin, regardless of the type of diabetes or how well it was managed. Now, employers are not allowed to discriminate thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but some companies may have extra requirements.
Delivering and driving jobs with companies like Uber don’t require any medical examination, so a diabetes diagnosis shouldn’t impact your current job.
If you require a Commercial Driver’s License for your job, then a diabetes diagnosis can impact your employment. Commercial drivers, like truck and bus drivers, have to follow certain rules in order to keep driving with diabetes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) allows individuals with diabetes to continue operating commercial motor vehicles even if they are insulin-dependent. However, paperwork like your medical certification will be required to be filled out by your provider and updated with your employer.
Driving safely with diabetes
Navigating your new diagnosis and making sure you can keep working can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips on managing your diabetes so you can get back on the road safely.
Checking your blood sugar levels is an important part of diabetes management, but that may be hard to do while driving. A CGM is a small wearable device that tracks your glucose levels in real-time throughout the day and night. Wearing a CGM can help you still check your levels while driving and even display your numbers on your smart watch or activity trackers like Fitbits.
Wear a medical bracelet
In case of an emergency or accident, it’s a good idea to have a medical bracelet that has your diagnosis and emergency contact information. This is especially important if you use insulin and experience a hypoglycemic event.
Ask to try an insulin pump or patch
If you’re started on insulin right away, you may want to ask your provider about trying an insulin pump or patch. A pump can give you the option of administering insulin remotely and can even pair with a CGM to be as hands-off as possible. A patch is a simpler way to still administer insulin without needing to take your eyes off the road.
Keep a cooler for your insulin
Although some insulins can me left at room temperature for a limited time, it’s best practice to keep your insulin cool—especially during summer months when cars can get even hotter. There are protective and cooling cases for insulin pens and vials, but having a smaller cooler with ice packs should work just as well—great for snacks too!
Meal prep + have snacks
Spending hours on the road means that you’ll probably be eating most of your meals while driving too. Because your nutrition impacts your blood glucose levels, picking the right foods is important.
The best way to ensure you’re eating a nutritious and balanced meal is prep it ahead of time and pack for the road. Along with your meals, having snacks on hand can help with cravings. In case of emergency, it’s important to have snacks to treat lows too. Cooking at home may not always be feasible, so you can use this Fast Food Guide to help you pick the best options when ordering on the road.
So many things can impact your blood glucose levels, including dehydration. Although stopping for more bathroom breaks may be annoying, staying hydrated is important for maintaining steady blood glucose levels. Having a reusable water bottle and occasional electrolyte drink can help keep your energy levels up too—so leave the energy drinks at home!
Take walks at pit stops or delivery stops
Whether you’re stopping to make a delivery or pit stop, use this opportunity to take a walk and stretch your legs. Even a short 10-minute walk can help lower blood glucose levels and help with overall diabetes management.
Wear diabetic socks
Diabetes impacts all parts of our bodies—including our feet. With prolonged sitting, it’s important to take breaks to stretch, but you can also take care of your feet while driving by wearing diabetic or compression socks.
Socks for people with diabetes are designed to reduce friction, improve circulation and wick moisture to prevent infections. If you have sweaty feet, it may be helpful to have extra pairs of socks to change into during longer trips.
Use telehealth for doctor appointments
With a new diagnosis comes more doctor appointments. You may need more frequent follow-ups but if you’re on the road this may be difficult to make appointments. Instead of missing important appointments, ask if virtual appointments are an option. As long as you have cell service or wi-fi, you can meet with your providers on the road!
Refill prescriptions ahead of trips
If you have a long haul coming up or a busy week of driving, make sure you refill your prescriptions ahead of time. Using chain pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens can make it easy to quickly transfer and refill your prescriptions from any location too. Mail-order pharmacies are also good for automating deliveries based on how often you take your medications and getting 90-day supplies instead of monthly refills.
Advice for newly diagnosed drivers
Beyond Type 2 spoke with community members that live with diabetes and drive for their jobs about how they manage their diabetes on the road.
Mandy K—Amazon Flex driver with type 1 diabetes (T1D)
“I would tell a new driver to be prepared. Make sure they have everything they need for a few hours over their route time. You never know what might happen” Mandy shared.
“I pack a cooler bag and bring a back up vial of insulin. I’ve ripped my pump out while carrying boxes and didn’t have back up.”
Juan M—truck driver with type 2 diabetes (T2D)
Juan’s advice is “Have your documents ready for your DOT medical examination. I was put out of service for a month due to paperwork but when I gathered all of the necessary paperwork I was able to to work.
“Get informed. Prepare your meals ahead of time. Remember, make the time to take care of yourself and know you are in control, not diabetes.”
Rebecca N—Meals on Wheels delivery driver with LADA
“Use a CGM that will give you alerts. It is incredibly handy so you can focus on safe driving. Snacks are essential to have on hand—always have some fast sugar handy” Rebecca advises.
Know you’re not alone. Join our community of other people with diabetes like Mandy, Juan and Rebecca that are here to support you too!
Editor’s Note: Educational content for newly diagnosed people with diabetes is made possible with support from Abbott, makers of the Freestyle Libre 3 system, a founding partner of Beyond Type 2. Editorial control rests solely with Beyond Type 2.