Author: Dr. David Thorpe
Driver health and wellness has become one of the major concerns that is effecting the trucking industry. It goes beyond simply effecting the driver and their medical exam. It leads to significant issues relating to such things as driver availability, motor carrier profitability. And most importantly it effects the driver’s ability to earn an income if they are unable to get into the cab. It has become such an issue that over the past couple of years, driver health and wellness has crept into the top 10 issues affect the trucking industry according to the ATRI reports from 2017 and 2018.
DRIVER HEALTH, THE REALITY
The driver population is aging. Not only do drivers have to deal with the issues associated with the advances in age, but their lifestyle leads to greater issues. Face it, it’s a stressful job. One that requires extended times away from family. It’s harder to get proper sleep, eat healthy, get exercise and get to the doctor. Drivers as a consequence suffer from poorer health as a result. And even though they suffer some of the same issues as do all others in the population, they suffer these chronic medical problems at a higher frequency, and greater severity. Medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and sleep apnea affect drivers at an ever increasing rate. They also have a higher incidence of having more than one chronic medical problem at a time and a greater likelihood of suffering gradual or sudden incapacitation. In essence, promoting health within this industry is important to both the motor carrier and most importantly the driver!!
TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE ON THE ROAD
I’m not going to give you tips like “go to the gym more regularly”, or “eat veggies”….I understand that those types of tips simply do not cut it when you’re living in a sleeper, crisscrossing the country and driving log hours. Instead, let’s focus on things you can actually do to make positive changes for yourself even on the road. I will introduce them here, but come back…..there will be follow up posts into each one in depth in coming weeks.
- Make an effort to get adequate sleep! Fatigue is a major problem for drivers and a concern to the FMCSA. That is why they have such stringent rules for hours-of-service to help prevent fatigue, and eliminate fatigue related accidents. Lack of sleep also leads to many chronic health issues such as hypertension, other cardiovascular diseases and much more. Focus on ways of getting adequate sleep while on the road.
- Eat right! I know, this sounds like a cliché, but eating right is key to many things relating to a drivers overall health. It may be easier simply to buy fast food, but it is possible to eat right while on the road. You may drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. You simply need to understand how.
- Get up and move. Driving is a sedentary lifestyle. Drivers need to stay active and in doing so they can lower the chance to develop heart disease, have a stroke, develop diabetes and more. Even a little exercise is better than none.
- Stop smoking. I know, you’ve heard this a million times before. It can lead to cancer, but it also can cause such things as COPD and other lung issues that can affect a driver’s ability to stay on the road. Smoking is simply a bad habit. There are creative ways that drivers can use to help them stop smoking.
- Develop healthy relationships. Drivers suffer a higher than average incidence of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Driving can be a very lonely job, and often leads to many of these issues. Developing ways of connecting with family and friends while on the road will help with these issues and lead to a healthier and happier life.
THE BENEFITS TO FOCUSING ON DRIVER HEALTH
Obviously drivers will be healthier. But what does that mean to the driver? What does it mean to the motor carrier?
Taking steps to improve driver health has many benefits. The most important being keeping drivers healthy and on the road. This leads less delays associated with the DOT medical exam. That means more drivers available to move freight (a real benefit to motor carriers when there exists a driver shortage), and for you the driver, you can continue to make a living and put food on the table.
What are some of the hidden benefits however? They are plentiful!
- Better freight rates.
- Lowered insurance costs.
- Improved SMS scores.
- Lower health insurance costs
….just to name a few.
With all this, no wonder there is a growing interest in promoting driver health by motor carriers nationally.
It simply makes sense, to both the driver as well as the motor carrier!