Employers: make driver wellness a priority
Most goods in the U.S. are delivered by long-haul truck drivers. Businesses don’t often think about the unhealthy side effects that come with the truck-driving profession, and that can spell trouble for the drivers and for business profitability.
There are a number of factors about the truck-driving occupation that contribute to poor physical health, including:
- Sitting behind the wheel all day means limited opportunity for exercise.
- Truck stops and restaurants provide a quick bite to eat, but contribute to a poor diet.
- Sporadic work schedules interfere with sleep patterns.
- Highway annoyances and hazards that include traffic delays, dangerous drivers, and poor weather.
- Pressure to reach the destination on time provides an incentive to ingest unhealthy stimulants to stay awake.
The CDC conducted a large, in-depth national survey on long-haul truck drivers to learn more about the health and safety conditions these drivers face. This study found:
- Truck drivers were twice as likely to be obese compared to other U.S. workers.
- Truck drivers were twice as likely to smoke compared to other U.S. workers.
- Three out of four truck drivers said they did not get the recommended amount of physical activity. Only 1 out of 4 men and 1 out of 5 women drivers said they exercised for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Compared to 24% of the U.S. working population, 26% of truck drivers said they have hypertension.
- Compared to 7% of the U.S. working population, 14% of truck drivers said they have diabetes.
- 697 trucker drivers, or their passengers, were killed in crashes.
What employers can do
There are several steps employers can take to maintain a healthy driver workforce:
- Implement injury prevention programs.
- Offer free or discounted memberships at gyms with locations around the country.
- Encourage drivers to take quick exercise breaks during trips.
- Encourage healthy eating at home and on the road.
- Ensure that drivers’ schedules are not so tight that they might violate hours-of-service rules to make on-time deliveries.
- Be sure drivers are aware of (and adhere) to cargo securement and weight limits, safe driving techniques, and ways to avoid drowsy or distracted driving.
- Ensure that entry level-truck driver training meets current needs.
- Ensure the highest level of leadership commits to driver safety programs.
- Establish and enforce safety policies and regulations, such as requiring everyone in the truck to buckle up.
- Promote seat belt use in training and safety meetings.
If a truck driver suffers a heart attack or dozes off while hauling a load weighing tens of thousands of pounds, the results can be catastrophic. In addition to the lives lost or forever changed, there could be a considerable cost to the business.
Make driver wellness a priority. It makes good business sense and it’s the right thing to do.