Most discussions of trucker safety focus on driving habits and other vehicle-related actions. While these factors are undoubtedly critical in ensuring the safety of truck drivers, the industry should also consider some less obvious issues. Driver health is receiving less attention, and that should change.
More than 50% of truck drivers are obese, compared to 26.7% of all American adults. Likewise, diabetes is 50% more common among truckers than in the general population, and 54% of truckers smoke, compared to just 21% overall. These health problems can put drivers at an increased risk of illness, increase their medical bills, affect their quality of life, and even put their lives at risk.
Many of these health trends are the result of long working hours, lack of flexibility and limited options in the industry. Therefore, the trucking industry must change to promote healthier lifestyles. Here is how he can do it.
1. Provide health information resources
The number one way the industry can fight unhealthy lifestyle choices is through information. Many drivers may not know how to make healthier choices and the resources available to teach them are limited. Truckers report that 70% of trucking companies and 81% of truck stops have no health promotion program.
Studies suggest that providing more information could help promote healthier lifestyles. While 96% of American adults want their food choices to be beneficial for their health, only 45% can accurately name those who can. Health coaching programs can help address this latter figure, providing a way forward for truckers.
Trucking companies and truck stops should offer resources to teach truckers how to improve their diet, exercise and other health habits. Information alone will not solve the industry’s health problems, but it does provide a starting point. Without it, becoming healthier is much more difficult.
2. Make the hours more flexible
One of the reasons that so many truckers face health issues is because of their schedules. Because truckers work long hours, they may not have time for regular exercise. Even though it is possible to train in 10 minutes, drivers can be too tired after a long day on the road.
More flexible hours would help give drivers the time they need to become more physically active. When this is not possible, another solution is to send them out on the road in pairs. While one is driving, the other can relax or sleep, which helps him feel less tired when he stops and encourages more physical activity.
Having two drivers travel will also improve the health of truckers by improving their sleep schedules. Lack of sleep can increase your risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and more. Truck drivers can prevent these risks by taking more time to sleep.
3. Provide access to exercise programs as a benefit
Lack of access to the necessary resources is another barrier that drivers face when trying to live healthier lives. Truckers may not know what exercise programs are available or how to get started, and even if they do, they can be expensive. Trucking companies can encourage exercise by offering these programs as an employment benefit.
Drivers who stay with the company for a period of time could get a free gym membership as a bonus. More truckers may be willing to try programs they don’t need to pay for. Providing these company-wide benefits can also be a social reason to go, as truckers will be in the gym with their peers and coworkers.
Trucking companies can try to make these options more attractive by offering a variety of options. For example, boxing can burn up to 800 calories in an hour and may be of more interest to drivers than a regular gym. Providing fun ways to exercise like this can encourage more participation.
4. Reward healthy behavior
Likewise, trucking companies can encourage healthier lifestyle choices by rewarding them. A sense of competition, or even the mere idea of a prize, can convince drivers who otherwise might not be interested in health programs. Companies can create a tier system where drivers who achieve different goals receive increasing rewards.
For example, a business might offer cash bonuses, days off, or gift cards to supplement different levels of weight loss. These programs don’t have to be year-round, but running them regularly can encourage healthier choices. After living this way for a month or two, drivers may want to engage in these behaviors permanently.
While these initiatives can create a competitive spirit, companies should not lean too much on the competitive side. Rewards should be based on achieving goals, not surpassing others. Otherwise, these programs could have the opposite effect than expected, discouraging some employees from participating.
5. Promote practical care clinics
There are over 40,000 medical providers who perform Ministry of Transport and CDL medical examinations. Many of these locations are also convenient care clinics, which can be a useful health resource for drivers. Trucking companies should promote it so that drivers know where they can find information about their health.
Hands-on care clinics can assess the health of truckers, provide necessary care, and help them develop a roadmap for a healthier lifestyle. Having easy and affordable access to this care can dramatically affect the health of drivers, but they need to know about it first.
Trucking companies should inform new hires of these clinics and continue to promote them through newsletters, emails and signage. The more companies talk about it, the more likely drivers are to consult them.
6. Work with truck stops to improve offers
Truck stops play an essential role in the health and lifestyle of truckers. Since drivers spend a large portion of their downtime at these locations, this is where they make many critical health choices. They’re also notoriously insufficient when it comes to sound offerings, so trucking companies should work with them to improve.
One study found that none of the stops surveyed offered exercise facilities and that 81% did not even have a walking path. Most also had only a few healthy food offerings, 25% of them totally devoid of it. If these areas had more options, the health of truckers would likely improve.
Trucking companies can see if they can partner with these stops to provide better choices. Funding for exercise facilities or healthier eating options will go a long way.
The health of truckers must improve
Healthier truckers will spend less on medical costs, have a better quality of life and live longer. While health can be a matter of personal choice, trucking companies can help improve the safety of their employees by promoting better options.
As it stands, the trucking industry is facing a sort of health crisis. If more companies follow these steps, they can make the profession quite healthier.