Driver wellness has become a major issue for the transportation industry. The stats say it all:
- The life expectancy for drivers is 16 years shorter than the national average
- Drivers who have a BMI higher than 25 (overweight) are off work 13 times longer for a worker’s compensation claim than an injured driver with a BMI of less than 25.
- Obese drivers have double the crash rate per mile compared to healthy drivers.
In addition, more than 80 percent of carriers report that recent health care changes will adversely affect their ability to hire drivers. I frequently hear from my clients that driver recruiting is the number one critical issue for them. If this holds true for your company, the time is now to get moving with a wellness program that will help control health and medical costs of drivers!
There are unique challenges in designing a program that works for drivers - lack of healthy food options, ergonomically unfriendly work spaces (truck cabs), extreme fatigue, and always being on the road are just a few barriers to driver wellness. These should not be excuses to avoid investing in a wellness program though - just things to take into consideration in program design.
Tactics that work in driver wellness have to be tailored to drivers' unique needs. The following is a list of five things you can easily implement in your wellness program to help improve the health of your employees.
1. Offer exercise suggestions that fit the long hours of drivers’ schedules
Over-the-road drivers or long-haul drivers are allowed to work up to 70 hours in an eight-day period. Once they log in to start the day, they have to stop within 14 hours. During that period they are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours, so by law we have at a minimum 3 hours to help them use to improve their health. Provide suggestions on stretching, exercise and healthy eating that they can incorporate into this demanding schedule.
Drivers can walk around their trucks, use kettle bells, do a stretching program all with/in their trucks. Some TA/Petro Truck Stops have put workout rooms in 10 locations along the I-40 and I-95 corridors – WI to IL. 34 laps around a big rig is a mile – although that may seem silly, walking around the parameter of the truck stop might not be such a bad idea!
2. Promote stretching programs
Stretching is key to back safety and overall driver wellness and health. Participating in a stretching program can help with long hours of being in a cab, it might also help with bouncing back if injury should occur.
Have a professional demonstrate proper stretching during a safety meeting to help drivers see what they should be doing. It might even be a nice thing to add to your pre-trip inspection routine. You do the pre-trip to maintain your mechanical equipment, why not include your body?
3. Create “Wing Man” programs to gain buy-in with driver wellness efforts
Many companies have designed “Wing Man” programs encouraging employees to work out together or check up on how the other is doing. Numerous studies cite the benefits of a partner to hold you accountable for wellness efforts.
A Wing Man program could help drivers to keep track of how they are doing, and it also creates a social commitment to the wellness program.
4. Encourage preventative screenings for conditions drivers are at risk for
Drivers are at an increased risk for a host of health challenges. Extreme fatigue, sleep apnea, depression, loneliness and anxiety are just a few areas where drivers may need extra help.
Rested and healthy drivers are safer drivers. Screenings and preventive measures can identify early and allow for treatment or behavior changes that will lessen the severity or onset of these conditions.
5. Reward drivers for quitting smoking
Smoking is a major problem among driver populations. A focus of communication can be tips to stop smoking as well as factual information on the effects. Beyond this, look for ways to reward those that have quit or those who have never smoked at all.
These are just a few things that can be included in a wellness program aimed at reaching drivers. What have you tried, and what has worked for your company? Comment below and let me know!