It comes up every year…but has any progress really been made??? That’s the real, burning question. Is truck driver health still in a crisis situation? MOST Fleet Managers would tell you, “yes.”
It’s one thing to feel unhealthy or be carrying some extra weight around. It’s another to see so many drivers forced out of the industry because they cannot pass their DOT physical. This means careers are cut short and the already enormously high truck driver shortage continues to grow. In fact, the truck driver shortage was recently estimated to be around 51,000 drivers and it’s projected that this will continue to increase. A lot of the focus has been put on regulations, aging workforce, etc for creating this gap. But what about the things that CAN be controlled among those that are currently in the industry??
A transportation industry report from back in 2016 shows 21 percent of drivers who left the field in recent years did so for health reasons. This number is estimated to have only grown since then! When you look at your fleet, do you see potential health concerns coming down the line? Knowing that it may become more and more difficult to replace that qualified driver, doesn’t it make sense to consider ways to improve their health and longevity?
It’s no secret that trucking is a generally unhealthy profession. Around 70 percent of truck drivers are obese and many are at high risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. And, of course, a lot of it starts with the sheer number of hours spent in the sitting position. But could another big piece of it simply be lack of education?
Truck Driver Health Education
Siphiwe Baleka, once a champion swimmer for Yale University turned truck driver, believes it could be. As he puts it, ““Imagine if NASA sent astronauts to outer space without educating them on the effect of zero gravity.” Of course, his main point here is that most people are used to having the comforts of home (kitchen, larger spaces, gym, etc) available to them if they did want to make the decision to live healthier. Once you become a truck driver, all of that changes. And often times it happens very fast with little to no education on how to actually live life on the road beyond the driving aspect.
“Driving is a physically demanding profession, and getting proper rest, eating right and maintaining an exercise routine is a challenge due to the nature of the job,” said Steven Spencer, managing director of transportation and health care for HireRight.
Some truck stops are making changes by offering a gym area and more healthy food options, but the real hurdle comes down to the environment that drivers spend most of their time in – their trucks. Most see it as a disadvantage rather than an advantage. Some of the most effective tips from industry-leading health experts involve showing drivers “that a truck is a gym on tires,” and it does not require special equipment to get in a workout. Additionally, Baleka has been educating truckers on 15-minute workouts that were instrumental in getting him back into shape after he became a truck driver.
Beyond that, several companies are turning to smartphone apps as a way to create a “game” out of moving to a healthier lifestyle. One great app is from Rolling Strong, which offers nutrition tips, exercise programs, and the ability to connect with a health coach. These are all tools that can make a difference and help pull trucking out of this health crisis situation.
Making a Change for the Long Term
Again, it all comes down to education, implementation, and management. Truckers need to be educated on the lifestyle demands and how to deal with them. In order for a change to occur, a program needs to then be implemented and managed throughout a driver’s lifecycle with the company. This isn’t a short-term fix and many programs are very limited in nature. Investing in drivers well being is always the right decision and more fleets simply need to see it this way for the long haul.
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Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dickinson Fleet Services has grown into one of the largest independent fleet maintenance and management companies in the country. Dickinson Fleet Services is the leading provider of on-site mobile maintenance and repair services nationwide. Offering mobile on-site maintenance and repair services for light, medium and heavy-duty trucks and trailers with over 300 mobile units operating in 40 states.
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