By Steve Binkley, InfoStream Safety Consultant
The job as a commercial truck driver is an important one, but the demands can be grueling, including the pressure to deliver loads safely and on time. To help ensure drivers are prepared, the Federal Motor Commercial Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict requirements for preparing new drivers for the road. FMCSA regulation 380.503 requires entry-level drivers to receive minimum driver requirements training in four areas before they can operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). An entry-level is a driver with less than one year of experience operating a CMV with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in interstate commerce. The areas of instruction are: Driver qualification requirements, hours of service of drivers, driver wellness, and whistleblower protection.
While the need for technical knowledge and regulatory awareness are critically important, we can’t overlook the state of drivers’ overall health and wellness. The trends in driver health-related issues show a prevalence of joint and back pain, cancer, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. I’ve known many drivers who’ve received medical certificates from three months to one year, far less than the two-year average. The abbreviated certificate length is often due to these health-related issues.
Long hours behind the wheel, lack of access to healthy and nutritious food, extended periods of time alone, and little opportunity to exercise are risk factors that contribute to an obesity rate among truck drivers that is 50% higher than the rest of the U.S. population.
Drivers’ physical health isn’t the only thing being affected. Depression and anxiety are common mental health issues not often discussed but still present. Contributing factors include witnessing accidents, being away from family and friends, time pressures, and traffic headaches.
It’s worth questioning whether one module in the FMCSA’s entry-level driver training program is enough to keep drivers healthy and continue their jobs for many years. Given the ongoing driver shortage, I think it would be in carriers’ best interest to invest in health and wellness programs for all drivers – regardless of experience.
Having a fleet of fit drivers is one of the best ways to ensure loads are being delivered safely and on time. In addition, your company could realize:
- less driver turnover.
- fewer worker compensation claims.
- lower medical health costs.
- more 2-year medical certificates issued.
So, let’s say you’ve taken my recommendation and are exploring driver wellness programs. You’re asking yourself, “Which one is going to bring me the biggest ROI?” Well, before choosing a third-party solution or designing an internal program, you first need to determine the components of your program. Answer these questions: How in-depth is the training? What information will be given? How will I monitor drivers’ health?
After your wellness program is chosen and ready to share with drivers, it’s important launch it and then continue to manage it. Drivers need ongoing support and feedback to ensure the program is successful. Here are eight ways to keep drivers on track and your investment a solid one:
- Encourage drivers to take part in the program. Forcing or coercing drivers fails to create a team atmosphere.
- Evaluate each driver’s needs and follow up with one-on-one work.
- Provide a place at terminals where drivers are encouraged to walk or work out
- Send wellness messages to drivers, such as reminding them to eat healthy foods and take breaks from driving to walk or stretch.
- Consider a competition to see who can lose the most weight.
- Reward drivers who make progress in the program.
- Open the program to the entire company. This will create more of a family atmosphere and help build camaraderie between drivers and other employees.
- Contact your insurance carrier for tools and resources. Many offer incentives to companies starting driver wellness programs.
Investing in driver health wellness isn’t a one and done activity. It’s a commitment to ensuring you have the best drivers to handle the demands of a grueling job. I believe you’ll find most drivers will appreciate your investment and caring attitude toward them, which in turn can mean further loyalty and longevity to your company.