The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently interviewed nearly 1,700 truckers about their health and work—and the results were shocking. 69% were obese. 54% smoked. And 88% reported at least one risk factor for chronic disease.
Improving trucker wellness is a no-brainer for any long-haul fleet; it can help prevent high turnover rates, but also helps retain the most talented employees without having to lose them to disease or poor health.
It’s never been easy to stay fit or healthy on the long-haul, but it’s no longer possible to ignore the impact on truckers’ health. Melton Truck Lines in Tulsa, OK, first rolled out an intervention program aimed at helping drivers who might be close to failing their physicals to lower their blood pressure and glucose levels. They hired a wellness manager, implemented a weight loss and voluntary lipid-panel testing program to guard against creeping cholesterol levels, and converted an employee smoking lounge into a gym. Melton’s Tulsa headquarters also added a landscaped walking and jogging trail, a fresh and healthy café, and a clinic providing no-cost primary medical care to employees.
Getting drivers to participate in their own health is the cornerstone of the program. Melton even offers a “Health Concierge” service that helps employees sort through their health care costs and needs. There are various incentives and motivational programs, an online community, and even an app to keep employees motivated.
While it’s hard to measure the success of these new initiatives on turnover rates, more drivers are passing their DOT physicals. And the number of employees who identified as having three medical risk factors dropped from 51% to 38% within one year. The number of employees reporting zero risk factors went up from 13% to 17% in that same year.
Other companies have followed suit. Celadon Trucking launched their “Highway to Health” program in 2006, with similar screenings and incentives, as well as nutritional and exercise programs, and a full-service primary care medical clinic in their Indianapolis headquarters (as of 2011). And Schneider also has a Health and Wellness Manager to oversee their programs and focus on keeping individual truckers as healthy and productive as possible, which makes them safer on the road.
We can only hope these trends begin to spread throughout the industry and become standard practice—for the benefit of everyone involved.
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