The United States has over 7 million truck drivers on the roads, most of whom are obese and plagued by diabetes, hypertension, pre-hypertension along with other diseases.
According to a recent article in Corporate Wellness Magazine, the prevalence of these diseases is at least 50% higher compared to the national average.
One of the biggest contributors to this health epidemic amongst CDL drivers is the lifestyle of the profession. Drivers face limited nutritional choices and opportunities for exercise along with practicing unhealthy habits such as smoking.
Statistically, 54 percent of commercial drivers smoke cigarettes and only a mere 8 percent exercise. Although these facts are startling, many of the health conditions and risks are preventable by modifying and changing driver lifestyle choices.
How to Encourage Healthy Choices for CDL Drivers
Businesses have adopted wellness programs to encourage and support healthy choices amongst employees. These programs help decrease costs related to health care claims along with worker’s compensation. When expanded out to the transportation industry, a healthier workforce can improve the overall safety records of drivers.
While the nature of the job makes wellness for drivers more challenging, there are simple steps you can take to help your drivers stay active and make healthier choices while on the road.
- Exercise: Sitting for long periods of time can have a serious impact on driver health, increasing the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also is believed to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Challenge your drivers by implementing a step program and set a weekly goal of a number of steps or miles they have to hit. Give them pedometers to make it easier to track their steps. Drivers can walk around their trucks-34 laps around a big rig is equal to one mile. Some truck stops have put in workout rooms and there are mobile apps available to help drivers find nearby places to walk.
- Preventative Screenings: To obtain a certified drivers license, commercial drivers must pass the biannual DOT exam. This exam includes a comprehensive physical and drivers must meet a number of baseline measures in order to pass. While these tests are required, drivers do not typically seek medical treatment outside of these exams, with only 30 percent of drivers reporting they have a primary care physician. Having access to primary care to proactively detect health problems like extreme fatigue, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety can allow for more preventative treatment that will lessen the severity or onset of these conditions.
- Diet: Fast-food and limited healthy options make eating well on the road extremely challenging. Enlist the help of a nutritionist to put together meal options drivers can take with them instead of being at the mercy of road restaurants. Healthy, non-perishable snacks like beef jerky, dark chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruit are filled with nutrients and have sustaining calories to get drivers through until they can find better meal options.
Mobile apps like AroundMe can help drivers locate healthier restaurants on their route to avoid stopping at the first fast-food option they see. Eating frequent, smaller meals can reduce severe hunger which causes drivers to grab the first option they see. Drinking more water also reduces hunger and keeps drivers more alert.
- Rest: Getting the right amount of sleep while on the road is extremely important. Being fully rested not only reduces the chances of a accident, but helps drivers avoid unhealthy eating habits. A 2013 study Obesity found that one night of poor sleep increases hunger hormones, making people more likely to consume high-calorie foods.
- Smoking cessation: More than half of all truck drivers are smokers, making it a major health problem in the industry. Implement a smoking cessation program that offers resources, tips and support to help drivers successfully quit. Develop a quit plan and offer some incentives to encourage your drivers to commit to their program.
Driver feedback should be gathered and used to help guide the type of wellness program you develop. Make it a priority to survey your drivers on their health concerns, what support they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and what will work for them as far as a wellness program. Encourage all of your staff to participate in any wellness initiatives you establish, not just your drivers. A company-wide focus on wellness is essential to reaping its full benefits and requires you to allocate resources and time along with incentives to demonstrate your sincere commitment to improving employee health.