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opinions Mike McCarron

Take care of truck driver health

Posted: December 10, 2018 by Mike McCarron

With so much focus on attracting new truck drivers, it’s surprising we don’t pay more attention to keeping the ones we have alive longer.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), the average life expectancy of a commercial truck driver is 61 years of age, 16 years lower than the national average.

Frankly, it never crossed my mind that mortality rates might be contributing to all those empty trucks.

Each of us is responsible for our own health, but truck drivers are in a system where they sit for hours on end, don’t have easy access to good food, can’t always sleep when they’re tired, and only make money when they’re moving.

For many drivers who gets a change-your-lifestyle-or-else edict from their doc, the responsible choice is to get out of the profession.

Things have to change. It’s up to carriers to address the occupational health hazards that are driving people to an early grave.

Big is not better

According to the CDC, 70% of U.S. truck drivers are obese, with 17% being morbidly obese, defined as 100 pounds over their ideal weight.

Overweight truck drivers risk their own health but also the health of others on the road. Highly obese drivers have a much higher crash rate in their first two years on the job than their normal-weight counterparts, according to research from the University of Minnesota.

Truck stops are doing a better job providing healthy options, walking trails, and fitness facilities. But for drivers, finding parking and staying on schedule are bigger priorities than a salad, stretch, and a stroll.

Silent killer

Loneliness, stress, and the danger associated with driving are risks to a driver’s mental fitness. But it’s hard to find professional help while on the road, and the stigma associated with mental health prevents drivers from reaching out.

Make mental health a priory within your organization.

Kick the habit

When I attend large social events today it’s rare to see someone sneak out for a dart. But in the cab of a truck, more than 50% of drivers smoke compared to 19% of the general population. A driver I spoke with put it best: “The Marlboro Man is often my only friend on the road.”

What are you doing to help your drivers kick this nasty and deadly habit?

Nodding on the job

According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), 28% of truckers suffer from some form of sleep apnea versus 7% of the general population.

Maybe it’s time for mandatory sleep apnea testing of all truck drivers, considering the estimated cost of $15.9 billion a year for collisions caused by fatigue, according to the National Safety Council.

Better yet, provide your drivers with testing, and if they need it, a CPAP machine. At $1,500 a pop, it’s a relatively cheap way to help drivers get the oxygen they need to sleep well and stay alert at the wheel.

What to do

There is no magic bullet that will eliminate obesity, stress, and fatigue. But I do know that focusing on the health of our drivers would make the job more attractive.

Canada’s best-in-class carriers are doing great things for the health and wellness of their staff—everything from stop-smoking bonuses, to fitness rooms, to providing healthy boxed meals for drivers. It starts with recognizing the problem and taking responsibility for it.

Over the years I’ve kept as many New Year’s resolutions as RFP’s that I’ve won—which is why I don’t do them anymore.

But as we wish one another all the best for a safe and prosperous 2019, we owe it to our drivers and their families to make improving their wellbeing our industry’s New Year’s resolution.

Here’s to your health—and theirs.

Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that specializes in growth strategies, both organic and through mergers and acquisitions. A 33-year industry veteran, Mike founded MSM Transportation, which he sold in 2012. He can be reached at mike@leftlaneassociates.ca, 1-844-311-7335, or @AceMcC on Twitter.

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