Whether you call it a driver shortage or a driver squeeze, it’s no secret that the trucking industry is struggling to attract and keep qualified drivers.
HealthCheck360 Director of Health Coaching Trent Tangen focused on another issue he considers paramount in the industry during a presentation at National Tank Truck Carriers’ 2018 Tank Truck Week in Nashville, Tennessee earlier this month: poor driver health. More specifically, the relationship between unhealthy drivers and high turnover, which only exacerbates the current shortage of qualified drivers.
Tangen said poor driver health is more of an epidemic than most people realize, with 69% of drivers being obese compared to 33% of U.S. adults. While 32% of U.S. adults use nicotine, 54% of drivers use nicotine. About 7% of U.S. adults have sleep apnea compared to 28% of drivers, and about 10% of U.S. adults have diabetes compares to 15% of drivers.
“There was a study done from 2005 to 2015 covering 90,000 drivers, and out of that group, 8% were disqualified either temporarily or permanently because they couldn’t pass their med card,” Tangen said. “In a situation where everybody counts, these numbers matter. We’re trying to keep everybody healthy, with a med card and behind the wheel.”
HealthCheck360 is a national health and well-being provider that has developed a program aimed at improving the health of drivers and helping them attain and keep DOT medical cards, therefore keeping them on the road.
The program is designed to pinpoint individual drivers’ problem areas after they are given a short med card. The drivers enrolled in the program receive regular support and coaching from a nurse over the phone, as well as any tools they may need to monitor their condition, like a blood pressure cuff.
“As they’re tracking on a day-to-day basis, if the HealthCheck360 nurse notices things going south, it is time to reach out in order to figure out what is going on and what can be done to help that driver,” Tangen said. “The coaching is geared toward the unique challenges that drivers face: processed foods, eating at truck stops, long hours behind the wheel and very sedentary lifestyle.”
The frequency of coaching depends on the length of the driver’s med card, increasing the driver’s chances of receiving a renewal after more intensive coaching.
Tangen said the program offers significant benefits to both drivers and employers because healthier drivers lead to better results for the individual and the company.
The value to the driver is improved health and quality of life. It makes them more likely to maintain a CDL, to continue earning a paycheck and to continue providing for their families. Healthier drivers are safer drivers, and drivers who participate in the program feel the support from their employer, according to Tangen.
“The value to the employer is reduced turnover costs, and that is a big one,” he said. “A study done out of Fargo, North Dakota estimated that, on average, it costs about $8,200 for a driver that turned over. Employers also get reduced liability, improved driver health, improved driver alertness and reduced cost of medical claims.”
Tangen said that, when the program was rolled out to a trucking group in the Midwest, drivers were willing and eager to participate. Participating drivers showed improvement across the board, and all drivers went on to get med card renewals, with most getting longer renewals than their initial short card.
He said the program’s main goals are to retain drivers, reduce crash rates and worker’s compensation claims, reduce healthcare costs associated with medical conditions and improve overall employee quality of life.