How to improve truck driver health: Issues and Remedies

Spotting signs of mental and physical illnesses in your drivers should be Priority#1

Spotting signs of mental and physical illnesses in your drivers should be Priority#1

How healthy are your drivers? Stats say, not very. 

In fact, the FMCSA says truck drivers are twice as morbidly obese as adult working professionals across the United States.

But that's not the worst part, because you can spot obesity - and ask drivers to take corrective actions. 

It's what you can't spot that should be worrisome, ie the mental health illnesses. About 1 in 5 truckers experience it. Given the macho culture of the industry, truckers tend to underreport these issues because of fear of losing their jobs.

According to the ATA, the biggest hurdle in understanding the personal health issues is the distance between management and truckers. If the bridge between both collapses, the issue of employee benefits, healthcare and driver turnover can be addressed with inclusivity.

Here's how you can tackle some of the most depressing

Depression: Acknowledge it to help drivers deal with it  

One of the biggest challenges that come with truck driving jobs is the solitary nature of the job. Even if truck drivers are married or have other family members or loved ones, the job keeps them on the road for hours or days at a time. 

The job also requires extreme alertness when driving which can put a strain on the emotional and mental health of the truck driver. As a first step, please recognise depression to be a mental health issue. Here's a helpful list of resources to help your drivers deal with it. 

To keep depression at bay, following steps could be taken:

  • Having longer scheduled stops
  • Monitoring the diet of the truckers
  • Having an on-call therapist to counsel them once a week can help.
  • Provide a comprehensive healthcare plan that covers the care needed for truck drivers suffering from depression.

Anxiety: Attack the root cause first

An underestimated mental disorder, anxiety is pretty common amongst truckers. Much like depression, anxiety can be caused due to the focus the job requires. Most truck drivers develop anxiety disorders because the job does not encourage enough sleep or an irregular sleep pattern. The source of the truck driver’s anxiety can be many, but the solutions are quite easy.

  • Equipping trucks with tabs for video communication
  • Giving drivers access to video communication on off-hours with their loved ones and to therapists
  • Providing medical care

What could be effective further is to create a planned route that takes into consideration delays and gives drivers enough time to get a full 8-hours of sleep.

Obesity: Sharing (relevant information) is caring

According to the CDC, over 30% of truck drivers are obese with a BMI above 30% with 17% of these drivers can be diagnosed with morbid obesity with a BMI of over 40%. The industry has the worst obesity statistics compared to any other industry in the United States.

Why is it so?

Truck drivers are mostly sedentary in their work environment. The high-pressure job encourages overeating leading to a massive spike in obesity. Obesity can lead to other diseases like joint weakness, hypertension, weak cardiac health, and pulmonary disorders.

Due to a lack of options, most truck drivers manage by eating in delis and truck stops where the food has poor nutritional value.

This issue can be dealt with quite simply :

  • Increasing awareness about healthy eating habits
  • Monitoring and providing counseling for eating disorders
  • Pre-packaging meals
  • Installing vehicular refrigerators in the truck.

Obesity can also be a side-effect of depression and anxiety. Thus, trucking comapnies having a mandatory weekly therapy session could also help.

Sleep Disorders: Are you pre-testing them?

It is estimated that over 27% of truck drivers sleep less than six hours a day, and nearly 50% don’t get 8 hours. More than a third don’t get more than five to six hours at a stretch. Only two-thirds of truckers get to sleep during the night. Having less sleep can lead to higher stress levels, weaker immune systems, and disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. 

For instance, sleep apnea (a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep),  affects your daytime alertness and performance. Untreated sleep apnea makes it difficult for drivers to stay awake, focus their eyes, and react quickly while driving. In general, studies show that people with untreated sleep apnea have an increased risk of being involved in a fatigue-related motor vehicle crash. Here's how you can diagnose your drivers for sleep apnea with simple questionnaires. 

Additionally, sleep has been proven essential for psychological health.  When not working, drivers often need the help of sleeping tablets to fall asleep.

Solving this problem would require either implementing a buddy travel system or enforcing the end of a workday at the same time every day to ensure drivers get enough rest.

Physical Injuries

A shocking fact about trucking and truck drivers is that over 50% of the drivers currently driving have no access to affordable care for treatable injuries caused by driving. The most common injuries are related to the lower back and knee. These injuries can be treated with chances of full recovery if caught early. Due to the lack of affordable health care, lack of manpower and low pay, drivers often drive injured to the point where they need surgical care. Worse still, it becomes untreatable and forces the driver to retire. Truck drivers keep themselves on the road for an average of 4,400 hours a year with no access to health-care centres or gyms during their long drives. Only 8% of these drivers get the medically recommended 30 mins of exercise per day.

Certain precautionary measures can be taken for the same :

  • Getting truckers medical attention on time
  • Initiating awareness campaigns about joint and back care
  • Awareness regarding exercising and its importance
  • Ensuring proper first-aid availability

The recommendations mentioned take different degrees of planning and effort to implement. For instance, installing vehicular refrigerators in the truck or arranging for a counseling session with an expert, are things that take a significant amount of time.

However, most of the recommendations fall under the category of spreading awareness. With slight nudges that normalizes talk about mental health, that regularly emphasizes good eating habits etc, a lot can be achieved. 

And this is the easiest first step to take towards making your drivers healthy. 

Unlike other platforms, you can spot signs of illnesses early on, with custom-design, automated surveys. Or with sleep apnea-related questionnaires

Based on these findings, you can pay more attention to drivers who are suffering from illnesses. Additionally, we work with you closely to create impactful visuals on a topic you wish you create awareness on. We ensure that the message not only reaches the driver but also lingers long enough on their mind to be able to take corrective actions now and then.

Our in-house content experts will carefully design these posters and set it up on a calendar, so your drivers almost expect messages on health practices on a regular basis.  Both publishing and creation are taken off your hands. 

Set up a process in less than 2 weeks. Make your drivers, healthier than they were, yesterday.