Later this week, insurance giant Travelers is going to hold the third in a series of annual symposiums focused on transportation issues – one focused on truck driver health and wellness issues from a variety of perspectives.
My esteemed colleague Brian Straight covered the first two Travelers symposiums – the first on safety systems and telematics (click here for that one) with the second focused on cargo theft (click here for more on that topic) – and will be doing so again for its third iteration.
Yet this discussion of truck driver health and wellness comes at a critical time for the industry, not only because truck driver health metrics are far worse than those of the U.S. population, but also because it’s getting nigh impossible to convince folks – especially Millennials – to pilot big rigs for a living.
Consider these statistics for example:
- Approximately 1/4th of the U.S. commercial truck drivers on America’s roads suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, resulting in a crash risk up to 11 times higher than among non-commercial truck drivers.
- Roughly seven in 10 long-haul truck drivers are clinically obese, two times more than other adult workers in the U.S.
- A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) case study issued last year examined the connection between truck driver body mass index (BMI) and fatigue also revealed that obese drivers are more likely to be involved in safety critical events than average weight counterparts.
- Medical and workers’ compensation claims pertaining to vehicle accidents cost nearly twice as much as the average work-related injury claim. The U.S. BLS also reported a 4.6 injury rate in the trucking transportation industry, versus a 3.6 average rate across all industries in 2014.
I spoke with Chris Hayes and Woody Dwyer from Travelers about those issues and why fleet executives need to pay closer attention to truck driver health/wellness going forward.
“The interesting thing is, during our first two symposiums, the ‘human factors’ issue kept coming up in our discussions,” Hayes told me. “An important part of improving vehicle safety is the driver and the same is true with cargo theft. So we took a step back and thought to ourselves, ‘hey, we need to really focus on this.’”
Dwyer stressed to me that truck driver health and wellness affects almost every aspect of commercial vehicle safety as well: poor health can lead to higher incidences of distractive driving, generate more fatigue, and significantly impact reaction times.
“Poor health can lead to less awareness and less focus when behind the wheel,” he added. “Remember that in about 93% of all vehicle crashes, driver error is the main factor. That’s why health and wellness is a major safety issue.”
Hayes told me one of the key focus points for Travelers’ symposium will be how to create “driver-centric” safety programs that touch every aspect of a fleet’s business: from attentive recruitment and optimized training, to wellness education and on-the-road management using telematics devices.
“It’s also about why management needs to spend time and resources on this issue,” he emphasized. “It’s got to be a company-wide endeavor as well, involving dispatchers, maintenance personnel, and, yes, the executives, too. There needs to be ‘buy in’ across the company so the driver does not feel all alone in this.”
Good points all. Thus it’ll be well worth seeing what details emerge from this year’s symposium on the health and wellness subject.