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Driver health and safety
Driver health and safety
Driver health and safety
Driver health and safety
Driver health and safety

New Year’s Resolution: Prioritize driver health and safety

Jan. 4, 2024
Statistics show that truck drivers are among the least healthy groups in the workforce, so a new year is a good time for the industry to prioritize their health and safety.

Truck drivers are statistically the most unhealthy group of people in the workforce, according to Steve Kane, president of RollingStrong, a wellness provider for the transportation industry. 

According to a CDC study released last decade, long-haul truck drivers’ health is worse than the average national working population:

  • Prevalence of obesity is twice as high (69% vs. 31%).
  • Prevalence of morbid obesity is twice as high (17% vs. 7%).
  • Prevalence of current cigarette smoking is more than double (51% vs. 19%).
  • Prevalence of self-reported diabetes is elevated (14% vs. 7%).
  • More than twice as many drivers are not covered by health insurance or a health care plan (38% vs. 17%).
  • A lower percentage of drivers perceived their health status as excellent, very good, or good (84% vs. 94%).

When truck drivers suffer from poor health, their safety, the safety of others, and their freight are at risk.

“They [drivers with poor health] have less reaction time, they have micro-sleeps or fall asleep at the wheel more often, or are more prone to a catastrophic event behind the wheel, such as a heart attack or stroke,” Kane said. "That not only puts them at risk for their personal health, but it puts our highways at risk, and it puts the driver at risk, and certainly other families that are on the road at risk.”

This has been an ongoing issue in the industry, but 2024 could be the year for change. For change to happen, drivers and fleet managers need to understand how driver health got to this point in the first place.

How did we get here?

The environment truck drivers work in does not promote healthy living, which in turn does not help drivers practice safe driving. Due to the nature of their job, drivers are sedentary for hours per day. While sitting may seem harmless, it can have many adverse effects on one’s body and health, according to Kane. 

“We’ve actually analyzed what happens when you’re in that seated position for a long period of time,” Kane said. “Those hips get hinged, and we turn off the glutes and the hands, and our shoulders and our chin come forward, and we get a misalignment of the spine. It just creates a whole bunch of issues from your head all the way down to your toe, and those issues prevent us from even feeling capable of doing some of the other things that we should be doing, like walking, jogging, or going to the gym, because our bodies just get very out of alignment.”

Accessing healthy food and exercise on the road is also difficult. According to Kane, most truck stops do not provide healthy food options, sometimes even to the extent that McDonald's truck stop restaurants do not offer healthy food options that they do at their other, non-truck stop locations. And this lack of access keeps truck drivers from making healthy choices. 

“Some of the truck stops do have a cooler or a small section that has some healthy options, but when you’re a person that isn’t educated or not aware of what the right choices are, and you’re also very limited on time … that’s the perfect storm to make a bad choice. And that’s often what happens,” Kane explained.

What drivers and fleet managers can do

In this perfect storm of unhealthiness, what can drivers do to prioritize their health? How can fleet managers and staff support their drivers in being healthy? According to Kane, change has to start at the top; fleet managers must make healthiness part of their company culture, and they must bring healthiness into the safety conversation. 

With the support of their fleet, drivers should prioritize their health more this year. This will look different for each driver, but the basics would be to eat healthier and move your body more while on the road to avoid sedentary habits. 

And while being healthier is a safety issue, there are also specific ways drivers can pledge to be safer on the road this year, such as:

  • Avoid distracted driving. Distracted driving isn’t just a problem for regular drivers; it’s also something professional drivers can be guilty of. According to Corey Woinarowicz, chief revenue officer of NoCell Technologies, a software company that helps drivers stay focused on the road, drivers should take precautions before hitting the road to stay focused, such as putting their phone in “do not disturb” mode. 
  • Don’t put yourself in a bad situation. When possible, drivers should give themselves extra time when traveling to a destination. “You don’t want that stressful drive. You’re hurrying,” Ina Daly, an XPO driver with 40 years of experience, explained. “That lends to bad driving behaviors like tailgating and speeding, which leads to accidents. Don’t put yourself in that situation.”

See also: Study: Distracted driving spikes during Thanksgiving travels

New Year's resolutions, however, can be challenging to keep. According to a Forbes survey, only 6% of people follow through with their resolutions; most quit within the first few months. 

To keep a resolution that sticks, keep your goal realistic, specific, and flexible. Kane also suggests sharing your goal with someone who will hold you accountable for achieving it. Don't punish yourself if you get off track. It's important to remember that progress is the main goal. 

About the Author

Jenna Hume | Digital Editor

Digital Editor Jenna Hume previously worked as a writer in the gaming industry. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree in creative writing from Truman State University and a master of fine arts degree in writing from Lindenwood University. She is currently based in Missouri. 

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