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Ditching old-school methods to retain drivers

Jan. 25, 2016
Health and wellness programs play critical role in driver retention, Rolling Strong founder says

How many drivers do you think the trucking industry lost to elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels since May 2014?

More than 150,000, Bob Perry says.

Perry, the president and founder of Rolling Strong, discussed the importance of truck driver health and wellness during a Jan. 21 Truckload Carriers Association webinar, Health and Wellness: Rebuilding Blocks for Driver Retention.

Based on the number of otherwise qualified drivers who fell out of the industry for health problems, Perry said the industry’s methods must change when it comes to retaining drivers.

“We’re showing that there are better drivers out there, we just have to do a better job at keeping those drivers,” he said. “Now that we understand what the driver shortage looks like, we really have to rework our model and come at it from a different angle. The old methods don’t apply.”

It starts, Perry said, during the recruiting process. Perry noted that all too often he sees too much junk food when he speaks to recruits at wellness and driver orientation events. He stressed that driver wellness education should be an enhancement to the recruiting package.

Perry also suggested that carriers should implement second-chance programs for drivers who fail at orientation because of medical issues.

“If they’re within reason, have a coach work with them on nutrition and exercise,” Perry suggests. “If you do those steps in the beginning you’ll see that you’ll save these men and women. Over time, you’ll see that disqualifications decrease because you’re working on it from the beginning.”

During driver orientation, Perry recommends taking the following steps:

  1. Take health readings and consult on findings. Also, feed recruits better, Perry says.
  2. Review 5 tips handout – implement immediately.
  3. Explain that the company will be demonstrating agility testing procedures.
  4. Take new students to area for agility demonstration.
  5. Go through testing process from when they walk in the room until it is complete.
  6. Demonstrate proper form. Give tips on what to expect and how to maximize results.

When it comes to following up with drivers after orientation to make health and wellness a long-term lifestyle change, Perry said he’s found that coaching and education work best.

“They really appreciate that someone is taking the time out and addressing them,” he said. “We’ve found that when drivers can come in and talk to someone, they really appreciate it. You can’t just load up on the front end, there has to be some follow through.”

“Drivers go from three-month employees to one-year, then one year to two years,” he said, adding investing in driver health has a great return on investment. “Now you’ve got a long-term employee.”

According to Perry, here are some tools that carriers can put in place within their fleets:

  • Wellness roadmap – Drivers are familiar with point A to point B and how to get there, Perry said. “Your health is the same way. Provide a roadmap on how you’re going to get there.”

  • Driver wellness recruiting tips
  • CDL driver school wellness manuals
  • Guide to setting up a cost-effective, healthy orientation menu
  • Guide to selecting and certifying a CDL wellness coach
  • Train the trainer manuals – get trainers together, he suggests. “They have to be your first line of defense and ambassadors. When doing pre-trip safety on the truck, drivers need to check the refrigerator for healthy, high-energy foods.”
  • Wellness posters
  • Driver wellness newsletter content
  • Access to a national network for on-site bio screens

“Give them simple steps that they can do to help manage this,” Perry said. “People are going to fall off and hit a plateau. How do you overcome that?”

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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