Coronavirus & Trucking: How to Keep Your Drivers Healthy
America’s 1.8 million truck drivers are one of the nation’s largest and most vulnerable groups when it comes to health concerns — including the Coronavirus (COVID-19). What can fleet business owners do to help?
As the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread across the country and the number of confirmed cases continues to rise, most American businesses are starting to feel the effects. This particularly true in the fleet and trucking industry, where the option of working from home or “social distancing” is nearly impossible to practice, particularly when it comes to truck drivers. Given this, what can fleet business owners do to help keep their drivers healthy and minimize their potential exposure to illness?
Driver Health: The Facts
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 1.8 million Americans employed as truck drivers. As a population, truck drivers are not the healthiest. In a 2014 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it was found that long-haul truck drivers “face a constellation of interrelated risk factors for chronic disease.”
When it comes to the Coronavirus, having underlying health conditions can be a critical factor in developing complications. Early information from China, where COVID-19 first started, obtained by the CDC identified that individuals in the following categories were at higher risk of getting very sick from the illness:
- Older adults
- Individuals with serious chronic medical conditions
Some of the serious chronic medical conditions that were named included heart disease, diabetes and lung disease — all of which truck drivers are at a higher risk of developing than the national average due to their greater propensity towards risk factors like obesity, diabetes and smoking. In a recent article from Business Insider, a visual comparison of truck drivers versus the national working population brought the issue into focus:
Andy Kiersz/Business Insider, CDC, NIOSH, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
With all of these factors in play, what can a fleet business owner do to help keep their driving workforce healthy and on the road?
Creating a Get Healthy Game Plan
When it comes to keeping your business fully-operational, making the health and safety of your drivers a priority is mission-critical. One of the ways you can do this is to create a game plan to help encourage your drivers to stay healthy. From helpful employee notices to providing information and support on best practices, creating a healthy environment is sure to pay off in both your driver’s health and your business’ bottom-line.
Keep it Clean
You’ve already heard that regularly washing your hands is important in helping to curb the spread and contraction of infectious diseases, including the Coronavirus. However, there is even more you can do to help keep your workforce healthy both in the office and out on the road. Consider implementing one or more of the following:
- Share information. Post notices about regular hand washing and how to stop the spread of germs in both your driver’s cabs and in employee bathrooms. The CDC offers a variety of posters you can download and print and most are available in English, Spanish, simplified Chinese and Vietnamese.
- Provide cleaning tools. Truck cabs can get dirty. Provide your drivers with disinfecting wipes for their vehicles and advise them to wipe down regularly-touched surfaces such as steering wheels, door handles, tablets and mobile phones frequently. You can also provide them with antibacterial hand gel that easily attaches to their key chains for times when they are unable to wash their hands.
- Advise awareness. Coach your employees to be aware of their surroundings, particularly in gas stations or truck stops, particularly for individuals who appear sick or may be frequently coughing. Advise for them to distance themselves, and ensure that any food establishments they stop at are visibility clean with employees using good hygiene practices.
When you’re on the road, it’s easy to succumb to drinking endless cups of coffee and countless sodas. However, drinking water to keep hydrated is crucial for the overall health of your drivers. Not only can adequate hydration ensure that your body stays healthy, but it can also impact your driver’s performance. According to a UK study, drivers showed over twice as many driving errors when dehydrated — errors which increased at a much faster rate as dehydration was prolonged.
Try offering your drivers refillable water bottles as an incentive to stay hydrated, or ensure that your office and on-site vending machines always have an available supply of water.
Stamp Out the Smoke
Smoking can not only cause chronic health conditions, but it can also kill. With over half of American truck drivers admitting to being regular smokers, getting your drivers to stamp out the cigarettes is more important than ever. Here are a few ideas of how you can help encourage your drivers and employees to kick the habit:
- Go smoke free. Make it a policy that your workplace — including your fleet’s cabs — are strictly non-smoking. Display “No Smoking” signs in both your office and in every fleet vehicle.
- Get the quitSTART app. Encourage your employees who smoke to download the free quitSTART app which offers tailored tips, inspiration and challenges to quit smoking.
- Gamify it. If you have multiple employees who smoke, make it into a company-wide challenge with prizes and special recognition for quitting.
Encourage Healthy Eating
Obesity can be a huge underlying cause of multiple health issues, from diabetes to heart issues. While it can often feel like the only option on the road is fast food, there are ways to help encourage your drivers to eat healthy — particularly on long trips. Like with other health initiatives, it starts with communication from you. Try posting tips and information in your office, or provide your drivers with tips on places with healthy options where they can park, for example truck stops, restaurants and gas stations that offer something beyond a roller hot dog or a candy bar.
In addition to offering tips and advice, supply each of your drivers with a small cooler so they can store healthy snacks from home, such as yogurt, hummus or homemade sandwiches. Having a selection of healthy, non-perishable items in your break room or on-site vending machines can also go a long way to helping your drivers make healthy choices.
Aim for 15
Getting exercise is important for everyone, but for long-haul truckers or those behind the wheel for hours on end, it can feel impossible to fit in. Recent studies have shown that the average adult would benefit greatly from getting as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day. With just this basic increase, researchers found that those who engaged in something as simple as a brisk, 15-minute walk had a 22% lower risk of death. Exercise also has the added bonus of helping to conquer obesity, increase levels of cognitive function and lower one’s risk significantly for chronic diseases. A few exercises your drivers could easily do while on the road include:
- 15 minutes of walking. Stopping to grab a healthy snack or fuel up? Your drivers could easily take 15 minutes to do a few brisk laps of walking around the truck stop. Additionally, many truck stops now include rest areas that can easily double up as a nice place for a walk and a picnic spot for a healthy snack afterwards.
- 15 minute workout. Exercises can easily be done both in your driver’s cab or against the truck. Think pushups, planks and sit-ups — all a staple of many fitness programs — and how easy they are to do with limited space. Take a look at 6 Easy Exercises for Truckers to get your driver’s started.
Your drivers are a crucial part of your workforce and help keep your business on the road. Keeping them healthy not only helps to improve their lives, but also can have an impact on your business’ bottom line. While the Coronavirus may have brought health issues into focus, truckers face an onslaught of risk factors for chronic health conditions to begin with. Look to creating change within your business to help support both them and you.
Are you looking for more ways to engage your drivers and build your workforce? Take a look at how driver incentive programs can help you to retain and train the best drivers in the industry. Additionally, woman are starting to change the face of fleet — are you ready to recruit them? Find out more on the GPS Trackit blog!