Reevaluating Safety:

Health and Wellness Take Center Stage

When you talk to fleet managers, they’ll tell you their top priority is to ensure their drivers get home safely each night. Driver safety has become the chief concern industry-wide, but keeping drivers safe on the road is just a part of a comprehensive driver safety program. To truly benefit drivers and fleet companies, driver safety programs must also focus on total health and wellness.

Safety impacts almost every aspect of fleet operations from driver health and morale to uptime to liability exposure. Drivers are a fleet’s most important asset, so keeping them safe isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s mission-critical.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 95% of all motor vehicle crashes and 87% of commercial vehicle crashes¹ in the U.S. are caused by human error. The overall annual accident rate for commercial fleets is 20%, so technology and training to improve driver education and driver behavior are necessary to increase safety.
Fleet safety programs—driven by

technology and data—can be part of the solution. Telematics allows fleets to monitor, identify, and correct the underlying causes that lead to increased risk, crashes, and liability to exposure.

At GPS Insight, we’re seeing how these solutions are helping keep drivers safe. One company using our smart camera solution reported that the technology helped reduce their at-fault accidents by 83% over a year. That’s fewer drivers who must worry about their jobs, getting medical treatment, or losing time at work. Most importantly, it means more drivers getting home safely each night.

For more information on how to create and implement a successful safety program go here, here, and here.

(We know a lot about safety!)

Healthy, Not Just Safe, Drivers

Effective safety solutions help fleets reduce costs, improve efficiency, and protect their drivers, but safe drivers aren’t necessarily healthy drivers.

Compared to other U.S. workers, truck drivers have higher rates of serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Obesity, which affects 34%² of the U.S. population, impacts 53%³ of commercial drivers. Commercial drivers—particularly long-haul drivers—are at exceptionally high risk for health problems because of the nature of the job. It’s hard to eat well, exercise, or get enough sleep when the job is to be behind the wheel 6, 8, or 10 hours a day.

According to one National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study, 88% percent of long-haul truck drivers had at least one major risk factor such as hypertension, smoking, and obesity for chronic disease, compared to only 54% of all American workers.

Driver health isn’t just an issue, it’s a crisis the industry must address.

Health GIF

What to Look Out For

While there are many underlying reasons driver health is a concern, three specific factors endemic to the industry stand out:

1. Lack of Exercise

It’s hard to exercise from behind the wheel. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers may be sitting 11 of 14 hour work window.

2. Lack of Sleep

Another major factor for fleet drivers, particularly long-haul drivers, is fatigue. Even with the help of technology to make routes more efficient and reduce paperwork, fleet work is long and tiring. Some studies show that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Fatigue increases the risk of human error and endangers not just the driver but everyone on the road.

Even though the ELD Mandate was designed to reduce the chance of accidents due to driver fatigue, did you know that a driver could be completely asleep at the wheel and 100% compliant with Hours of Service (HOS)? The driver for Walmart involved in the 2014 accident which caused a traumatic brain injury for actor Tracy Morgan was heavily fatigued but still compliant with HOS rules.⁴

3. Lack of Nutrition

Whether driving across the country or across town, fleet drivers have little time to eat. Grabbing fast food or unhealthy snacks en route is all too common. Lack of time and healthy options exacerbate underlying health issues for drivers.
Organizations can use these areas of improvement to tackle driver health risks head-on.
Healthy Eating

How can fleet companies keep their drivers well-rested and healthy?

The bottom line is that any successful driver wellness program relies on consistent communication between drivers and managers. As a manager, it’s ultimately your responsibility to regularly check in with your drivers to ensure their wellness needs are being met and get their suggestions for improved initiatives and policies. Your drivers are more likely to keep track of their health and wellness goals if they feel supported.

Here are a few tips:

1. Build a Safety Culture

Build a culture of whole-person safety within your organization to make driver health and wellness a permanent focus. Educate drivers about ways to side-step health risks as part of your onboarding process, and create ongoing communications through regular emails or alerts to remind your drivers to prioritize health and well-being.

2. Healthy Eating & Hydration

Educate your drivers on the basics of healthy eating and hydration. Drivers should eat balanced meals–chock full of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and healthy meats or proteins–and drink water. It’s a good idea to keep bottled water in the vehicle so it’s always on hand. Check out this resource for other healthy eating tips for drivers.

3. Health Screenings

Conduct regular health screenings for drivers and encourage them to get annual wellness visits. Regular screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, vision, and certain cancers are all critical…and the types of screenings drivers should be receiving increase with age and certain risk factors. Check out this page for a summary of the types of screenings drivers should be receiving by age.

4. Health & Wellness Resources

Encourage drivers to take advantage of health and wellness resources like podcasts, fitness apps, or virtual counseling services. Better yet, offer reimbursement programs for subscriptions to these resources.

5. Coach Safe Driving

Teach drivers the basics around safe and alert driving behavior. Discourage texting and driving, fatigued driving, as well as eating and driving.

6. Stay ELD Mandate Compliant

Keep in compliance with ELD mandates for regular and reasonable shifts, and take the extra mile by considering driver health needs beyond what is covered in those regulations.

7. Implement Wellness Programs

Implement programs that encourage drivers to work out together and/or keep each other accountable for wellness goals. Some apps or corporate wellness programs offer “gamified” ways to track fitness and compete with coworkers–such as step competitions.

8. Provide Wellness Subsidies

Provide wellness subsidies that can be used to pay for items like a refrigerator in a truck, exercise-based equipment, or a gym membership. Many truck stops have gyms or walking paths that can help drivers squeeze in some physical activity. This article shows how drivers can find truck stops with fitness centers.

9. Sleep Hygiene

Teach drivers about sleep hygiene. Drivers should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It’s also a good idea to use a white noise machine, block out all light, and avoid heavy meals before bed. This resource from the CDC offers plenty of sleep best practices for drivers that fleet managers can share with their team.

10. Wellness Experts

Consider bringing in a wellness expert to spearhead a formal wellness program and implement carefully designed policies for improving and maintaining driver health.

The key to building a successful driver health and wellness program is to promote changes or habits that are attainable and beneficial for both drivers and managers. After all, managers are responsible for setting a positive example for their employees, and your drivers will expect you to take your health as seriously as they do.

By following these tips and allowing your drivers to communicate their feedback and concerns, you are well on your way to creating a strong wellness program. And believe us – your drivers will thank you.

¹ The US National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence (NSTSCE) in this article,to%20their%20drivers

² National Safety Council Injury Facts,® 2015 Edition.

³ Commercial Motor Vehicle Health and Fatigue Study – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence Final report – February

⁴ “Are ELDs Making Our Roads Safer?” Freight Waves.