Thursday, March 9, 2017

Driver Wellness Starts at Work

Building a healthy lifestyle can be hard work – especially for truck drivers, who are constantly on the go and constantly under pressure to be on the go. But the rewards that accrue when truckers live and work more healthfully are nothing to sneeze at, from being safer on the road to incurring lower medical and insurance costs to enjoying a higher quality of life for themselves and their loved ones.

Trucking companies benefit as well when their drivers are healthier. By implementing driver-oriented wellness programs, fleets are likely to see accident rates drop, which lowers operating costs and liability exposure. And driver satisfaction goes up, which cuts turnover and attracts new hires.

While no one opens a trucking company to hang out a medical shingle, a trucker’s workplace is the logical place to reach out to him or her about medical or lifestyle issues that could threaten their livelihood or physical well-being.

Think of a driver health and wellness program as a home base drivers can start from and return to for general information as well as specific guidance. Education, not scolding, should be the key aim. Recognition and/or incentives can be deployed to encourage drivers to make healthy changes and attain various goals, such as reducing weight and quitting smoking.

Issues to address

While it may seem that everywhere you turn, there’s new health data to absorb, any number of unbiased studies point to where fleets could direct their efforts to boost driver health and wellness.

A compelling one, conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that two specific indicators of poor health management – high pulse pressure (a blood-pressure measurement) and fatigue – were “highly associated” with truckers’ crash risk (as was the use of cell phones while driving.)

This research also highlighted a core underlying matter: Truck driver health is not well managed. Nearly 24% of the 797 long-haul truckers surveyed were determined to have high blood pressure (each received a basic physical exam) that had not previously been diagnosed and which was not being treated medically. The researchers also found that, similar to previous studies, 62% of the drivers were obese — that compares to 35% of the general adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The high incidence of uncontrolled hypertension was a surprise, particularly given that truckers must undergo medical certification every two years,” notes study first author Matthew Thiese, Ph.D. “It’s another indication that truck drivers’ health needs are not adequately being met and could be endangering them in ways that we may not anticipate.”

Then there’s a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study that found 88% of the 1,670 long-haul truckers surveyed had at least one of three risk factors (hypertension, smoking, obesity) for a number of chronic diseases.

Along with the hidden killer of hypertension and the threat of death by fatigue or distraction, another major concern for many truck drivers is developing Type 2 diabetes. Not only will that threaten their health over the long term, but also more immediately, their qualification to hold a CDL.

Mental health should not be ignored, either, including active alcoholism and drug addiction and also untreated major depressive disorder.

When you think about the inherently sedentary nature of truck driving coupled with long periods away from home spent literally on the road, it makes sense to look at driver health from a holistic perspective. For example, a driver who is at risk for or has been diagnosed as hypertensive may also be suffering from sleep apnea or be at risk for diabetes.

What’s in a wellness program?

Wellness programs should at the very least aim to educate drivers on what their health risks are and what they can do to reduce them. Some fleets may limit their outreach to providing health information and insights to drivers on a regular basis, such as via email bulletins and the like. Others, convinced of the payback potential in lower operating and recruiting costs, not to mention simply improving the lives of employees, may go so far as to install workout gyms for drivers and even on-site medical clinics.

At their best, wellness programs will screen for health issues to identify them for drivers as early as possible and then offer advice on treatment options and behavioral changes that will lessen the severity or onset of these conditions. In addition, fleets can motivate even the healthiest of drivers to eat, sleep and work as healthfully and safely as possible by rewarding them for reaching pre-arranged lifestyle or medical goals.

However, a recent study by nonprofit Rand Corp. of 10 years of data from the wellness program of a Fortune 100 firm found a sharp difference in payback between initiatives that promote lifestyle changes to prevent developing conditions (such as quitting smoking) and those designed to help employees manage chronic diseases already afflicting them, such as reminders to take prescribed meds.

It was determined that the disease-management aspect of the program alone generated 87% of the healthcare cost savings. That amounted to $136 in savings per employee per month, largely driven by a nearly 30% drop in hospital admissions. What’s more, only 13% of the employees took part in the disease-management component. “Put differently, the much higher participation in the lifestyle management component contributed only slightly to the overall savings,” notes Rand.

There are also legal words to the wise to consider. In an employer guide to wellness white paper, the Transamerica Center for Health Studies points out there are requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (better known as HIPAA), and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that must be met.

“Generally, workplace wellness programs must be voluntary, non-discriminatory, be reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease, and protect the confidential health information of their employees,” it explains.

First steps

While there is no single best way to design a workplace wellness program, launching various driver-health oriented initiatives can help fleets cut the cost of healthcare as well as life and disability insurance, reduce turnover and boost recruitment.

The first step is to measure what needs doing by assessing the state of your drivers’ health and health risks. This is usually done by asking each driver to complete a health risk assessment and undergo biometric screening. HRAs, in print or electronic form, seek driver input on such risk factors as smoking, obesity and stress levels. Biometric screening captures baseline blood pressure readings, height/weight measurements and cholesterol and blood-glucose levels.

All this information will reveal those at risk so they can be encouraged – but never forced or coerced – to take part in programs offered by the fleet that are personalized to help reduce their risk of developing chronic disease and/or to better manage any disease conditions already affecting them.

The Small Business Administration suggests several sources for help putting together a wellness program. At the top of its list is the Centers for Disease Control, which provides online tools to design and structure programs. Among these is CDC LEAN Works, a free web-based resource that includes an obesity cost calculator to estimate how much obesity is costing a company and how much in savings could be gained with different sorts of workplace programs.

SBA also recommends consulting your healthcare insurance provider, as many now offer tools and resources to help employers develop programs, and checking in with your local SBA small-business assistance group or Chamber of Commerce to see what resources or seminars they may offer.

Fleets also started hiring diet and fitness trainers, putting in walking tracks and gyms at facilities, and began offering in-cab fitness equipment. Some carriers launched sleep-apnea testing for high-risk drivers. Some promote wellness company-wide, including hosting participation-driving events such as marathons and polar swim plunges.

To see the full article in, click here.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bridge Report Finds Nearly 56,000 Bridges Still Need Attention

Original article is from Heavy Duty Trucking and can be found here.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released the 2016 National Bridge Inventory, which indicates that 55,710 bridges are structurally compromised-- including 13,000 that need replacement, widening, or major reconstruction.

The information was analyzed by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The information was compiled into ARTBA's 2017 Bridge Report.

The report is produced annually and by comparing 2016 to 2015’s National Bridge Inventory, ARTBA found that progress has been slow in repairing bridges.

The inventory of structurally deficient bridges only decreased by 0.5% in a year's time. At that pace, it would take more than 20 years to address all of the problems structures.

“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming. It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization,” said Alison Premo Black, chief economist of ARTBA. “State and local transportation departments haven’t been provided the resources to keep pace with the nation’s bridge needs.”

About 1,900 of the bridges are on the Interstate Highway System, affecting millions of Americans. The nation’s cars, trucks, and buses cross the 55,710 bridges around 185 million times every day. While these bridges may not be imminently unsafe, their inclusion in the U.S. DOT report indicates that they are in need of attention.

The ARTBA report is presented through an interactive map of the United States, in which each state is color-coded based on the percentage of structurally deficient bridges it contains. By clicking on a state, a separate report on the state can be accessed, breaking down the breadth of the problem as well as the locations of each bridge.

Iowa was the state with the highest number of structurally deficient bridges at 4,968, while Rhode Island was the state with the highest percentage at 25%. Washington D.C. contained the least deficient bridges of the regions tracked with only 9, while Nevada was the state with the least at only 31.

The 2017 Bridge report also offers specific information, including rankings of the 250 most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in the nation and the 25 most heavily traveled in each state.

To access the report, click here.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Safety First

On November 4, 2016 a driver securing his load at ArcelorMittal in Burns Harbor, IN was stuck by the trailer of another driver. He was airlifted to a Chicago hospital but later died from his injuries.
This is a reminder to all of us that we need to pay attention to what is going on around us at all times; not just when driving but when loading, securing, inspecting, etc.. Always put safety first.
More off-road collisions occur while backing than at any other time. The biggest cause of backing collisions is driver error. All driver error collisions are preventable. Following these backing rules can prevent you from having a backing collision.
  1. Never back if you don’t have to. If possible, use parking places where you can pull straight out.
  2. Never back without KNOWING that it is clear behind you. NEVER ASSUME; GET OUT AND LOOK!
  3. After getting out to look, back before the situation changes.
  4. Back SLOWLY. Backing slowly gives you better steering control and time to stop if it becomes necessary.
  5. Always use a guide if available. If a guide is not available, get out and look several times during the backing maneuver.
Many turning collisions happen because of driver error. A driver guesses that his trailer will clear, but an error in judgment causes him to have a collision. Again, all driver error collisions are preventable.
To prevent a turning collision:
  1. DON’T GUESS! Know where your truck is going, especially on blind right turns.
  2. Check your mirrors at least 5 times while turning. If you’re not sure that your trailer will clear, STOP AND LOOK. It takes a little longer, but it prevents collisions.
  3. Block the inside of the turn with your trailer. A common cause of right turn collisions is allowing a vehicle to get between you and the curb. Collisions also happen on left turns. Usually the trailer runs over something that you thought it would clear. Carelessness is the only reason drivers have left turn collisions.
  4. LOOK where your trailer is going; KNOW that it will clear, and GO SLOWLY. Going slowly gives you more time to see and react to an unexpected situation.
  5. NEVER make a U-turn on any road or highway. U-turns always create unsafe situations. If you have missed a turn, proceed to the next street and go around the block, or find a safe place to safely turn around off the road.
  6. Give yourself time to react to bad situations. That is the essence of Defensive Driving.


When drivers are interviewed following an accident, one of the things that comes up frequently as a cause is that the driver was distracted from the duty of driving.  Drivers can become distracted by other vehicles that are driving too slowly, hitting their brakes unnecessarily, or weaving back and forth in the lane.  Sometimes it seems that these drivers are having a great game of "chicken" with the big truck.

Don't let these "games" distract you from your professional duties.  If someone is playing games with you, or driving in an irresponsible manner, don't get angry or try to get even.  This only hinders your ability to think and function in an emergency situation.

Your first priority is to drive and act in a safe manner, no matter what is happening around you.  If this sort of thing happens, either drop back from the other vehicle, or if necessary, stop.  Either of these solutions will remove the unsafe driving hazard and the distractions that are caused.

Don't be guilty of "road rage" style driving behaviors.  Remember: "A mad mind can't think; and a mad mind can't do." You are the professional.  Make sure your actions and reactions show that you have earned the title.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Federal Mandate requiring the use of electronic logging upheld

From CCJ, published Oct. 31, 2016

A federal mandate requiring nearly all U.S. truck operators to use electronic logging devices to track duty status has been upheld in court, meaning the December 18, 2017, compliance date remains effective.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court overseeing the case, voted to keep the mandate in place, securing a victory for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its ELD rule. Its decision was issued Oct. 31, following oral arguments made in Chicago on Sept. 13.

The decision does not change the rule’s exemption for pre-2000 year-model trucks, which are allowed to operate without an ELD.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a lawsuit on behalf of two truckers in March in an attempt to have the mandate overturned. But OOIDA was unable to convince the court of its arguments that the rule violates truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. OOIDA also claimed the rule didn’t meet standards set by Congress for an ELD mandate — an argument the court also rejected.

The rule “is not arbitrary or capricious, nor does it violate the Fourth Amendment,” the 7th circuit judges wrote in their decision. The decision was issued by circuit judges William Bauer, Michael Kanne and David Hamilton.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that tossed out FMCSA’s 2010-published ELD mandate on the grounds that the rule didn’t do enough to protect truckers from harassment by carriers via the devices.

The court in its Oct. 31 decision said the agency fixed those issues in its 2015-issued rule.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is the highest court in the country next to the Supreme Court. OOIDA still has the option to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The ELD mandate rule, published December 2015, requires all truckers currently required to paper logs to transition to an ELD by December 18, 2017.

 To visit CCJ's article, click here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Night Driving

 Although the majority of driving takes place during daylight hours, at some point all professional drivers will have to drive after dark. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities on the road occur at a rate of three times greater at night than during the day. While only a quarter of all driving is done at night, more than half of all driving deaths occur at night.

Your depth perception, ability to distinguish color, and peripheral vision are worse in low-light conditions. If you do not regularly drive at night, you are at a higher risk for experiencing fatigue. Roadway lighting is often very poor and in most rural areas lighting is very limited.

Here are 6 tips to ensure your night driving safety:  

  1. Know your truck, and be prepared to stop within the distance you can see with your headlights. During your pre-trip inspection, make sure your headlights are clean and properly adjusted.
  2. Keep your windshield clean. A dirty windshield can create glare and make it harder to see. 
  3. Always use your high beam headlights when possible. Increase your chances of being able to see as far as possible.
  4. To ensure your vision, avoid looking directly into the lights of approaching motor vehicles. Try to focus on the fog line of the roadway and avoid staring into the bright lights.
  5. Dim your instrument panel lights and keep your dome light off. Too much illumination inside your cab diminishes your ability to see clearly outside your cab.
  6. Watch for wildlife. Often you can see the reflections of headlights in an animal’s eyes long before you can see the animal itself. Pairs of tiny bright spots in the distance are a clear warning that an animal is in front of you, therefore slow down.
Since most accidents occur during nighttime hours, defensive driving skills are a necessity to be safe on the road in the evening.

Stay alert and always reduce your speed during hours of darkness.