America is depending upon the transportation industry to safely convey every product imaginable, including the critical vaccines targeting COVID-19 and vital Rx pharmaceuticals. Yet, professional drivers and transportation workers are a vulnerable occupational group with significant adverse health outcomes.
Due to the nature of their profession, this community — seven million professional truck drivers and 770,000 Department of Transportation Certified Fleets — is subject to environmental stressors, adverse work conditions and limited opportunities to exercise.
Unfortunately, this lifestyle often manifests itself in poor diets, with many truckers often eating pre-packaged meals in the cabs of their trucks or at fast food restaurants along their routes. As a result, these professionals experience a high prevalence of metabolic syndrome with associated diseases and conditions spanning obesity, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, vision loss, liver health, sleep apnea and related metabolic conditions.
Today, there is a pressing need for strategies to help keep professional drivers and other transport workers at peak health so they can remain productive and stay safe behind the wheel. Furthermore, maintaining an adequate pool of employees is an ongoing struggle for fleet owners, with serious health issues at the heart of driver turnover.
Currently, there is a shortage of professional drivers in the US, and the trucking industry reports it has about 80,000 fewer available drivers compared to last year. If current trends hold, the shortage could swell to over 160,000 by 2028. Moreover, the significant number of drivers suffering from poorly managed or uncontrolled chronic diseases has potential implications for safety of the American driving public.
Moreover, as part of the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), professional drivers are required to pass bi-annual physical examinations, conducted by Certified Medical Examiners (CMEs.) Uncontrolled hypertension, obesity, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, vision loss, immune deficiencies, and sleep apnea are examples of the types of medical conditions that may preclude a driver from attaining licensure and continuing with their livelihood.
This untenable health situation and the safety threats they pose to not only the transportation industry and fleets, but also every American, prompted Healthy Trucking of America (HTA, formerly known as the Healthy Trucking Association of America) to take action. Since 1997, HTA has made its sole aim that of striving to improve the health and wellness of truck drivers, both independent owner/operators and fleet drivers.
HTA has served the health and wellness needs of professional drivers and through recruitment and intake of drivers in the National Diabetes Prevention Program have found the many chronic disease(s) to be common amongst the community.
HTA Launches Education and Coaching Initiative
In partnership with the Healthy Transportation Foundation (HTF), www.healthytransport.org, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 2008, an HTA initiative is underway.
The goal is to generate Federal, State and philanthropic funding to assist with research, driver health and wellness awareness and a lifestyle change program (LCP) subsidy to participating fleets and drivers. This broad, multi-sponsored initiative will educate America’s Professional Drivers on the importance of and strategies for managing their metabolic health.
HTA and HTF are reaching out to companies and foundations requesting an unrestricted educational grant to execute programming and tools for both professional drivers and CMEs on the importance of managing pre-diabetes and diabetes through lifestyle modification and therapeutic interventions, when appropriate. The proposed multisponsored program is scheduled to run from June 2021 through June 2022.
Providing Certified Medical Examiners with information and tools to identify and monitor the chronic conditions of a professional driver obtaining or renewing a CDL license is key to maintaining individual livelihoods and ensuring the safety of the American public. Programs are expected to reduce driver turnover and improve the fleets’ ability to provide healthy, essential frontline workers.
HTA has collaborated with Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialist (ADCES), ICF Next and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to implement the Shift Into Better Health program to address the challenges among professional drivers who are symptomatic to pre-diabetes and obesity. The program measures include audio podcasts consisting of key messages and tips to eat healthy, lose weight, recommendations to become more physically active, including opportunities to manage stress and other encouragement for male professional drivers to complete an online Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program.
Grants will support broad educational initiatives to expand the Shift into Better Health program addressing the metabolic health of America’s professional drivers. HTA has structured the program to engage three key audiences:
HTA will engage with 4MM professional drivers, prompting them to access education and useful tools and interventions to improve their cardio-metabolic health and potentially protect their livelihoods.
Working with clinicians and recognized personalities, HTA will develop and promote 10 podcasts over the program duration. Through its work with this community, HTA has identified podcasts as a highly effective communication tool for the drivers.
CMEs & Fleet Safety Managers
CMEs, healthcare providers licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to perform the bi-annual physicals for drivers, are often the providers of primary care for drivers and their families. Programs will provide the CMEs with the latest information on lifestyle modification and interventions to address pre-diabetes, T2DM, liver health, sleep apnea, and obesity.
Support for programs to advance better health and safety of America’s professional drivers will go a long way towards impacting everyone’s road safety and ensuring timely delivery of needed products nationwide.