Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming 650,000 lives each year. While many factors play a role in developing this disease, anyone who sits for long periods—like truck drivers—increases their risk.
This is precisely why it’s so important for employers to promote healthy habits year-round and especially every February during American Heart Month.
Below, we’ll share tips and other info for doing exactly that.
1. Promote “Rigs Without Cigs.”
Designed specifically for drivers with active CDLs, Rigs Without Cigs is a smoking cessation program created by The St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund, which is a non-profit that helps truckers who are out of work due to illness or injury.
What makes Rigs Without Cigs different from other smoking cessation programs? The cool incentives drivers get when they reach certain milestones (like three months tobacco-free, for example).
Employers could take this program to the next level by offering their own incentives on top of the ones their drivers receive from Rigs Without Cigs. Employer-backed smoking cessation programs do work—and even more so when cash incentives are involved, according to SHRM.
And any money you spend on incentives now will be worth it since you’ll save more money over the long haul. Don’t believe us? Just consider these two points:
- Smoking-related illnesses contribute big time to soaring healthcare costs. Reuters reports on a recent analysis that says for every $10 spent on healthcare in the U.S., almost 90 cents is due to smoking.
- The CDC notes that “tobacco use costs an estimated $96.8 billion per year in lost productivity due to sickness and premature death.”
Whether you push a program like Rigs Without Cigs or create your own company-wide smoking cessation program, your business—and most importantly, your drivers—will reap the benefits either way.
2. Encourage proper rest.
Proper rest is linked to better heart health. Columbia University Irving Medical Center reports the following: “The heart likes consistent sleep, according to some of the most recent research on sleep and heart health. In a study that followed older adults for five years, those with the most irregular sleep schedules were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those with more regular sleep patterns.”
Beyond improved heart health, proper rest improves overall wellness and makes for safer roadways. And yet truck driver fatigue continues to be something that plagues the transportation industry. Check out this article we wrote last year about the CVSA’s plan to combat driver fatigue—and what employers can do to support it.
3. Educate drivers about the acceptable ranges for blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure (also called hypertension) can lead to things like heart attacks, strokes, and even vision loss—all of which are dire situations, but even more so when someone is operating a big rig.
Blood pressure requirements for passing DOT physicals are straightforward: Anything below 140/90, and the driver will pass. Anything above, and some action is necessary.
And that’s where it can get tricky since many things can contribute to high blood pressure, including genetics, diet, weight, age, and lack of exercise.
✔ Consider offering training on wellness topics, particularly around nutrition, easy exercises drivers can do on the road, and stress-management techniques.
✔ Provide heart-healthy suggestions for snacks to keep in the cab. Kudos if you reimburse drivers or if you make heart-healthy snacks, like nuts or whole grain crackers, available for truckers to grab before they hit the road.
✔ Remind drivers to hydrate with water (and to ditch the soda and excessive coffees). Give them sturdy water bottles emblazoned with your company logo. It’s good advertising for your company and even better for your drivers.
BONUS TIP: Make sure you’re staying on top of your drivers’ DOT physicals.
Managing your drivers’ DOT physicals gets exponentially harder as your fleet grows. And here’s the thing: If you’re still using paper files, your blood pressure is bound to surge thanks to all the stress that comes from maintaining paper records. Let us help.
Our online system makes it super easy to track, order, review, and manage your drivers’ DOT physicals—as well as other important DOT assets, like medical card renewals, license renewals, and drug tests. Request a demo and discover how easy our system is to use.