Growing up in a family business in the trucking industry, I've had the pleasure of meeting truck drivers ever since I was 5 years old. What a thrill I had getting the opportunity to sit and ride in a big rig!
As I've gotten older, my conversations adapted from a quick hello and hi-five back then and have now evolved over the past 28 years into having serious talks with a number of drivers about the many challenges they face with trying to improve and maintain their health while continuing the career they've had a passion for all their life.
It's no secret to drivers and the entire trucking industry that health and wellness is a major issue - as the average driver age continues to climb (currently just under 50), the average driver's life expectancy is 58 years old (average American life expectancy is in the high 70s).
We grew tired of hearing more and more terrifying stories of losing drivers to heart attacks, and decided it was time to step up and do something about it. That something became known as The Healthy Trucking Association of America.
We began conducting research and gathering data over 3 years ago; our first step was to determine how drivers would react to having more health and wellness tools available to them. I liken it to when in the movie "Field of Dreams", Ray Kinsella heard a voice tell him "If you build it, they will come". While many thought we were crazy (much like many thought of Ray when he built his baseball field), we decided to run an experiment of making blood pressure monitoring kiosks available for drivers. We first introduced this at the Mid America Truck Show and had 4 bp kiosks in our booth.
Over the three day span, the numbers were astounding:
- 2,000 drivers took their blood pressure
- 20 of them were sent by our doctor directly to the ER
- 1 of the 20 experienced a heart attack en route to the ER
The doctor looked at us and claimed "your machines helped save lives today - had we not sent that driver to the ER, he likely would have experienced his heart attack while driving behind the wheel".
And just like that, our Healthy Trucking Initiative motto was born: We are in the business of saving lives!
Shortly after the show we decided to place 100 of our machines in truck stops around the country allowing drivers to check their blood pressure and pulse for free. Turns out, each machine averaged 80 uses per day! It wasn't long before we were speaking to trucking companies about the opportunity for them to have one of our machines placed in their terminal. One safety director told me - "If having these machines at our terminals for $159 a month finds just one instance per year where a driver realizes his numbers are not at safe levels to get behind the wheel right away, that's quite an affordable safety measure!
Finally, after 3 years of our data collecting and research, we were all set to launch the Healthy Trucking Association of America, a non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to the industry with the ultimate goal of saving lives and saving money, both for individual drivers as well as fleets.
In February of 2009, we hosted our HTAA Annual Summit, and had medical experts from several different fields of health and wellness provide presentations for our attendees, which included many fleet executives from across the country representing safety, hr, risk management, and recruiting.
It was very refreshing for everyone who attended to realize that we were all facing the same challenge and we're not alone, and we all saw how important it was for us to join forces and help be part of the solution - before government comes in and tells us how exactly to do it!
When the summit concluded, the HTAA had its charter fleet members established as well as a number of affiliated companies and associations that have become core allied partners to the HTAA. We plan on making this summit an annual event and are anxious for the next one to be held in early 2010.
I've had the pleasure of receiving phone calls from several of our members who have shared with me some of their experiences they've had while being a part of the HTAA. I had a mom who called me in tears telling me that because of our free discount prescription card, she could now afford her child's asthma prescription. It doesn't get much more real than that, and I'm so glad that fleets have this same opportunity to receive these phone calls - I remind our members who have signed up with the HTAA through their fleet not to forget to thank them for making the HTAA a program available to their drivers!