We have officially entered the CSA era of regulation from the Department of Transportation. With this, we will see changes in commercial driver’s license standards and driver qualification – and likely an increased emphasis on driver wellness.
New sleep apnea standards seem imminent and efforts are underway to standardize training and testing on the federal physical qualifications for those conducting physical examinations. “Fitness” already dictates standards for blood pressure, diabetes, vision and so on but there is increasing emphasis on wellness factors that influence those conditions, such as being overweight.
Although there are certainly challenges with creating a wellness program that drivers will actually adopt, the rewards of improving employee wellness are great. Decreased health care and worker’s compensation costs, greater control of insurance premiums, and improvement of safety records are just a few of the reasons to invest the time in a wellness program for your drivers.
We put together 4 tips for any trucking company looking to start a wellness program:
- Create a communication strategy to get information on wellness programs to drivers
Communicating a program can be hard with drivers that you rarely see. It’s far from impossible though - many advancements in technology are making it easier to get messages out to drivers.
Get your message out however you can. Sending text messages and emails to drivers (to access when they’re not driving, of course) is one channel of communication that will likely reach them. There is also always the standard check stuffer and posting in break rooms as well.
Grassroots support is a key to making any wellness program work. Having just one driver advocate or “cheerleader” to help communicate the message will go a long way.
- Demonstrate a top-down commitment to wellness programs
Management commitment to a healthier workforce is essential. Beyond paying lip service, management should actually participate in the wellness program themselves.
Things like dedicating company time to focus on wellness, allocating resources and time for your staff to develop programs, and providing the right coverage and incentives will demonstrate a sincere commitment to the wellbeing of employees. Employees that have a feeling of being valued will be more engaged and perform at their highest level.
- Ask drivers what kind of wellness information and programming they want
Driver input should help guide the content you develop. Some OTR drivers do not come into the office for weeks at a time. It’s often difficult to get face time with those drivers, and their routines and hours are challenging.
Make it a priority to talk to these drivers when you can, and ask them what will work for them. Finding out how you can help them and then following through has proven successful.
- Provide a forum for drivers to communicate with one another
Creating a way for drivers to share information with one another can be an asset to your wellness program, as well as providing other benefits.
At many truck stops, for example, drivers may not feel comfortable in their surroundings. Providing a forum for drivers to discuss where they’ve stopped and had a pleasant experience helps create comfort and promote wellness, and it also shows that you care.
This can be as simple as asking drivers for input and then distributing the information. You can also create a company message board, Facebook page, or intranet site where drivers can start a conversation. A number of new social group wellness tools can also provide a place to promote wellness-focused dialogue.
When creating a wellness program, recognize there isn’t a cookie cutter program out there. Wellness is the sort of wicked problem that “you can’t just write a check to cover.”
Wellness is not easy. This is largely true because we are talking about behavior change, bad habits are built over time, and it will take time to reverse it. Beyond this, trucking companies face a number of unique challenges due to their employee population and the nature of their work.