This past year, health care has been a major topic of discussion. The health care industry is busy analyzing the 2,000 page health care bill and the 5,000 pages of government guidance explaining the bill. Closer to our industry FMCSA will be issuing new rules covering medical examiners and sleep apnea programs. No one in any industry doubts that health and health care costs will continue to have a profound effect on their business.
Trucking ranks as number 9 on the Top 10 List of the most dangerous jobs. This listing is achieved by virtue of traffic fatalities. Trucking companies large and small have safety programs designed to lower this risk and the high costs associated with traffic accidents. These programs are driven by the desire to increase profitability and are generally believed to provide a positive return for the time and money invested.
On the other hand, health wellness programs don't have the same perception of providing a positive return on investment. Truck drivers operate in an environment with many health risk factors: stress, fatigue, poor diet and lack of exercise. Talk to truck drivers and they'll tell you that there's nothing they can do to alter their lifestyle. Talk to employers and they'll tell you that drivers won't buy into a wellness program thus diminishing the positive effects.
Schneider began a wellness program for its drivers, invested money in the program, circulated the information throughout the fleet and talked up the benefits. Many of their drivers participated in the initial health risk screening but few stayed with the program. After two years participation peaked at 15%. Certainly not impressive and most likely disappointing to management.
But then events intervened that changed the perception of the program.
Two drivers suffered fatal heart attacks. Both had been identified by screening as cardiac high risk but had declined to participate in the wellness program. There's no way to be certain that they would have survived if they had changed their lifestyle, but the two deaths caught the attention of management and the drivers. Participation in the program increased to over 40%.
This is a tough business with lots of challenges in all areas of operation. Drivers certainly face a challenge in maintaining a healthy lifestyle while on the road, but it can be done. They can make more healthy meal choices - not always easy with truck stop meals that still feature a heavy dose of calories. They can exercise - park in the back of the truck stop and walk to the building, maybe even make a couple of laps around the lot when they park for the night. Take some healthy snacks from home - apples and oranges store well in the truck.
Talk to your health insurance provider about a wellness program, and pay particular attention to designing the program to overcome the driver's objections that act as a roadblock to participation. Finally, stick with the program. If Schneider had dropped theirs after the initial disappointing results they would never have experienced the program's overall success.