If you are a trucker, chances are you won’t see your 62nd birthday.
Laurie Forbes, Vice-President, Administration at Coastal Pacific Xpress Inc. of Surrey, says the job takes its toll, physically and mentally. He cites stressors like driving daily in heavy traffic, eating fast food, keeping to tight schedules and fighting fatigue, as taxing for workers. Research suggests the average lifespan of a professional truck driver is 61 years.
Forbes sees it as the company’s obligation to help staff combat stress and stay healthy, prompting CPx, a long-haul trucking firm, to create an award-winning wellness program.
The British Columbia Medical Association honoured CPx with its Council on Health Promotion Award of Excellence for the company’s wellness programs. In particular, the company’s, “Focus on Fitness Friday” initiative gained special attention from the BCMA.
Drivers and all staff are offered a healthy breakfast, lunch and array of snacks on Fridays as well as being encouraged to walk for exercise. They have access to company-provided pedometers that track the number of steps taken and are encouraged to walk more on Fridays. And, for every 1000 steps a staffer takes, CPx donates $2.00 to The Centre for Child Development in Surrey. The centre helps children with severe developmental disabilities. CPx walkers trod 263 miles one recent Friday, which translated into $1158 for the centre.
Staff are also encouraged to track such health indicators as their heart rate, Body Mass Index, weight, blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels and blood-sugar levels if diabetic. Using special kiosks, truckers and administrative employees can confidentially track their readings and give them to their doctor for a better perspective on their overall health.
Forbes observes the programs help staff stay healthy which, in turn, makes them happier, more engaged and productive. ”Healthy drivers cope better with stress, have less downtime due to illness, are better rested and safer drivers,” he notes.
The programs have encouraged employees to seek medical attention when the kiosks indicate cause for concern. “Some staff sought medical attention after being reluctant to see the doctor once they saw their results,” says Forbes.
Staff benefit, but so does the company.
Not only does CPx attract workers, but the workplace wellness programs can be associated with less absenteeism, less prescription drug use, lower short term disability costs and fewer accidents, says Forbes.
Martin Shoemaker, a psychologist and president of PHD Assessments, has observed that a focus on trucker wellness is associated with fewer trucking accidents, lower turnover and absenteeism in general. PHD Assessments is a Vancouver-based assessment company that helps firms recruit, place and train current and new employees. “Healthy habits can also reduce sleep debt and fatigue, which is highly correlated to accidents involving machinery and vehicles“, observes Shoemaker.
Jason Clark, Vice-President, Operations, at PHD Assessments, notes that healthy drivers tend to fit a particular profile that encompasses seven factors, including wellness:
- Stress Tolerance
They tolerate and cope well with stress both on and off the job. These drivers maintain a calm emotional equilibrium and are self-motivated.
- Personal Responsibility for Safety.
Professional truck drivers who believe it is predominantly their responsibility to be safe on the road, and don’t blame other drivers, tend to be more accountable for their actions and decisions.
- Risk Taking
Staff willing to take risks, on and off the job, make for more dangerous drivers overall. For example, Clark cites the tendency to gamble as a measure of a person’s willingness to take risks.
If a driver likes to make fast decisions, he or she may be at greater risk of accidents and injury than a more thoughtful individual. Making snap decisions may indicate a tendency to take this behavior on the road, with disastrous or costly consequences.
Drivers who take care of themselves, and CPx facilitates this ability in their drivers, tend to be safer and healthier. Eating right, exercising, sleeping properly and focusing on one’s health, can be both an employee boon and an organizational advantage.
- Professional Driver Attitude
If a driver approaches the job as a professional—checking and maintaining the vehicle regularly, wearing a seat belt, and the like, they are on the right road. Being aware and knowledgeable of what constitutes truck and driver safety, makes these folks less likely to put themselves, or their vehicles at risk.
- Driving Satisfaction
Drivers who like their work tend to be healthier and more safety prone. Being happy in the career is key to not only enjoying the job, but to being satisfied in life.
CPx is taking health, wellness and safety seriously when it focuses on driver behaviour both on and off the road. Even in the economic downturn, companies that continue to invest in employee wellness programs reap benefits.
Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development company. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. Dr. Newman can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org