Help Your Drivers Manage the Demands of the Road

By Britney Young | 03/06/2017

Commercial truck driving plays a vital role in the US economy. From deliveries of online shopping orders to hauling large pieces of equipment, commercial drivers are an essential part of business growth and success.

The problem? No one wants to be a commercial driver anymore. Older drivers are retiring, and they aren’t being replaced. The median age of truckers on the road is 49, compared to a median of 42 for all US workers. Younger drivers don’t find the demands of commercial driving appealing, and employers are struggling to fill the gap.

Upgrades to trucks, driver wellness programs, and other innovations are just a few solutions employers are exploring to help keep older drivers on the road—and get younger drivers on the payroll. Here are some examples.

Change their routes—or upgrade their trucks

One of the challenges employers face today is that younger drivers prefer regional jobs and a family life. Turnaround and short relay routes allow them to go home at night and keep a regular schedule. Longer relays, which can mean up to 11 straight hours of driving, require drivers to be off duty for at least 10 hours after driving. This can make a driver take several days to get home, instead of being there every night. With a straight through-haul or cross-country route, a driver may even spend an entire month on the road, going from one load to the next. These long-haul drivers will often sleep in their truck and return home for only 4 or 5 days before leaving for another month of long hours on the road.

To make long-haul driving more appealing to younger drivers, there’s a push to make trucks more efficient and comfortable. Some modern cabins even feature kitchenettes, and a place to transport pets.

Another alternative to the single driver, long relay route is a team approach. In a team operations, drivers share the driving by alternating 5-hour driving periods with 5-hour rest periods.

Map out their favorite break spots

Abrupt schedule changes and rotating work schedules can result in irregular sleep patterns, leading drivers to start a trip already tired. To keep energy levels high—and avoid the risk of nodding off at the wheel—it’s important to help drivers map out a sleep routine and plan for breaks. How drivers spend that break time can impact their energy levels for the long drive ahead.

Some drivers plan for breaks by keeping a log of their favorite break spots. This saves time that would have been spent searching for a location with adequate parking, good food, and/or a shower—so when drivers do stop, they can focus on their break and fully relax.

Teach safe lifting techniques

Many drivers perform various physical tasks in addition to driving. These tasks can include:

  • Coupling and uncoupling trailers
  • Loading and unloading cargo
  • Inspecting the truck’s engine and brakes
  • Securing cargo 

There are also physical demands that come with driving the truck itself, such as controlling the steering wheel, entering and exiting the vehicle, shifting gears, and manipulating dashboard switches and controls. Sitting at the wheel for long hours can also be physically stressful, causing aches and pains in the back, neck, arms, and shoulders.

To avoid back injuries and muscular strain, drivers should practice safe lifting techniques and stretch whenever they’re on break to loosen up stiff muscles. A Concentra physical therapist or certified athletic trainer can teach your drivers safe lifting techniques and stretches that maximize their break time. Talk to us today about partnering with a Concentra physical therapist to teach your drivers safe lifting techniques.

Help them find healthy food on the road

Anyone who has been on a long road trip knows that healthy options are few and far between. Long-haul drivers are frequently stuck with fast food or gas station meals if they don’t bring food on their trip. This poor diet—combined with how sedentary and stressful long-haul driving can be—puts many drivers at risk. High calorie/high sugar fast foods can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Drivers can limit the impact of road cuisine by selecting healthier options like beef jerky, trail mix, sandwich wraps, and hard boiled eggs. It’s even better if they can prepare food to take with them. Investing in a wellness program and health coaching can help give your drivers the information they need to make healthier choices and know what’s best to bring on the road.

The road ahead

The health and well-being of America’s commercial drivers is essential for the continued success of many businesses—and often overlooked. Driver health shouldn’t stop with their regular DOT physical. Try some of the tips above to start improving your drivers’ health. If you’re ready to take the next step and start actively working on your drivers’ health, talk to one of our workforce health experts. With over 800,000 DOT physicals performed at Concentra each year, we know a lot about the health challenges your drivers face every day—and we’re here to help you solve them.

For more information on the health-related trends in the trucking industry, download our whitepaper: "DOT Regulations: Addressing the rapid rate of change in the DOT-regulated world"

 

References

Puricelli, MD, A. (2015, May 18). Demands of Driving. Lecture presented at Concentra Clinical Playbook: Puricelli Pearls.