The trucking industry has lost more than 150,000 drivers because of medical reasons since the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners was established in May 2014, says Bob Perry, president and founder of Rolling Strong. But carriers can reverse this trend, he says, with simple changes that focus on driver health.
The Truckload Carriers Association hosted a webinar Thursday to discuss its new driver health and wellness program, TCA Wellness powered by Rolling Strong. TCA brought in Perry to lead the webinar and answer questions from fleet attendees. TCA and Rolling Strong recently partnered to offer the program, which both groups say improves driver health and safety and driver retention.
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Perry said that, because of how many drivers have fallen through the cracks because of medical disqualifications, he feels there is not, in fact, a driver shortage.
“I believe this shows there are drivers, we just have to do a better job of saving the drivers that are out there,” Perry said. “Just like it’s more cost effective to retain a customer than to acquire a new one, the same can be said for drivers.”
Perry said changing the health culture at trucking companies has to start with driver orientation by providing healthier meals and healthier options in vending machines. He said this shows the drivers that the companies are legitimately concerned with their health and well-being, and that the companies are serious about the drivers being healthy.
“You can’t be the junk food dealer when hiring the driver and then become the police and bust them for non-compliance in managing their health,” he said.
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He added that fleets should add driver wellness education to their recruiting packages to show that the company is serious about the drivers’ health. After orientation is over and the drivers begin work, Perry said it’s important to encourage the drivers to check back in so the fleets can follow up on any health-related questions or issues drivers may have.
“It’s up to the fleets to educate their drivers,” Perry said. “Show them the best ways to take care of themselves while they’re out on the road. Educate drivers in trucking schools and in safety training classes. Take a few slides to explain why it’s important for them to take care of themselves.”
Perry said a key to keeping drivers engaged in a wellness program is to make sure they don’t feel like it’s just another regulation.
“Fleets have to present these programs as ‘it’s about you as a driver, and we want to get you home safe to see your family,’” he said.
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If a driver becomes medically disqualified, Perry said it would be more beneficial to fleets to give the driver help and get him or her into a program instead of sending them home to fix the problem on their own.
“A lot of companies will tell a driver to go home and see their doctor, then come back when the problem is corrected,” he said. “The problem with that is that a lot of drivers don’t have a primary physician, and the last doctor they saw was the DOT doctor, so they go home and don’t know what to do and end up never coming back.”
Perry added that by the time a company advertises for an open seat, interviews and brings in another driver, the company is looking at $5,000 minimum.
“It will cost a fraction of that to get a driver help and get them back on the road,” he said.
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