Driver health and safety are linked

Andrea Morley

At Healthy Trucker, we’ve been repeating the phrase, “A healthier driver is a safer driver,” since we set out to improve the health of the industry over six years ago.

Every driver out there wants to be among the best at their craft, taking pride in their ability to back into awkward spaces and navigate treacherous roads with a high degree of skill.

Companies reward drivers for accident-free miles, with major milestones being in the millions. The drivers that reach these achievements are no doubt among the best at what they do, taking their job incredibly seriously.

A common theme among many of them is that not only do they take their job seriously, but they also take their health seriously. They tend to prepare a bit more of their own food, or look for healthier options when in truck stops and restaurants. You may even see them out walking to get some extra steps in at the end of a long day, or making time to see their chiropractor when they are home.

But is there really a connection between driver health and their ability to drive safely? Several studies have found there to be, and it’s something the industry is picking up on.

For example, drivers with a high cardiovascular disease risk score have been found to have a significantly higher likelihood of crashing, and drivers with 3 or more medical conditions (ex. Hypertension, diabetes, renal disease), have a significantly increased risk of preventable crashes.

Much of this can likely be attributed to the fatigue and distraction caused by poor health, resulting in more driver error and decreased reaction times on the road, all among the top causes of collisions in Canada. Drivers that rely on highly processed food, caffeine, limited sleep, and little to no activity are the most at risk for fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

Driver safety extends far beyond their safety behind the wheel, as well. Physically, those who are overweight or lacking in coordination and balance may be more at risk for on the job injuries when they aren’t driving, such as slipping when exiting the truck or while making a delivery.

Now, none of this is to say that all healthy drivers are safer than unhealthy drivers; we are simply seeing a connection between driver health and their ability to drive and conduct their job safely, showing that a driver who is the healthiest version of themselves possible is also going to be a safer version of themselves. Taking a driver from being safe to even safer is a win for himself, his family, the carrier, the customer, and every person on the road.

The industry, and drivers, dedicate an immense amount of time, money, and energy into making our roads safer, and there are a lot of variables that influence road safety. Getting healthy is one of those factors, and while it may not always be easy for truckers to get or stay healthy, it is possible.

If you’re a driver, follow my column to see ways that you can work to improve your health. We’ll talk about it from every angle, including information specific to drivers as well as the average person. If you work somewhere else in the industry, I encourage you to support drivers in getting and staying healthy in any way you can through your role.

Andrea Morley

Andrea Morley is the lead nutritionist and health coach at Healthy Trucker (a division of NAL Insurance), where she educates and motivates drivers and office staff across the industry to improve their health through simple, consistent changes in their diet and exercise routines. She has a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition from the University of Guelph, and is passionate about wellness and helping others reach their goals. She can be contacted at amorley@healthytrucker.com

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