Keys to implementing a driver health and wellness program

The secret is out among the best run trucking companies, that a formal health and wellness plan for drivers and other staff can deliver significant benefits to a carrier’s operations. It has often been said that a healthy driver is a safe driver, and there’s growing evidence that drivers prefer to work for companies that help them achieve a healthier lifestyle.

This point was hammered home at two separate seminars I attended in the past few weeks. At the Best Fleets to Drive For seminar in Toronto, CarriersEdge president Mark Murrell said virtually all the top-performing fleets in the competition have some form of health and wellness program available to drivers. This is a significant change from when the program started just five years ago, when the topic didn’t appear on a single driver survey.

“Now it has shifted to where almost everybody has some kind of formalized wellness program for drivers,” Murrell said, noting many carriers have now turned the corner and focused their attention on keeping drivers healthy once they’ve achieved their personal goals.

Just one day earlier, I attended the most recent Driving for Profit seminar, which featured a session on health and wellness programs. The session featured Trevor Kurtz, general manager of Brian Kurtz Trucking, Dave Dietrick, vice-president of human resources with Erb Group and Siphiwe Baleka, driver fitness coach with Prime Inc. Their success stories were a source of inspiration for anyone who has struggled with attaining a healthy lifestyle and should also motivate fleet managers to take an active interest in the wellness of their drivers.

Here are a few dos and don’ts that emerged from the information-packed session:

Don’t assume there’s no interest: Kurtz admitted he approached the subject of driver health with some trepidation, unsure how drivers would react to the idea of a company-driven health and wellness program. He broached the subject of joining the Truckload Carriers Association’s Weight Loss Showdown during a driver’s meeting and 20 drivers out of 100 immediately volunteered. Kurtz said he was pleasantly surprised at the interest level among the company’s driving force and other staff. Even more drivers began showing an interest once they noticed the results of their peers, he pointed out.

Don’t think it can’t be done: We’ve all heard the excuses – legitimate excuses, to be sure – from drivers. There’s no place healthy to eat along the route, no time to exercise, etc. Baleka has created an exercise program for drivers that takes just 15 minutes and can be done anywhere, any time. You don’t need to run 10 miles to attain noticeable results, he said. And eating habits don’t have to change drastically. For example, a footlong sub can be replaced with an equally fulfilling six-inch with double meat, effectively reducing your carb intake by half.

Do provide the necessary tools: Some small investments by the fleet can go a long way towards helping drivers achieve their goals. Equipping truck cabs with fridges allow drivers more options for eating healthy on the road and avoiding the truck stop buffets. Installing bike racks on the cab provides another option for exercising while on the road. Kurtz even pays lumper fees to drivers who choose to handbomb their own freight.

Do provide ongoing support: Once a formalized health and wellness program has been initiated and drivers have begun reaching their weight-loss goals, it’s important to continue celebrating victories and keep the momentum going. Kurtz said that’s one of the biggest lessons learned at Brian Kurtz Trucking. You don’t want the success pictures on the bulletin board to get too stale and you don’t want drivers reverting back to their old ways, so ensure the program is continuous to achieve lasting results.

For more tips, see the feature in the July issues of Truck News and Truck West. I always feel a little hypocritical when writing about health and wellness. I’m not exactly a picture of health, myself. While our job descriptions may differ quite substantially, I share many of the same concerns as professional drivers. I work long hours, spend most of my working time sitting, travel frequently and find it difficult to break up my day to get some exercise. But those are just excuses and I’ve seen enough success stories in trucking to know those barriers can be overcome. I’ve decided to do something about it and will have more info on that in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, do you have tips on healthy eating or exercising on the road? Please share them here.

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James Menzies is editorial director of Today's Trucking and He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 24 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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