As the saying goes your nothing without your health, for most of you this is nothing but an old cliché and means nothing really, but to those of you who have suffered a serious period of severe ill health it means much more. It is amazing how easily it for us to take the most important things in our lives for granted.
Recently my bride and I decided that we would celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the Azores Islands, so in early September we packed up our cares and woes and toured the island of Sao Miguel for 16 days, Connie was born there and came to Canada when she was very young, we had the luck to have one of her cousins available to direct us where to go to see the sights and not miss too much of the good stuff and there is lots to see. Every corner of the island you could easily take a picture that could be used for a picturesque post card, this is a beautiful place that I would highly recommend, great value also.
Just before we left to come home Connie started to feel her sinuses starting to congest and not to go on about it, but a clogged sinus turned into Shingles around her right eye, which threatened her eyesight which then manifested itself into viral meningitis. There were 5 nights in the hospital including 3 days in the ICU and 10 days at home with a pick line and daily VON visits to replace the anti viral medication from a drip bag and you get the picture here, we were also taking blood samples every two days and are not out of the woods yet, but things are progressing on schedule thankfully, Wow!
I found out that there is in fact an inoculation that you can get to immunize yourself against the Singles and I have decided after what I saw the bride go through to go ahead and order the shot. If you have had chicken pox I would recommend that you do the same, I am sure that anyone who has had shingles no matter how severe would second that!
I noticed just before I went on our vacation that the Truckload Carriers Association had decide under Chairman Robert Low’s Leadership to alter the US National Truck Driver Appreciation Week and change it to National Truck Driver Appreciation and Wellness Week. I will admit that I had discussion with a couple other past chairman who shared the sentiment of “ can’t we just have one day for the drivers and tell them how important and vital they are, do we need to tell them how out of shape they are at the same time?”
Having heard this I must admit to agreeing to the sentiment at the time, guilty as charged, in my defence I also remember suggesting during the conversation and as everyone knows who has spent any time with Mr Low knows, he is as sharp an individual as you will meet in this industry. I also suggested that I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when Robert rationalized the changes that I am sure he was the architect of.
When I look back some years ago I remember the industry taking a collective sigh of relief when US President Clinton was voted out of office because there were signals that driver ergonomics was being looked at and who knew where that might end up? Fast forward to 5-6 years ago you started to hear about some companies using body mass index as a screening tool for hiring drivers. You now see portable c tap machines on display at many association events to address the supposed proposed rulemaking on sleep apnea that some have been spouting off as a rule in progress. My contacts say this is not the case but either way it is an issue and it needs to be addresses. In fact it now appears that screening for sleep apnea will be added to the driver physical at renewal. When I look at the progression of events I see an industry that has gone from accommodation and acceptance of health issues to one that is educating and taking action. Many have begun screening for unhealthy drivers above the required minimum medical standards and this is the right thing to do.
As an industry our overall health is a train wreck inside and outside the walls of most trucking companies, drivers have a shorter lifespan than other careers, this is fact and as sad as that is it is only overshadowed by the fact that we as an industry have done little to address the issue. So I recant my past position and applaud TCA for their leadership and action on this long overlooked problem.
Having also spent some time reading the CTA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Driver Shortage (a lofty title for this group don’t you think) I have to say that the work that has been done in identifying the issues of this topic have been fairly well defined in its recently produced report. The real test of course is what is done in practical terms with what was revealed, although even the acknowledgement on paper that a potential problem exists and is now defined is somewhat encouraging.
I have heard it said that we have taken truck drivers and their health for grated for far too long, that’s quite a statement isn’t it, who is we anyways, I’ve always wondered about that. Seems to me that the company isn’t sitting next to the driver feeding them donuts, I think that the majority of drivers that have let their health slip know that they need to exercise more and eat healthier, but there just has not been enough healthy options for them, hopefully this is starting to change, CTA and TCA bringing the issue to the forefront is a good start.
At the end of the day it is the action that counts, so what will the next steps be? Let’s hope they have substance and the industry turn the corner on this unhealthy situation.
Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations. All posts by Ray Haight