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As professional drivers, we need to look after ourselves first

I wanted to continue writing about driver health issues this month, but was beginning to feel like I was flogging a dead horse. That isn't the case according to the results of a recent Health and Wellness Survey of Transport Truck Drivers...


I wanted to continue writing about driver health issues this month, but was beginning to feel like I was flogging a dead horse.
That isn’t the case according to the results of a recent Health and Wellness Survey of Transport Truck Drivers conducted by the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University and the City of Hamilton, Public Health Services.

According to the survey, 33.1% of drivers say they are willing to participate in workplace wellness programs on their own time. So a large number of drivers recognize that the trucking lifestyle has a negative impact on their health and they would like to do something about it. As drivers, we know there is a huge divide between our intention to live a healthier lifestyle and our ability to carry through with that intention. I think most drivers would agree that time is the limiting factor we all share. It’s fair to say we simply don’t have enough of it. This point was driven home to me over the course of the past week.

I left southwestern Ontario last Saturday morning and headed up to Winnipeg/Brandon where I peddled freight around all day Monday. Tuesday, I reloaded down around Fargo and was back at my home terminal early on Thursday. Over 3,000 miles, 12 picks and drops along with the border crossings makes for a busy week. My on-board recorder showed me either on duty or driving for a total of 67 hours. Not any different than the 300,000 other Canadian truck drivers doing the same thing as me. We do that week in and week out, right? You bet we do.

Waiting at the yard for me was my car sitting on one very flat tire. Okay, I kept ignoring that ‘need new tires’ item on my to-do list and now I was forced into crisis management mode. I also had a ‘needs brake service,’ and ‘needs emissions test for permit renewal’ on that same list. At home I had another list with items such as: ‘trim cedar hedge around backyard,’ ‘fix slow leak (for now) on upstairs toilet,’ and let’s not forget, ‘meet deadline for Truck News column.’ There are many other items I could add to these lists and I know that every driver out there has lists just like them. Where does ‘family time’ and ‘leisure time’ fit on those lists? What about ‘exercise time?’ It’s pretty easy to see why we call truck driving a lifestyle and not a job or a career. When you drive a truck it becomes a part of who you are not just what you do for a living.

Something else happened recently that put all of that on the back burner. My daughter went into labour with our first grandchild four weeks ahead of schedule. Surprise! Thankfully everything went smoothly, mom and baby are fine, healthy, and happy. Standing next to my daughter this morning with Nate, my grandson, in my arms and my wife by my side, I recognized that making the time to live a healthy lifestyle was about my whole life not just about my physical well-being.

When was the last time anyone within our industry took the time to coach you on the benefits of including your own time into your trip planning? Making sure that you had time to sleep, to eat, to relax, etc. Why don’t we plan for ourselves and in doing so still accommodate the needs of our shippers, receivers, carriers, and enforcement agencies and they for us (drivers) in their planning?

I’ve become involved with a Transportation Industry Health Promotion Research and Policy Planning Group, which was created by the two organizations I mentioned earlier that are responsible for the driver survey that kicked things off. I’m impressed with the passion, sincerity and genuine concern the members of the group have for improving the quality of life for transport drivers. The thing that bothers me is that of the 37 or so members that attended the first session, I was the only driver. Drivers are a very diverse group and greater representation and participation is needed in order for the professionals and academics that drive the group to make the best use of their skills to help us improve the quality of our lives out here on the road.

Too often we bitch and complain after the fact about plans and policies that are put into place for our benefit. Think of the hours-of-service rules and policy regarding EOBRs. The intense research done prior to the implementation of these policies was intended to benefit us, not limit us or control us. As drivers we too often sit back and allow things to happen without participating in the process. I know it takes time – of which we already have little to spare – but if we don’t actively participate in the process we are giving up the independence that attracted most of us to this profession in the first place.


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