Truck News


Back Behind the Wheel: Back Pain – What’s the Cost?

John stepped down from his cab and felt a stabbing jolt of pain in his left lower back. As he limped towards the truck stop, he sensed a wave of panic: "Is this that dreaded back pain so many other drivers have experienced?" he thought. "Will I be...

John stepped down from his cab and felt a stabbing jolt of pain in his left lower back. As he limped towards the truck stop, he sensed a wave of panic: “Is this that dreaded back pain so many other drivers have experienced?” he thought. “Will I be off work for months? Will I ever be a 100 per cent again?”

Has this ever happened to you? For many drivers this can become a reality. Did you know that 80 per cent of the general population will experience back pain sometime in their life? Back pain does not only affect you physically and mentally, but it can also affect you financially. Back problems can cost you and your company thousands of dollars a year. So what can you and your company do to minimize back pain, save money and increase safety? It’s simple: take good care of your most important investment – yourself.

What are the costs of back pain in the trucking industry? In Ontario, the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) has gathered information/statistics regarding injuries related to the trucking industry. The WSIB has classified a wide variety of companies that transport or perform: freight, moving, forest products, maintenance, waste management etc… This group is collectively known as “Rate 570 General Trucking” group. Here are some highlights from 1998 to 2002 stats inclusive:

The primary of bodily injury for all years was always the back. As a percentage of all injuries, back pain has actually increased from 16.7 per cent in 1998 to 19.7 per cent in 2002.

The first and second source of all injuries varied between the truck itself and the driver’s bodily motion and position. These two factors consistently accounted for 30 to 35 per cent of all injuries.

The primary reason for injury for all five years was overexertion (average 20 to 25 per cent) followed by bodily reaction (average 13 to 15 per cent).

In 2002, there were 3,660 lost-time injuries (missed work) and 4,050 no lost-time injuries. The average workplace lost-time injury in Ontario costs the employer over $59,000. The average lost-time worker’s compensation claim costs nearly $12,000.

This all sounds like lots of bad news, but here’s the good news. All truck drivers and owners can manage injuries better, prevent them from occurring and ultimately reap the benefit of considerable WSIB premium rebates. Consider this: if your company’s profit margin is 10 per cent, it requires $590,000 in sales to produce $59,000 profit. Alternatively, if your profit margin is 6 per cent, it requires almost a million dollars ($983,333) in sales to produce $59,000 profit. Now, if your company can reduce just one lost-time injury (average cost $59,000) you have, in effect, created an equivalent profit by increasing your sales by $590,000 at a 10 per cent profit margin or $983,333 at a six per cent profit margin. Preventing injuries not only saves money, it makes money!!

A back injury for a driver is a physically painful experience, as well as emotionally stressful. From the WSIB’s statistics and data, it’s obvious that these injuries are very costly for all stakeholders – drivers and employers.

It’s very important that O/Os, truck companies and all drivers place a higher priority on preventing back injuries.

Drivers who are healthy actually “drive” a trucking company towards an inevitable increase in productivity, decreased missed workdays, diminished WSIB claims and a generally happier work force. The bottom line is clear – a healthier corporate mindset for prevention will translate into healthier profits for your company.

As for our driver John, the news was good. Fortunately for him, his injury was a strained joint and back muscle and not a slipped disc with sciatica. John immediately attended his chiropractor for treatment and exercise instruction. He now walks three to four times per week, eats better and does a 10-minute daily back warm-up. He visits his chiropractor monthly to ensure good spinal (back) health. John’s hard work has paid off and he has avoided a potentially catastrophic and debilitating back injury.

Back pain is a physically, emotionally and financially miserable condition. Drivers and employers must be seriously proactive about health and take necessary steps for improvement and pain relief, including regular exercise, proper nutrition, adequate rest, stress management, chiropractic care, massage therapy etc.

These steps will help ensure that injuries are prevented. Investing in health today allows people to reap incredible benefits for healthier and longer lives

I’d like to thank Mr. Perry Jensen of the WSIB and Dr. Brian Kleinberg (who co-authored this column) for the expertise and information they provided. Dr. Kleinberg can be reached at 905- 738-6303.

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1-888-252-7327, or e-mail

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