Arrow buys 55 Bose Ride System seats

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — As part of a recently-launched health and wellness initiative, Arrow Transportation has ordered 55 Bose Ride System truck seats, with the intention of installing the seat in all 300 of its trucks if an extensive trial proves successful.

Jackie Charles, director of corporate responsibility with Arrow, told the first Bose seats will be installed in early February.

“We ultimately want to make the product available to all of our drivers, so we need to adequately test the product,” Charles said. “This is a serious trial for us.”

The Bose Ride System seats will be installed in company trucks across several divisions. Drivers will provide feedback to Arrow’s Truck Seat Task Force to determine whether a further investment will be made. Bose was recently invited to several of Arrow’s facilities to demonstrate the technology to drivers. Charles said everyone was impressed with how well they worked in the demonstration, and the company is eager to see if they perform equally well on the highway over time. The Bose seats incorporate an electromagnetic motor system with sensors and a computing engine to eliminate vibrations in much the same way the company’s noise-cancelling headphones mute ambient noise.

The purchase of 55 Bose Ride System seats marks one of the first – and most substantial – investments Arrow has made since implementing an employee health and wellness program last year. The company has offered an employee family assistance program (EFAP) for about 20 years, but wanted to take its wellness program further. Charles said the company’s first thought was to launch a group weight loss challenge – along the lines of The Biggest Loser TV show – but it decided to first survey employees to determine what they would most like to see in a wellness program. And it’s a good job they asked.

About 63% (513 of 815) of employees completed the 11-page survey, and a group weight loss challenge ranked dead last among the initiatives employees wanted to see offered.

“Interestingly enough, a very small percentage (of respondents) wanted to take part in an organization-wide fitness challenge, so it’s a good thing we didn’t do The Biggest Loser or something like that,” Charles said.

The survey found employees were most interested in receiving CPR/First Aid training, with health screening (including blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol and body mass index) coming in second. The open-ended question portion of the survey also identified many drivers were unhappy with their truck seats, and experienced pain and discomfort they attributed to the seats.

Arrow took action to address the biggest concerns among its employees. It offered to reimburse those interested in taking St. John’s Ambulance training for CPR or First Aid. Arrow also commissioned a third-party health-screening provider to send a “company nurse” to all Arrow’s divisions, so drivers could receive a snapshot of their personal health.

“The wonderful thing about the testing we arranged is, there is no fasting required,” Charles said. “A finger-prick medical device is used for most of the testing. This really helps for scheduling and getting people to participate. It can be done any time, the results are instant and it keeps costs down on our end.”

To address driver complaints about truck seats, a Truck Seat Task Force was created.

“The Task Force spent a considerable amount of time reviewing incident rates for back pain and the numerous supplier options on the market and after lots of research and looking at different options, the committee made the recommendation to do an extensive trial with the Bose seats,” Charles said.

The Bose demonstration units visited Arrow’s branches in Kamloops, Grande Prairie and Chilliwack in recent weeks.

“The feedback was very positive,” said Charles.

While Bose doesn’t divulge specific pricing details, it has in the past told the seats retail for about $6,000 including installation for a single unit. Volume discounts can bring the price down to less than $3,800 when more than 10 units are ordered. Whatever the price tag, it’s a big investment on the part of Arrow.

Asked how Arrow will measure a return on investment, Charles said that wasn’t a priority when ordering the seats.

“We really didn’t approach our wellness program with a consideration of a return on investment,” Charles said. “We made the commitment as a company to support the health needs of our people and we are going to follow through on that. We have a tremendous amount of respect for our employees and we want to ensure we’re doing everything possible to limit the physical stress of operating our equipment. The investment we’re making in the Bose seats is substantial obviously, however after seeing how the seats perform, the potential for improving alertness, minimizing fatigue and improving our drivers’ long-term physical health, it’s an investment we’ll make gladly.”

Once the initial seats are installed in February, the trial is expected to last six months to a year. Charles said drivers who are chosen to pilot the seats will be in frequent contact with the Task Force and their input will determine whether or not the program is expanded. Meanwhile, Arrow’s wellness program will continue to grow to include other priorities identified by employees through the survey.

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