October 2, 2019 11:00 AM, EDT

Driver Health Hinges on Accessibility, Panelists Say

Bob Perry describes driver health considerations at Women In Trucking's conference.Bob Perry speaks about health concerns. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

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DALLAS — Improving accessibility — to medical care, good food options, proper facilities and useful information — can help drivers address many of the health issues that affect them, according to wellness experts.

The sedentary nature of truck driving can lead to health problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and sleep deprivation. Mitch Strobin, senior vice president of relationship management for UrgentCareTravel, said truckers’ tough work schedules can lead to these conditions. UrgentCareTravel operates walk-in clinics at Pilot Flying J truck stops. He spoke at the Women In Trucking Association’s annual conference Oct. 1.

“Hypertension does not care if you’re male or female. Diabetes doesn’t care if you’re male or female,” Strobin said. “The biggest risk factor is this challenging lifestyle. It’s not easy being a driver.”

However, he said that the people working at UrgentCareTravel’s clinics detect a difference between male and female drivers. Female drivers take more ownership of their health and are more committed to taking action to help themselves, whereas male drivers tend to be more stubborn.

Bob Perry, founder of Health in Transportation, said his father retired from his truck driving job with high blood pressure and diabetes. Health in Transportation offers fleets health and medical services, such as disease management programs and self-administered health check stations.

Perry said these health problems can cost truck drivers their lives, a problem exacerbated by the driver shortage. American Trucking Associations has indicated the industry was short 60,000 as of last year.

“We just can’t afford to lose skilled drivers,” Perry said. “That’s why we have to do more to help them.”

Strobin noted that accessibility issues can prevent truck drivers from getting the medical attention they need, noting that it’s hard to park a truck outside many doctors’ offices. Experts advise people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension to see their doctor once a month. Because many truckers can’t make these appointments, either because of time or space constraints, they simply go without.

Mitch Strobin describes driver health considerations at Women In Trucking's conference.

Strobin by Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics

Clinics are not the only facilities drivers need better access to. Perry said female drivers in particular need to have reliable access to bathroom facilities. (Drivers participating on panels at the conference said proper hygiene facilities for women are not necessarily a given.) Because female drivers can’t always count on access to bathrooms, Perry said some will avoid drinking water so they don’t have to use the bathroom. He said such dehydration has led to infections in some drivers.

Strobin compared proactivity, such as regular exercise and healthy eating, to taking care of a truck. He said drivers check air pressure and engines to prevent a breakdown, and should think the same way about their bodies.

“Check your fluids,” Strobin said. “Your body is your engine.”

Perry stressed the importance of educating yourself and setting personal expectations. For example, he said drivers can use walking around their trucks for pre-trip inspections as a source of exercise.

During the inevitable weather event that will render a road impassable, Perry encouraged drivers to stock up on healthy snacks.

“Safety is No. 1 in transportation,” Perry said. “You can’t be safe if you’re not well.”

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