During the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the majority of America’s freight continued to roll down the nation’s highways thanks to professional truck drivers. They helped mitigate disruption to supply chains across transportation and logistics companies, delivering medical supplies and equipment to hospitals and ensuring that store shelves were stocked.
Today, professional truck drivers face another crisis -- the risk of chronic health issues. Given pressures of the job, limited healthy food options and irregular work and sleep patterns, 61% of drivers reportedly have two or more of the following: hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, no physical activity, a smoking dependency and/or six or fewer hours of sleep per 24-hour period.
What’s more, long-haul truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese compared to other U.S. workers, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sleep apnea.
To maintain a healthy and productive driver workforce, many fleet owners and operators recognize the need for introducing preventive healthcare programs that promote healthier lifestyles and adherence to treatment. With these goals in mind, they are implementing programs that incent drivers to become change agents of their own health and wellness. Prescription drug discount card (DDC) programs that offer substantial savings on most prescription drugs represent a cost-effective, easy way to ensure that much-needed medications are more affordable for professional truck drivers -- many of whom are uninsured or underinsured and face rising drug costs.
How DDC programs work
DDC programs can be introduced and managed by innovative specialty pharmacy healthcare solutions experts, offering employers a proven strategy to engage truck drivers in making better health decisions, maximize the use of healthcare benefits and lower prescription medication costs. With many drivers experiencing one or more chronic conditions that require costly medications, the savings generated by a DDC can be substantial, giving the professional driver an opportunity to better manage individual and family finances. Drivers are also incented to fill and refill expensive prescriptions and increase compliance to therapy.
DDC programs optimize uptake and utilization by incorporating these options:
- DDCs can be downloaded and accessed from an app or computer.
- Available in Spanish -- 16.9% of drivers are Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.
- Require no activation or enrollment.
- Include all medications.
- Access to a network of thousands of retail or specialty pharmacies, including national chains and local pharmacies.
Strategies for optimizing driver health
One out of five drivers say they left their job because of chronic health problems, a factor that contributes to the truck driver shortage. Fleet operators dealing with revenue shortages and retention/recruitment issues are now taking positive steps to improve the physical and mental health of their drivers.
Education. The first place to start is by offering information about diet and exercise and helping drivers set health goals with company-wide incentives. Technology, such as activity trackers, heart-rate trackers and pedometers, can help them track their progress. They can also steer drivers toward choosing truck stops that offer healthy food and drink options, indoor and outdoor exercise facilities or equipment, walking trails, dog parks and more.
Sleep issues. Obesity often leads to severe sleep apnea. This breathing-related sleep disorder causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep due to the airway collapsing at night, resulting in poor sleep and daytime drowsiness. Fleet owners should encourage drivers to be aware of symptoms, including loud snoring, morning headaches and nausea, gasping while sleeping and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Physical activity. Fleet owners can also encourage physical activity for improved mental health and wellbeing by offering gym memberships or outlining a simple way to expend more calories. For instance, simply walking three times around the trailer with each stop can make a difference over the long haul.
Eating healthy. Fleet owners can also provide tip sheets for eating healthy on the road. These may include packing homemade meals and snacks, adding more fruits and vegetables, choosing lean protein, such as fish and chicken, eating on a regular schedule rather than when hunger strikes to maintain energy levels, avoiding fat, sugar and salt and keeping caffeinated and sugary drinks to a minimum.
In addition to offering a DDC program, encouraging education and health tips demonstrates to drivers that a fleet owner is concerned about driver health and quality of life, leading to healthier and happier drivers and safer highways for everyone. When more fleet owners take the initiative to improve driver health, they strengthen the trucking industry as a key player in the nation’s supply chain, help keep the economy running and ensure the safety of America’s highways.