According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy for a commercial truck driver is only 61 years, a startling 16 years lower than the national average. We need to do more to keep drivers healthy so they can do their critically important job safely.
That's why, this morning, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro kicked off the first-ever International Conference on Commercial Driver Health and Wellness. The conference brings together motor carriers, academic researchers, and state transportation officials to better understand the challenges of driver health and wellness and to determine how we can meet those challenges.
Studies show that 50 percent of commercial drivers are overweight or obese compared to only 33 percent of the general adult population. Obesity leads to hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and other health problems.
We also know that 54 percent of commercial drivers smoke cigarettes and only 8 percent exercise. Among the general adult population, only 21 percent smoke, and 49 percent exercise regularly.
At the conference: Albert Alvarez (FMCSA), Eric Wood (Univ. of Utah), Administrator Ferro, Richard Pain (Transportation Research Board), Rick Ash (independent owner-operator and Chair of the Trucking Solutions Group)
We understand that better driver health leads to greater safety behind the wheel. Carriers are concerned about reducing absenteeism, injury, and sickness among their drivers. And drivers simply want to live healthier lives.
So improving the health of drivers is a win all around.
Recent studies show that companies investing in employee health and wellness actually get a positive return on these investments. At the conference, several carriers that made the leap into health and wellness programs for their drivers--like Conway and J.B. Hunt--will share their successes.
These programs are working for carriers and drivers--and the people who share our roadways with them. Schneider National’s sleep apnea initiative has saved the company $538 per driver each month in health care savings and yielded a 55 percent greater retention rate among participating drivers than the fleet as a whole. But we also know that a well-rested driver is a safer driver.
Of course, as Administrator Ferro said, "Making healthy choices ultimately rests with the driver. Drivers need to support each other in making these choices for better health, even if it starts with just getting outside the truck and walking around."
As a result of this conference, we will develop a model driver health and wellness program. This can be used by carriers of all sizes, large and small. We expect to share these suggested programs by next summer.
The conference Administrator Ferro launched today is about raising the bar for good health in the motor carrier industry because it’s good for drivers and their families, good for business, and good for improving safety on our nation’s highways.
I know it's just the beginning of a long fight for better health among commercial drivers, but I think it's a terrific start. And I want to thank Administrator Ferro and everyone who made it possible.