Several health-and-wellness programs targeting professional drivers have been gaining traction in the past few months. And for the consumer packaged goods industry, professional drivers represent a crucial cog in the whole supply chain. But it’s a cog that happens to be heavily indexed across many chronic disease states (e.g., obesity, diabetes, heart health) — and for a simple reason. There just aren’t that many healthy choices for those drivers putting the hammer down on the big road.
According to statistics published by the Heavy Duty Trucking trade journal, as many as half of all long-haul drivers smoke tobacco; 28% suffer from hypertension; 25% had high cholesterol; 10% had diabetes mellitus; and almost 15% had sleep apnea. And only 58% are covered by health insurance.
As many as 55% of truck drivers are obese, compared with 33% of U.S. men, and the life expectancy of a commercial driver is 16 years shorter than the norm, the trade journal reported, referencing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reaching this population represents an opportunity for community pharmacists and clinics to close an important gap in health care with an at-risk population that numbers in excess of 3.5 million. “But it’s not just the 3.5 million drivers,” noted Bob Perry, president of Rolling Strong, one of several organizations making a concerted effort to reach drivers with health information. “It’s the 3.5 million drivers plus their [families].”
Rolling Strong has teamed with several national healthcare-fused companies. Kroger pharmacy is the preferred provider for on-site health screenings, for example. Kroger pharmacists provide on-site biometric readings for drivers at Rolling Strong’s trucking clients and also on the road throughout their truck- friendly Kroger stores. Rolling Strong and Kroger also are working together to embrace professional drivers and their families by creating wellness educational materials designed specifically to help them stay healthy where they live — on the road.
The Healthy Trucking Association of America last month launched its HTAA Driver Vitality Program in partnership with the Vitality Group. “So many ‘wellness programs’ are really just weight-loss diet plans,” said Bill Gordon, HTAA executive director. “[The Driver Vitality Program] is a universal platform that all drivers can use — an industry standard that can benefit every driver and every fleet.”
In addition to its health-and-wellness program, HTAA this past season partnered with Walgreens on improving professional driver access to immunizations in communities across the country, whether that be through one of Walgreens’ points of care or at a fleet-sponsored, on-site flu clinic managed by Walgreens clinicians.
And the Truckload Carriers Association earlier this year partnered with Lindora Clinic on a weight-loss competition across the industry. Prizes will be awarded in May to the fleet and individual achieving the greatest percentages of weight loss. “For the past year, we’ve been increasing our emphasis on health in an effort to educate our members about the negative effects that obesity, sleep apnea and other medical conditions are having on the trucking industry’s work force,” stated Chris Burruss, TCA’s president.
In addition to partnering with Kroger, Rolling Strong has relationships with Snap Fitness, a 24-hour fitness center franchise with more than 1,200 locations nationwide. Rolling Strong soon will have 24-hour facilities in many Pilot Flying J travel centers. And the health-and-wellness program provider has partnered with Bayer Healthcare on providing diabetes education and meters. Rolling Strong also is exploring a partnership with Healthy Vending Management Co. on placing vending machines stocked with healthier choices across many of the truck stops and travel centers across the nation.