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Why good health is good business for truckers

By on January 3, 2013

According to a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, transportation workers have the highest obesity rate of any industry in the nation — 37.8 percent. Three years ago, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study of nearly 3,000 truckers that found 85 percent were overweight and 55 percent could be categorized as obese.

The impact? Science magazine recently ran a story about the problem of excess weight among truckers, noting “Severely obese truck drivers are more likely to crash than drivers of normal weight in their first two years on the road, a study finds.” A 2007 study by the FMCSA stated “Commercial drivers are involved in more than 4,000 fatal crashes each year, and more than 13 percent of those are due to fatigue and other physical issues.”

Report after report points to truckers facing real health problems, with far too many choosing to ignore the dangers. That is a problem that the industry is attempting to address, and many truckers are taking steps to improve their health. Since there is plenty of advice about how truckers can fix how they feel, let’s look instead at how making healthier on-the-road choices is good for truckers from a financial perspective.

Goodbye dollars

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back and shoulder strains and sprains among those in the trucking industry add up to “Days Away From Work” losses of $192,894,071 per year.

A cigarette habit also costs the driver. Smoking a pack a day means that well over $100 literally goes up in smoke every month. Bladder cancer and kidney stones are major hazards for tobacco users. Laser surgery for a kidney stone means several days off and several thousands of dollars if insurance doesn’t cover it.

Drinking one or more cans of non-diet soda a day means more trips to see the dentist and more extensive dental work to keep teeth in your mouth and pain-free. There’s also the issue of adding pounds from the sugars contained in every can. Drinking water puts more cash in the driver’s pocket on a daily basis.

The costs of prevention are far lower. Take a look at a couple of common scenarios on the road and how they could have been avoided.

Scene one: A rig stays parked in a truckstop while the trucker tries to tough out a bad case of the flu. Added to the physical misery is the hit his financial health is taking, because every day he’s laid up is a negative cash flow day. His expenses keep coming out of his pay, even while he’s flat on his back.

To stay well: He should have had a flu shot. It’s possible that eating more nutritionally balanced meals or taking a multi-vitamin could also have helped keep him healthy. Plus, something as simple as washing his hands frequently could have stopped the spread of germs that made him ill.

Scene two: That extra thirty pounds takes a toll on a driver. He’s having trouble getting the skids muscled out to the tailgate so the forklift operator can grab them from the dock. He shoves harder; the pallet sticks, and he hurts his back or his knees. He can’t drive for a week, which means his budget is going to need CPR.

To avoid injury: He could have addressed those extra pounds around his middle, which put tremendous stress on the knees and spine. He should have understood how to lift properly, using the leg muscles instead of the back.

No it’s not always easy to change diet and exercise habits. But if you want to keep your finances healthy, doesn’t it make sense to keep yourself healthy?

The True Cost of Sick Days

Drivers need to look at both lost revenue and fixed costs to see the full financial impact of illness or injury. Let’s do the math for an owner-operator who loses five days of driving due to a health issue. Medical expenses not included.

Total revenue per year $150,060

Number of revenue producing days per year 244

Daily revenue $615

Total costs per year $78,000

Number of days per year 365

Daily fixed cost $213.70

Total lost revenue: 5 x $615 per day $3,075

Fixed cost required to cover five days 5 x $213.70 $1,068.50

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