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Driver Health Weighing Down Transportation Industry

The health and wellbeing of professional drivers must be prioritized as part of efforts to improve safety behind the wheel and boost recruitment.

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Professional drivers who transport goods are integral to keeping the supply chain running.

So why has incorporating drivers’ health and wellbeing into business and risk management strategies been slow to take off?

With a career that sees them spend long hours behind the wheel, professional drivers face several health barriers — sedentary lifestyles, diets high in convenience foods and poor quality of sleep to name a few — which put them at increased risk for health issues and chronic diseases.

In fact, truck drivers:

  • are twice as likely to be obese compared to the general working population;
  • are twice as likely to have diabetes compared to the general working population; and,
  • have a 50% increased risk of developing heart disease.

Even more alarming is that truck drivers:

  • are 11 times more likely to die on the job than the average worker (causes include accidents, cardiac arrest and more); and,
  • their life expectancy is 16 years less than the average population.

There’s no sugar coating it; poor driver health is weighing down the transportation and trucking industry.

How an Unhealthy Workforce Impacts Staffing & Recruitment

Staffing shortages are a serious roadblock for the trucking and transportation industry.

There are several factors contributing to this challenge — increased demand driven largely by e-commerce, escalating training costs, regulations and more — coupled with having one of the oldest median worker age of any industry in Canada.

Some estimates state that over 17,000 new truck drivers will need to be hired each year across the country to keep up with supply chain demand through to 2025. In response, the transportation and trucking industry has launched several initiatives to diversify the commercial driver workforce, including efforts to recruit more women, youth and new Canadians.

That’s great, but these efforts do not address one of the root causes plaguing the industry — demanding work conditions that contribute to the poor health conditions of drivers.

An older and largely unhealthy workforce is likely dissuading many potential recruits from pursuing a career as a truck driver, thwarting efforts to onboard new employees to this important industry.

Prioritizing and actively supporting driver health will go a long way in boosting staffing levels, both in maintaining an active workforce and recruiting new drivers.

How an Unhealthy Workforce Impacts Safety Behind the Wheel

Safe driving, long the hallmark for risk mitigation in the transportation and trucking field, is critical for keeping roads and truck drivers safe.

But driver alertness is one of the most important elements of driver safety that can be greatly affected by an individual’s health.

Case in point: Fatigue is a significant factor that diminishes our ability to concentrate.

As noted above, truck drivers are at an increased risk for health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease — all of which contribute to increased fatigue.

Even if a truck driver is otherwise healthy, being highly sedentary causes bodily breakdowns that can lead to chronic fatigue.

Being tired behind the wheel is a serious safety risk as it can result in a driver:

  • being slower or unable to react;
  • having impaired judgment, which could lead to riskier or aggressive driving;
  • closing their eyes for extended periods of time; and,
  • falling asleep behind the wheel.

The industry must be proactive and take initiative to continually support truck drivers in adopting healthier lifestyles both on and off the clock.

Graphic that states: Being awake for 17 hours or more is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. In almost all Canadian jurisdictions, having a blood alcohol content of 0.05% can result in an immediate licence suspension, vehicle seizure and fines.

A New Path Forward

Improving the health of truck drivers will not be an easy fix as travelling long distances will remain a key component of this crucial job.

But the industry and employers have a responsibility to find creative, sustainable solutions that will empower drivers to lead healthier lives.

Until that happens, it will get increasingly more difficult to keep drivers on the road; prospects will remain hesitant to join the industry and seasoned drivers will continue to age out or be forced to leave due to health complications.

Prioritizing driver health will go a long way in keeping this industry rolling.

Afterall, a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce; and a healthier driver is a safer driver.

Let’s discuss what we can do for you.


Rob Cyr is a Senior Client Executive with Acera Insurance (formed through the merger of several award-winning brokerages, including Rogers Insurance, CapriCMW and Megson FitzPatrick). He has over 20 years’ experience as an insurance broker, with a specialized focus on transportation clients of all sizes.