Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Driver health – for the industry, for the public, for yourself

I was talking last month with a trucker about the renewed focus on driver health. He described himself as an aging driver who sat on his worn-out butt most of his waking hours, legs numb from extension, blinking into the glaring asphalt, living “cheeseburger to cheeseburger.”

“The DOT wants to make sure you’re fit to drive a truck. Studies are telling us how bad our health is,” he told me. He said he’d been trying for 20 years and he still had not learned to ignore his circadian rhythms and make himself sleep 10 hours straight. Especially after drinking coffee all day and taking aspirin and B12.

“So what do I do?” he said.

I can relate to his dilemma. My own job as managing editor at Land Line keeps me in a chair at a desk most of the time, wrists numb from the keyboard and mouse, blinking into a glaring computer screen, overdoing it on the Excedrin. And yeah, if I’m working after 8 p.m., I might slam down a Red Bull.

I agreed with him that it is unrealistic to turn cigarette-smoking, hypertensive caffeine addicts into Health Magazine cover prospects. At the same time, we both agreed that “que sera, sera” was not an option.

I’ve been reading where companies like Con-Way, Celadon, Roadway and others are introducing “wellness” programs. This includes voluntary, confidential and free health assessments and medical services. Schneider recently announced a sleep apnea assessment and treatment program.

Be it driven by the need for improved statistics or reduced insurance premiums, everyone has their agenda for promoting healthy truck drivers.

A couple of months ago, I met Dr. John McElligott, who impressed me as having one of the most genuine agendas of all. This man’s valuable involvement in the trucking industry cannot be understated. He’s the physician behind the Professional Drivers Medical Depots. There are two depots so far – one in Knoxville, TN, and one in West Memphis. More are planned.

So many drivers on the road lack the means and access to get even the most basic of medical help, but truckers can find it at the PDMDs. OOIDA members get a break. Dr. McElligott has confirmed that OOIDA members will be treated the same as PDMD’s contract with fleets. PDMD will begin offering a 10-percent discount on treatment of illness, etc., and a $20 discount on DOT physicals – just the same as contracted fleets.

The August/September Land Line – now in the mail – features an article by Land Line’s Clarissa Kell-Holland about Dr. McElligott and some of his trucking patients. If you have XM and are a “Land Line Now” listener, he’s a guest on the show this week. By the way, he doesn’t mind being called “Doc in a box.”

Trucking needs for you to be healthy – for your company, for your family, for your insurance company, for the other drivers on the road, for your regulatory agency. Dr. McElligott is a reminder that, oh yeah, you should do it for yourself.