Help Drivers Spring into Health, Deal with COVID-19 [Commentary]

Photo: Branimir Balogović via Pexels

With winter behind us and spring in bloom, there’s a great opportunity to make stronger connections with our drivers, helping with retention, as well as improve their health and mood, leading to better safety scores and less accidents.

How are these things connected to the change of seasons? Let me explain.

First, I want to emphasize how important it is to understand the physical and emotional stresses drivers go through during the winter season. With irregular sleep hours, dangerous road conditions, shortened daylight, more time spent alone, and often missing holidays with their families, it’s extremely common for long-haul drivers to suffer from seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and even depression — all of which increase a driver’s chance of getting sick, leaving your company or the industry, or having an accident.

This year, as drivers are coming out of the winter season, they’re facing additional stresses dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

First and foremost, show empathy for their schedules and stresses. If drivers don’t feel they are being treated as human beings, they are more likely to experience stress, depression and anxiety. Teach your staff to recognize the difficulties of going through the winter months as a driver, and to acknowledge drivers when speaking to them for their skills and safety, as well as their commitment and dedication to your company. If there is hazardous weather, make sure your staff is trained to recognize that driver at the end of the day or the following day, for driving safely. Show appreciation.

Second, teach your staff to be positive and encouraging. Discuss how more sunlight is a great opportunity to get more walks in or ride a bike and or do recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, and swimming. Spring is also an opportunity to get more of their favorite fresh fruits and vegetables. Teach staff to ask drivers about their favorite activities to do as the warmer weather arrives, or what fruits and vegetables they’re enjoying or looking forward to. These are all still things that can be done keeping social distancing in mind during the pandemic, as well.

This is also a great opportunity to launch a step or walking challenge with your drivers. Use a social media private group to communicate and manage the challenge. Offer a new pair of running/walking shoes and company logo gear as prizes. The benefits of walking go far beyond the physical, especially for long-haul truck drivers.

We cannot close without discussing the additional stresses that we are all going through with the COVID-19 pandemic. While everyone is under a great deal of stress, our drivers are experiencing additional stressors that need to be addressed. Here are a few ideas on how you can help your drivers feel safer and reduce their stress:

  • Communicate often with your fleet and ensure them that, as individuals and as an organization, you are truly there to support them during this difficult time.
  • Set up a company coronavirus hotline for drivers who feel they may be experiencing symptoms.
  • Teach them safety tips such as disinfecting their truck at least once per day with wipes or spray; use napkins, towels or gloves to open and close doors and when refueling; wash their hands for at least 30 seconds with soap every time they visit a location; stay at least 6 feet away from other people if possible; and avoid touching their faces.
  • Share ideas for boosting their immune system, such as getting enough sleep and consuming more citrus, fresh veggies, and green tea.
  • Ask them what other support they need. You may find that they have limited places to park, for instance, or are having a hard time getting healthy meals.

At this time, we really need to show our drivers that they are the backbone of our industry, worldwide.

About the author
Sergio Rojas

Sergio Rojas

[Former] Driver Wellness Advisor

After working as a health and fitness professional since 1997, Sergio Rojas created a holistic corporate wellness program. Once he discovered the health challenges faced by truck drivers, he turned full time to wellness in the trucking industry.

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