While maneuvering down the highway and passing the occasional tractor-trailer, have you ever stopped to think about what those drivers endure? Long-haul drivers, those who are on delivery routes that require them to spend a lot of time in the cab of a truck rather than at home, do not have the easiest of work environments. Truckers are sedentary for many hours, have little access to healthy foods, experience erratic sleep schedules and have to deal with the daily stresses of being on the road. It is no wonder truckers are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, as compared to other working U.S. adults.
Now a new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) finds truck drivers with a high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) have a higher risk of crashing their trucks as compared to those drivers with a low CVD risk. Risk of developing CVD stems from factors such as age, gender, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, smoking, systolic blood pressure and use of blood pressure medications, and is determined utilizing the Framingham Risk Score.
Motor vehicle crashes do not just put the lives of the involved drivers at risk. They also can impact other drivers on the road as well as pedestrians. The JOEM study noted that drivers with a 16 to 20 percent higher risk of CVD were more likely to crash than those with a zero percent risk, and about 10 percent of drivers studied had a CVD risk of 20 percent or more.
Protecting drivers, their employers and the public can be done when a pre-hire physical abilities test (PAT) is utilized. This screen helps to hire healthier individuals and can notify those applicants who are at cardiovascular risk that they need to make lifestyle changes if they want to get the job and be healthy.
During a PAT, job candidates must perform the physical requirements of the job – lifting, pushing, pulling, squatting, climbing and reaching. Some potential hires with CVD are automatically weeded out because their blood pressure is too high to safely take the test. If they are able to take the test but their blood pressure or heart rate gets too high as they perform the functional activities during the test, then they will fail as well. They aren’t being ruled out due to a medical issue but because they cannot safely perform the physical requirements of the job.
The PAT helps rule out hiring applicants whose abilities don’t meet job demands, and who are at risk while out on the road. In addition to the public safety aspect, employing a PAT program can help cut down on turnover. If an employer hires healthier drivers, whose abilities meet the job demands and who do not get injured, they are able to stay on the job longer which lessens turnover. Unfortunately, those drivers with CVD who have a crash will experience time off work– whether it is temporary or in the worst case, permanent.
P & S Transportation began using a PAT in early 2010 and after three years reported that even though the company saw an increase in their employee population from the start of their testing program, their injury rates decreased significantly.
So while you may be thinking hiring the cream of the crop will make it harder to hire, that is not always the case. In building a business, you want to start with the best assets available, and in this case, that is healthier drivers. If you want to build a sustainable workforce, a pre-hire PAT is an extremely helpful tool that brings in the right people to make that happen.