DOT Fit Program

We at Conspire! have noticed the impact of health-related disqualifiers on the trucking industry from a first-hand perspective. As an office that partners with Certified DOT Medical Examiners, we have been able to study the conditions that most commonly disqualify drivers from passing a 2-year physical examination certification period, a 1-year physical examination certification period, and even a 6-month physical examination period. What we found is that the most common conditions are preventable and even reversible, however, the men and women taking the DOT physical had little to no resources on how to control these conditions and maintain a healthy lifestyle in their particular area of work.

For this reason, we have created the DOT Fit program, tailored specifically to the needs and lifestyles of workers under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation- men and women who need a consistent passing of their DOT physical in order to keep their job. Our program is flexible to schedules, working conditions, and varying levels of physical fitness; and our approach is community based, creating a social network of individuals with the same life demands who are seeking an opportunity to create or continue a lifestyle where health is an attainable, and enjoyable, standard of living.

This program will include nutrition, fitness, and stress-management education and counseling created specifically for this industry; as well as a time to create and enjoy the camaraderie of coaches and fellow participants. Participants are encouraged to have the freedom to create their own healthy behaviors, have fun, and enjoy learning to implement healthy behaviors into their everyday lives.

Fit Drivers = Strong Global Supply Chain

The amount of freight shipped through America’s transportation networks every year adds up to a total of $19 trillion, including over $250 billion of goods ordered online by consumers. The trucking industry alone transports 82% of these goods. Among foreign trade networks, the trucking industry carries 3/5 of the goods traded to and from the U.S.-NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) partners, accounting for $30 billion in exports and $29 billion in imports every month. This is why the trucking industry is known as the “work horse” of our economy. However, a major truck-driver shortage is causing consistent cost-push and demand-pull inflation as companies are struggling to find drivers to move goods and services that are in high demand and paying a high price for it.

Trucking companies are having to compete now more than ever with other labor industries by offering higher salaries and benefits in order to attract new hires. Survey respondents from this year reported higher salaries than last year, averaging upwards of $49,000- some salaries even reaching $82,732 annually; and 63% of respondents said they had received pay increases. This, along with new rule making on who and how the DOT certified medical exam is performed and the amount of medical disqualifications it has produced, is trickling down and causing inflation on goods and services that are in high demand. Unlike most inflation trends, however, this trend will continue to increase UNTIL the trucking industry is able to procure enough able-bodied, dedicated drivers to move goods and services efficiently for what the consumer demand asks for. As DOT’s Paul Jaenichen writes, “With a rising world population and millions of people moving into the global middle class, expanding international trade is putting pressure on ports, roads, and rails. The links in the global supply chain must remain strong for reliable trade and to continue.”

What would it take for a strong global supply chain to continue here in the United States? The answer is nearly 100,000 new truckers annually; a tough feat in an industry highly dependent upon an aging workforce where the amount of younger candidates are not coming in at the quantities needed for a solid succession plan. The industry reached a 103% turnover rate in 2014, proving that the great gap of need for current and future truck-drivers is growing increasingly wider. In a survey conducted in October, 2014, 68% of carriers responded that the driver shortage is a key issue affecting their fleet. In fact, it is projected that there are around 35,000 unfilled truck driver jobs in the United States.

So what is causing this great driver shortage? A major cause of the driver shortage is the number of older drivers retiring. Trucking is a highly stressful job that requires commitment, experience, and the continual renewal of a DOT driver license and physical certification. Job demands include: long hours on the road and away from home; strict deadlines; responsibilities to keep the truck in top condition; and physical requirements such as lifting, staying awake for long periods of time, etc. These are the reasons that trucking companies consider the valuable services of quality truck drivers an asset to their business, and the reason trucking companies are willing to offer large salaries, benefits, and compensation packages in order to attract and retain their current drivers. It is also more cost-effective to keep experienced drivers.

Commercial truck drivers - age distribution

Source: TruckingInfo.com

At a driver recruiting summit in Minnesota in June 2014, it was agreed upon by numerous trucking companies that the average cost of getting a new driver ingrained in a trucking culture was anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000, a cost trucking companies do not want to have to continuously pay. However, with tighter DOT regulations on drug testing, hours of service logging, and DOT physical requirements combined with an aging workforce, experienced drivers are increasingly leaving the business, retiring, or being forced out of the trucking labor-pool for their inability to comply and/or pass new requirements. In a report published by Carrier Direct, it was found that of the current +1.7 million of truck drivers studied, 56% were over the age of 45, 87% suffer from pre-hypertension or hypertension, 75% are obese/morbidly obese, and the life expectancy of the average truck (driver due to these health conditions and the high stresses of the job) is in the early 60’s.To add insult to injury, of the drivers that are able to continue working, only about one-third of fleet professionals surveyed by Government Fleet plan to retire in the next five years, and only one-third of these fleet professionals have a succession plan in place. The survey also asked respondents if they plan to stay at their current agency until they retire; only a little over one-third of respondents said yes.

State of the Driver - Conspire!

When referring to the current economic status of the trucking industry at American Trucking Association’s (ATA) annual Management Conference & Exhibition, ATA’s Chief Economist Bob Costello reported that there aren’t enough drivers to fill a growing demand. “What’s happening is, you can’t find drivers, so companies are dropping the number of trucks they are running,” said Costello while pointing out that the driver shortage is expected to get worse very quickly in the near future as demand grows, effectively stunting industry growth.

But it doesn’t have to….

Given the right resources, the right conditions, and the right motivation; self-care and wellbeing can become highly prioritized and attainable on an everyday basis, no matter what industry you look at or what the past and current trends of that industry look like. In fact, with our DOT Fit Program, the trends can be reversed; by creating a better quality of life for this workforce through consistent and achievable healthy behaviors, by creating healthier and more productive companies, and eventually, by creating a healthier industry.

Read about the most recent D.O.T. update.

Read the most recent update on the shortage of licensed commercial drivers in Colorado (includes interview with our Research and Development Specialist, Whitley Crow).

REFERENCES:

“2014 Fleet Salaries and Retirement Plans” Government Fleet. Government Fleet. September 2014. Web.

“ATA Economist Says Freight Volumes are Growing, but Driver Shortage Looms” PR Newswire. PR Newswire Association LLC. 06 October 2014. Web.

“ATA MC&E: Economy Improves, Driver Shortage Continues” HDT Trucking Info. Bobit Business Media. 07 October 2014. Web.

“First Quarter Driver Turnover Largely Unchanged” HDT Trucking Info. Bobit Business Media. 09 July 2014. Web.

“Spot Market Freight Rates, Volume Jump in September from Year Ago” HDT Trucking Info. Bobit Business Media. 14 October 2014. Web.

“What To Expect In Freight For 2H14 And Beyond” Carrier Direct. CarrierDirect, LLC. July 2014. Web.

Cronin, Brenda. “Help Wanted: Jobs in Trucking Go Unfilled” Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones and Company. 07 July 2014. Web.

Ferro, Anne. “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers off the Road” United States Department of Transportation. United States Department of Transportation. 03 June 2014. Web.

Lockridge, Deborah. “Driver Shortage Moves Beyond Truckload; Worst Yet to Come” HDT Trucking Info. Bobit Business Media. 08 September 2014. Web.

Park, Jim. “The Driver Shortage: Make it Someone Else’s Problem” HDT Trucking Info. Bobit Business Media. 11 November 2014. Web.