November 2015


In a recent Transportation Topics editorial, Tom Milam, CEO of TrueLifeCare, called out an alarming statistic regarding the incidence of diabetes in the trucking industry: “The prevalence of diabetes is 50 percent higher within the trucking industry than it is in the general population, according to the National Institutes of Health. “With that kind of number,” says Milam “diabetes, a disease of the blood, is wreaking havoc on the professional drivers and threatening the transportation infrastructure on which we depend.” Founder of TrueLifeCare, Milam has some 25 years of experience operating companies with a deep customer centric-approach. As former COO for a national diabetes supply, education and support company, Milam created programs that served hundreds of thousands of members nationwide with diabetes.

In their paper, “Challenges of Managing Diabetes in Commercial Truck Drivers,” Drs. Jeremy B. Soule and Leonard offered this insight about a professional truck-driving patient: “P.A. works as an interstate truck driver and fears initiation of insulin therapy would disqualify him from holding a commercial license. Because he holds a loan on his truck and driving is his sole source of income, loss of his license is perceived as tantamount to financial devastation.” And 10 years ago, taking insulin would lead to the loss of a driver’s CDL, but in 2006 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a Diabetes Exemption Program that allowed diabetic drivers to continue working if they complied with the 57 separate screenings requirement . Milam notes that securing the waiver can take up to 180 days, “which obviously is a problem for drivers with no other source of income.” Nevertheless, he says, drivers and fleets remain challenged by the disease.

Milam says factors that put truck drivers at extra risk for developing diabetes include the usual suspects: high stress, lack of physical activity, irregular sleep schedule and poor food choices. Milam offers that the “nomadic” lifestyle inherent to the industry lends itself to numerous health problems, and that includes diabetes. “It’s not a problem that has developed overnight,” says Milam, citing that over the past 30 years, diabetes diagnosis rates have increased 150 percent in men and 100 percent in women. There are 1.7 million new diabetes diagnoses each year, he reports, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Managing any chronic illness is tough, but the consequences can be especially dire for professional drivers with diabetes, says Milam, because the symptoms of low blood sugar (dizziness, confused thinking and lost consciousness) have broad safety implications while driving. “Managing this incurable and progressive disease, however, often means overhauling a person’s lifestyle. And that’s all the more difficult for those whose ‘home’ is on the road — where burgers and fries lure drivers at nearly every exit and getting access to physical activity is tough, if not impossible,” says Milam.

The solution to keeping drivers with diabetes on the road, says Milam is to include the support of organizations that specialize in helping those with diabetes adopt and maintain better lifestyle habits. Companies that pair drivers with professional health coaches trained and skilled to help drivers with diabetes engage with this disease and become involved in actively managing it, will drive risk down for those organizations. Several studies, including one in the American Journal of Health Promotion, have proved that those living with diabetes are far more likely to take care of themselves properly if they have someone, such as a personal health coach, helping to keep them informed and accountable. According to Milam, health coaches can schedule regular sessions and check in with clients, one, to monitor their progress and two, help identify challenges and manage lapses that are likely to occur. Unlike doctors or nurses, says Milam, who generally work during office hours, health coaches are more flexible and can schedule to be available at times that fit into the driver’s schedule.

With American Trucking Associations estimating a shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 truck drivers, Milam is correct that it is essential to provide working productive diabetic drivers the tools to remain healthier and behind the wheel. “Working with our cadre of professional drivers who suffer from diabetes to ensure their health and safety on the road,” concludes Milam, “is critical to sustaining our transportation infrastructure.”

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With highway deaths involving trucks climbing, research on the North American Class 6-8 truck safety systems market carried out by Frost & Sullivan found that the truck market in North America is expected to require nearly 917,069 truck safety systems by 2020, up from 409,417 units in 2013. According to a recent item in Automotive News, systems like Driver Information Warning Systems (DIWS), Active Chassis Control Systems (ACCS) and Integrated Safety Systems (ISS), are among the more popular systems being bought and that the way forward is paved with safety and productivity boosting technologies.

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TRUCK PURCHASING 2016: DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN recently reported that the quarterly Fleet Sentiment survey conducted in early October by CK Commercial Vehicle Research (CKCVR) indicates that fleet equipment ordering activity could be similar in 2016 to what it has been for 2015, which was fairly robust. A majority (76 percent) said the report, expect their heavy-duty truck orders to match what was purchased in 2015, with a few more even planning an increase.

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Touting themselves as “The world’s best thinkers on data” the folks at the Smart Data Collective want you to know that big data will help you better manage your fleet operations.

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Analysts at Seeking Alpha are the trucking industry may well be suffering a bit of a hangover since 2014 when business was booming for America’s truck fleets. According to Seeking Alpha “This comes at the totally wrong time.” Trucking had been booming. In 2014 and trucking companies went on a buying binge, ordering everything in the book in preparation for red-hot demand in 2015, noting average truck count jumped by 831 trucks in the third quarter from a year earlier “are now slamming into swooning freight demand.”

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The Toledo Blade reports that the ODOT won’t be using as much salt on the roads as it turns to a less expensive and more effective alternative; a brine solution.

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The shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. is driving salaries higher, says CNBC, with gains up to 12 percent over the past year. According to the item, average pay for long-haul truckers jumped 17 percent since the end of 2013 to a record average of $57,000 in 2015, according to the National Transportation Institute. The surge, explains the reporter, comes as U.S. employment costs overall are up just 2 percent and average weekly earnings are rising only 2.2 percent.

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There’s been quite a lot of reporting on how (according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) how Muslim truckers refusing to deliver beer and fired for it were discriminated against. Although they won their case, many think it reveals a double standard when it comes to religious liberty and commerce.

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Make your living on the road? It’s likely you’ve seen some pretty strange stuff. Regardless here’s a recent take on some of the wonderful things truck drivers see as they work.

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