Trucking is a dangerous job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the transportation industry has the second highest fatal work injury rate per 100,000 workers (14), behind only agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (23.4). Additionally, transportation and warehousing has the second highest amount of non-fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers (4500), beaten again by only agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (5300).
When people think of “trucking injuries”, they may think of massive crashes that shatter windshields and engulf vehicles in flames. The less interesting reality is that injuries such as slips, strains, and falls are significantly more common and likely to put a trucker out of work. As a fleet owner, having preventative measures for these common injuries can keep more trucks on the road and lower insurance costs.
Perhaps more than any other job in the world aside from computer programming, driving a truck across the country requires extensive amounts of sitting. This complacency causes muscles to tighten and become less flexible, creating a greater chance of injury when loading, unloading, and doing other tasks that a driver must do. Teaching your drivers the importance of stretching, along with these stretches, should reduce the chances of workplace injury:
- Stretch the inner forearm. Stick your hand out in front of you, index finger and thumb closest to the sky. Move your thumb along your hand to the base of the pinky. Lower your hand while keeping your arm steady, as if your pinky and thumb need to touch the ground. You should feel a stretch below the wrist in your inner forearm, which should currently be pointed towards the sky. This stretch can be done behind the wheel at a red traffic light.
- Stretch the lower forearm.Stick your hand out in front of you with your palm ahead like you are telling someone to stop. With your other hand, cover your four fingers and pull them back while keeping your palm forward. You should feel a stretch below the wrist in your lower forearm.This stretch can be done behind the wheel at a red traffic light.
- Stretch the Achilles tendon. While sitting, lift your toes high while keeping the back of your heel on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the very back of your foot, above your heel. This stretch can be done during cruise control, but always be aware of your surroundings and need to brake or accelerate.
- Stretch the neck. Make your right ear touch your right shoulder, or at least get it as close to the shoulder as you can, without lifting your shoulder. Do the same for the left ear and left shoulder. This stretch can be done behind the wheel at a red traffic light.
- Increase your range of motion with windmills. While standing, start with your arms as low to the ground as you can. Then put them in front of you, then as high as you can, then behind you, then back to pointing towards the ground. The stretch imitates the spinning of a windmill and helps with the rotary ability of your shoulders. A slower rotation is better. This stretch can be done during breaks.
Tell your fleet to not stretch any further than what causes mild discomfort. Going far beyond the body’s current range of motion can cause the injuries you intended to prevent.
Healthy people are naturally less likely to get sick. Establishing a company culture that promotes exercise when not behind the wheel, such as jogging around a rest area, will help reduce the chance of injury overall. Host a company weight loss program and offer gift card rewards for whoever loses the most weight percentage or takes the most steps. A cardio workout also boosts the immune system, which lowers sick days.
The Driver’s Seat
Getting a new seat for your driver can be as important of a safety investment as a new set of tires or brake lights. Ask your drivers what they desire in a seat, or follow our guide to help make your drivers feel almost as good at the end of the day as the start.
As a general rule of thumb, go for a firmer seat. They provide more support over the long term than their softer counterparts, and this problem compounds when the seat naturally softens over time.
While collision-related injuries are less common, they are still a factor to consider. One easy way to improve the safety of any vehicle is to move slower: each mile per hour of speed adds more kinetic energy to the vehicle than the last. Here are the benefits of a slower vehicle:
- A slower vehicle requires less distance and time to stop, reducing the chances of a collision.
- If a slower vehicle is in a collision, the driver is more likely to survive.
- If the driver survives, a slower vehicle makes him less likely to sustain serious injuries and able to walk away from the crash.
- If the driver sustains serious injuries that put him out of work, a slower vehicle should make those injuries less serious than ones from a fast vehicle collision, meaning the driver spends less time recovering before going back on the road.
- If a slower vehicle is in a collision, it will most likely cost less to repair than one that was traveling faster.
- A slower vehicle meets less air resistance and gets greater fuel efficiency.
With these factors in mind, a speed limit is more of a suggestion than the law: going five miles below the speed limit on the highway can be the difference between a truck on the road and a truck off the road, in some cases literally.
Take Workers’ Comp Claims Seriously
Statistically, workers’ comp claims are inevitable. If a person has a complaint about back pain or other injuries and files a claim, address it and work with them to remedy the issue before the problem gets worse.
If the injury makes the driver unable to work, determine if the employee should be sent to a physician for an evaluation. Sending an employee to a physician as part of the claims process both reduces the chances of insurance fraud and shows your fleet that you care for their wellbeing.
Ignoring a driver’s complaints, in contrast, makes them more likely to obtain a lawyer and enter litigation against you. This is costly.
It is a cliché saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but in the case of reducing workers’ comp claims, it is completely true. Fostering a company culture of safety for your fleet can reduce the chances of injuries and illnesses. Pulling a leg and other smaller injuries might not make for as good a story as a collision, but they are over one hundred times more common and as such should be taken seriously.
If you want to expand your fleet, look to TopMark Funding to get you the tractor and trailer financing you need. With no hard credit pulls, we make it easy to help you get pre-approved for the loan or lease you need to keep moving forward.
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