February 7, 2020
Column | outbound

A chance to feel better

Hauling freight can take a considerable physical toll on drivers. One company aims to help them get the medical care they need.

By Mitch Mac Donald

There is no lack of reasons—or opinions—as to why the motor freight industry has struggled with a chronic shortage of truck drivers for literally decades now.

The default response of most folks when asked why the problem persists is one word: pay. Raise the wages, they'll tell you, and the drivers will come (and stay). But it's not that simple.

There's actually far more to it than compensation. Research abounds on why drivers leave their jobs. And the studies overwhelmingly confirm that while pay is a consideration, it's just one of many reasons—and in many cases, not the top reason—why drivers flee the industry.

Hauling freight is demanding work. Truckers face long hours of both driving and waiting at pickup and dropoff points. Escalating customer demands for time-definite deliveries cause frustration, anxiety, and stress. Drivers often find themselves away from home for extended periods, putting a strain on family relationships. They also do their work in an increasingly stringent regulatory environment that dictates (and tracks), for instance, how many hours they can spend on the job. And, of course, they face the dangers of the road every time they go to work.

All of this can take a considerable physical toll on drivers. Staying healthy while on the road is tough. In fact, recent research suggests 48% of truck drivers suffer from a chronic condition such as hypertension or diabetes, which can restrict the term of their commercial driver's license (CDL) to one year or less. That not only jeopardizes their livelihood but also contributes to the industry's sky-high turnover rates.

The risks notwithstanding, many drivers do not get treatment for their chronic conditions, largely because they have limited access to medical care on the road and are deterred by the high cost of health care. Left untreated, these conditions worsen, eventually leading to job loss, income loss, health complications, or worse.

That's why we were so struck by the beauty of the business model behind UrgentCareTravel.

UrgentCareTravel, or UCT, is a five-year-old firm that operates walk-in medical clinics located at Pilot and Flying J travel centers. The company says it is unique in that it is the only medical clinic network focused on providing convenient and affordable health care for professional truck drivers, who can literally get a physical exam or medical care while they fuel up.

While UCT might sound like just another successful startup, we recently learned it's more than that: It's a successful startup with a heart. In December, shortly after the abrupt shutdown of Celadon, UCT announced it would offer free DOT physicals to former Celadon drivers who lost their jobs when the carrier declared bankruptcy. The free DOT physicals will be offered through March 31 and are available at all UrgentCareTravel clinics across the country. Former Celadon drivers simply need to show proof of their employment to qualify for the free DOT physical.

"Celadon drivers losing their job right before the holidays [was] very stressful for themselves and their families," said Siva Suresh, founder and CEO of UrgentCareTravel, in a press release. "Many of these drivers are due for their mandatory DOT physical, so offering these drivers a free physical is our way to help these drivers maintain their commercial driver's license as they seek employment with another fleet."

In light of the industry's struggles to recruit and retain qualified truck drivers, a business that helps drivers maintain their own well-being—and employability—makes sense for drivers and fleet owners alike.

Win-win all around!

About the Author

Mitch Mac Donald
Group Editorial Director
Mitch Mac Donald has more than 30 years of experience in both the newspaper and magazine businesses. He has covered the logistics and supply chain fields since 1988. Twice named one of the Top 10 Business Journalists in the U.S., he has served in a multitude of editorial and publishing roles. The leading force behind the launch of Supply Chain Management Review, he was that brand's founding publisher and editorial director from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he has served as news editor, chief editor, publisher and editorial director of Logistics Management, as well as publisher of Modern Materials Handling. Mitch is also the president and CEO of Agile Business Media, LLC, the parent company of DC VELOCITY and CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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