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4 Areas of Life to Improve Truck Driver Wellness

No one said being a truck driver was an easy gig. But they might not have told you about all the health challenges you’d face either. Did you know that the FMCSA estimates the average life span of a truck driver at only 61 years old? That’s drastically lower than the national average. And honestly, it’s unacceptable. The lifestyle of a truck driver certainly can make healthy choices more difficult, but they’re far from impossible. Healthy truck driver focused on wellness

The idea of holistic wellness as a truck driver isn’t just about eating like a rabbit and running on a treadmill until you’re beyond bored. Instead, it encompasses four areas of your life that all influence your general well-being. Each is important in its own way.

4 areas of life that truck drivers can improve

1. The food you eat

If you’ve been driving for any length of time, you already know that having easy access to good, nutritious food on the road is a challenge. Truck stops and fast food places are filled with the worst kind of foods—empty carbs and sugar.

I recommend eating food as they exist in nature as much as possible. For truck drivers, this means choosing lots of meat, vegetables, and water. I even suggest truck drivers stay away from fruit because there’s too much sugar. Of course, healthier options are not only harder to find on the road, but also typically require refrigeration—something you likely don’t have a lot of room for.

One way around these issues is to partake in a little meal planning and prepping. When I’m at home, I personally like to can my own meat and ferment my own vegetables. It’s fast, easy, and I know that I’m getting high quality ingredients.

2. Your sleep schedule (or lack thereof)

Sleep is so important. The less consistent your sleep schedule, the harder it is on your body. In an ideal world, you’d go to bed and wake at the same time every day. And it would be good quality sleep, too. Well you and I both know that’s not the case for truck drivers.

Even if your driving schedule means switching from days to nights and back again, there are other things you can do to help promote quality sleep. Start by cleaning up your sleep environment.

Make it as pitch black as possible and turn your phone off (or at least suspend the notifications). Consider a white noise or meditation app to help you fall asleep quickly. And when you wake up, spend as much time as possible outside in the early morning sunshine. This will help your body reset its natural clock and help you feel more rested. It’s certainly a healthier (and more relaxing) option than jolting your system awake with an energy drink.

3. Effectively managing stress

Practically everything about a long haul lifestyle adds stress to your day. When you’re stressed, it makes it hard to sleep and no sleep means more stress. When awake, drivers often face the stress of traffic, equipment problems, and a ticking clock on hours of service. Even unhealthy foods can add undue stress on the body. It’s a vicious cycle that can suck you in and lead to burnout.

Dissipating stress starts with awareness. Identifying what causes you stress means you can apply tools to help deal with them. I’ve found several meditation apps that help me de-stress. Yoga and tai chi are also tools I use regularly. But you might find a kickboxing class or favorite music playlist helps you. I even know drivers who have gotten a pet as a companion when on the road. Try out several ways to lower your stress and find the one that’s right for you.

4. Finding time for movement

Sitting is a real problem. And when you’re on the road, there’s no avoiding it. Now many experts advocate 300 minutes of intense cardio exercise every week to combat the negative effects of sitting. And that’s great, but not everyone is ready for that. I simply tell drivers to move more.

Rather than seeing your mandated 30-minute break as an intrusion on your day, look at it as an opportunity to do something that will make you healthier. I like to use my time to get out in nature. Take a walk, practice tai chi in the grass, and short hikes are my go to activities. Another popular outdoor option is geocaching, a using your phone. Geocaching is a fun outdoor game that gets you out of your truck and often brings you places you would never know exist.

Perspective changes everything

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of being a driver—especially when they’re affecting your health. But I challenge you to change your perspective and think about the positives, too. As a truck driver, you likely have more freedom than someone working in a cubicle does. Owner/operators especially have great autonomy to set their own hours and lanes. Not to mention, most days you probably have an amazing view out that windshield.

Get started on the path to wellness

We’ve covered many specific changes to make your lifestyle healthier. But the trick is getting started. When it comes to your health, there’s no quick fix. So, if you want to take back your health, choose one or two small changes to make now.

The key is to develop habits that you can stick with. You can always add more goals later. And finally, there’s no better time to start than now. Don’t wait for Monday, make one simple change today, and build on your success tomorrow.

2018 C.H. Robinson Scholarship Recipients Announced

When education and passion combine, amazing things happen. That’s just one of the many reasons C.H. Robinson helps fund educational opportunities through the C.H. Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program for contract carriers and employees. This is our sixth year of the program and I’m pleased to announce we’ve chosen this year’s contract carrier scholarship recipients.

All ten 2018 carrier scholarship winners image

2018 Scholarship Recipients

Each year, we choose recipients based on academic performance, demonstrated leadership, participation in school and community activities, work experience, career and educational goals, and unusual personal or family circumstances. This year, each student received $2,500 to apply toward undergraduate tuition costs—in any area of study—for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.

Below are the ten scholarship recipients for this year:

Recipient NameCompanyLocationSchool
Logan BarkerLoadtex, Inc.Midlothian, TXUniversity of Colorado: Colorado Springs
Courtney CepecPrime Time DeliveryCleveland, OHUniversity of Mount Union
Anthony DeHerreraUltimate InnovationsBoise, IDCollege of Western Idaho
Mason DonohueD&E Transport, Inc.Clearwater, MNLuther College
Jose Frias RamierzEden Land TransportGuadalajara, MexicoIUT de Rennes
Mariah GarzeeHiel Trucking, Inc.Prairie City, ILMonmouth College
Paige PettitBaarts TruckingTruman, MNSt. Catherine University
Jenna BarnesAll State ExpressKernersville, NCUniversity of Kentucky
Dakota ScottFortune TransportationWindom, MNHarvard College
Jenna StarkeMTS FreightHelena, MTCarroll College

One of this year’s recipients, Dakota Scott from Windom, MN, shared his feelings about receiving a scholarship, “The funds C.H. Robinson has offered will allow me to pursue amazing paths and take great, world-changing risks without having to worry about paying off significant student loans. I know that it is my responsibility to pursue education and the betterment of our world in your honor and I will not let you down.”

To learn more about the individual recipients and carriers, please visit our scholarship website.

About the scholarship program

We hope that our annual scholarship can help contribute to educational success for our contract carriers and their children. C.H. Robinson is dedicated to giving back to those who make this company successful.

“The great contract carriers we work with are critical to our success,” said Pat Nolan, VP of Operations for North American Surface Transportation, “The C.H. Robinson Scholarship Program gives us the opportunity to proudly support the educational goals of our contract carrier employees and their families.”

119 scholarships have been awarded during the program’s history. Over a third of those were awarded to contract carriers or their children to pursue their educational goals.

We will begin accepting applications for the 2019-2020 school year in January 2019. Interested candidates should visit our scholarship program website for more information. Scholarships are available worldwide. For questions about our scholarship programs, please contact foundation@chrobinson.com.

Carrier Spotlight 2018: Melton Truck Lines

In our final installment of our 2018 Carrier of the Year posts, I’d like to extend my congratulations to Melton Truck Lines, Inc. They have received the coveted title of C.H. Robinson Carrier of the Year in our 1,000+ tractor size segment.

I can personally attest just how hard everyone at Melton works. They truly deserve the honor of being named one of our Carriers of the Year for 2018.

More about Melton Truck LiCarrier of the Year Melton Truck Lines Incnes

Since 1954, Melton has truly been a leader in the flatbed industry. Over the years, they’ve grown organically from their base in Tulsa, OK, to serve nearly all areas of North America. This includes their significant presence in both Mexico and Canada. Cross-border shipping has quickly become an area where they excel.

Their fleet consists of flatbed and step deck trailers. One of the great things about Melton is that every one of their drivers is ready to handle over-dimensional loads. And Melton has always believed in a strong commitment to safety. They adhere to a strict business model and driver employment standards to improve the safety of their drivers, other people on the road, and the products they transport.

Top three traits that describe Melton

I’ve had the honor of working with Melton for just over five years now and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Since I started working with them, my goal has been to help them find the most strategic opportunities possible. Together we’ve had a lot of success optimizing several challenging lanes for their fleet.

Trying to describe Melton could take me days. If I had to sum them up into three distinct traits that set them apart from other carriers, here’s what I would say:

Adaptable yet dependable

Melton has always responded well to any changes. They always seem able to adjust to last minute load changes, short timelines, and even unexpected weather disruptions. Their flexibility certainly doesn’t diminish their dependability. Because Melton believes in closely monitoring each load they haul, they currently have a 98% on time pick up and delivery record.

Professional and respectful

One thing that truly separates Melton from other carriers is that despite their size, they still manage to create a family atmosphere for all their employees. In today’s world where there’s a true driver shortage, knowing that I get to work with a great company that cares about and respects their drivers is a big deal.

Service above all else

At C.H. Robinson, we often find situations requiring extra work or effort to solve a challenging problem for customers. It’s who we are. And Melton is the same way. Because they care about a shipper’s freight just as much as I do, I know that they will place service at the top of their priority list.

A final congratulations!

In addition to saying congratulations, I also want to thank the individuals at Melton who make my working day so pleasant. You all are so friendly, open, and honest that it always puts me in a good mood.

Congratulations again on being named a C.H. Robinson Carrier of the Year for 2018. You deserve it!

Surviving a Truck Driver Shortage (Part 2): Retaining Quality Drivers

There’s never been a guarantee that a carrier can find a replacement for a driver who switches companies. But, now with the truck driver shortage, it’s becoming even more difficult and imperative to hold onto quality drivers.

Welcome to part two of my recruiting and retention series. Last time, I highlighted new recruiting techniques. In this post, I’m going to share some of the best retention strategies I’ve seen contract carriers use. After all, recruiting new truck drivers is only the first step; the second is continuing to employ your quality drivers.

Why do quality truck drivers leave?
In my eight years at C.H. Robinson, I’ve learned that drivers are fluid from one company to the next (and sometimes back to an old company again). Each driver has his or her own reasons for switching companies, but some of the big reasons include low pay, too many miles, and not enough time at home.

More recently, many of the carriers I work with have shared that respect and recognition for drivers is becoming more important. When drivers feel unrecognized for the job they’ve performed, it influences where they want to work.

Sometimes drivers can find what they’re looking for with another carrier. Other times, they may leave the trucking industry all together for a more appealing path. Both construction and manufacturing often lure drivers away when the economy is good.

How to give truck drivers what they need
Keeping drivers happy often requires changes at the operations level of a business. I consulted Billy Cartright, executive vice president and COO of Southern Refrigerated Transport, at Covenant Transport Services to get his take on retention strategies. He provided some tips for retaining truck drivers by giving them what they need.

Optimize your fleet
Taking a strategic approach to your customers, lane structures, and fleet can add predictability for drivers. Being able to tell a driver that they’ll be in Tallahassee, FL, in three days, in Minneapolis, MN, in five days, and back home in seven days goes a long way to improving driver happiness.

Offer other lines of service
If getting drivers home more often is your goal, consider ways to reconfigure your fleet with additional services. See how offering more drop and hook or split seating options affect driver retention.

Trust 3PLs for more than deadheads
Rather than only using the third party logistics providers (3PLs) you work with to fill deadhead loads, you can use them more strategically. Take advantage of a 3PL’s size and relationships to find more consistent loads in the lanes you and your drivers want. This again ties to the idea of greater predictability.

Create recognition programs
There are many ways to reward and recognize drivers; often, they involve competitions across the company. Some of the competitions I’ve heard of include safety, service, and even most miles driven competitions.

When in doubt, ask your truck drivers
This is by no means a comprehensive list of retention strategies. The truth is, only your drivers can tell you what is most important to them. Open conversation on everything from favorite shippers to what bells and whistles to get when ordering new trucks helps drivers feel included and respected.

Ultimately, the bottom line for driver retention is driver happiness. Drivers have to be happy to stay where they are. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out part 1 of this series, which focuses on how you can find new, quality truck drivers.

Surviving a Truck Driver Shortage (Part 1): Recruiting New Drivers

The past few years have seen a potential driver shortage problem turn into a real driver shortage problem. Many of the carriers I work with are paying closer attention to recruiting and retention techniques more than ever before.

Today, I’m kicking off the first in a two-part series on recruiting and retention. This post outlines techniques I’ve seen contract carriers use to bring in new truck drivers and in an upcoming post, I’ll share ways to keep quality drivers around.

What’s causing the driver shortage?
One of the biggest contributing factors on everyone’s mind is the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that recently went into effect. And yes, the ELD mandate has made flexibility in hours of service more difficult. Accordingly, the same number of drivers can’t haul the same amount of freight as pre-ELD mandate. Of course, there are other reasons for the truck driver shortage, including the aging driver population and shared labor pools with construction and manufacturing.

Overcoming the millennial perspective
As I mentioned above, many of today’s truck drivers are retiring. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough millennials signing up to be truck drivers. It seems that millennials often have an ongoing perception that truck driving isn’t the right job for them.

Many people have an image in their head of a stereotypical truck driver. A loner who’s out on the road a lot and doesn’t make it home to spend time with family (or doesn’t have a family at all). They envision a lot of fast food and unhealthy habits. Those are the ideas that need to be broken down if millennials are going to help relieve the driver shortage.

Trying out new recruiting ideas
Like most things, every company has their own recruiting techniques, carriers included. Some of the most successful I’ve seen implemented by the contract carriers I work with include sign on bonuses and promoting on social media. But for many companies, friends, family, and referrals bring in the highest volume of new drivers. Additionally, the carriers I work with are restructuring their lane configurations to include a more regionalized approach to their network. This kind of shift expands a carrier’s ability to get drivers home more frequently. It’s a powerful recruiting technique for many. Even beyond initial recruiting efforts, because driver satisfaction increases, the result can also boost driver retention.

The future of driver recruitment
Beyond today’s incentives to attract new drivers, the future may require even more creative and widespread changes. I recently talked with Billy Cartright, executive vice president and COO of Southern Refrigerated Transport, at Covenant Transport Services about this and he had some interesting thoughts I’m including here.

Change driver pay to salary with paid time off and benefits.
Driver pay has always been a topic of conversation. Knowing how changing the pay structure for drivers would affect the industry is difficult to determine. Making driver pay more stable—not tied to miles travelled—could certainly be incentive for both new and current drivers. The industry would certainly change drastically were this to happen in the future.

Lower the age to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to 18.
Right now, the age to obtain a CDL is 21. But by that time, many young adults have already focused on a specific trade. Lowering the driving age to 18 could open up new recruiting opportunities to recent high school graduates, before they choose other industries.

Recruitment is only the first step
When in the midst of a driver shortage, finding new drivers is only the beginning. We can’t forget the importance of keeping the quality drivers you have.

Look for part two of this series in the coming weeks.

- Carrier Account Manager