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FMCSA Introduces Driver Wellness Programs

Oct
1,
2015
5

by Elaine Papp

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Driver Wellness Programs

Elaine Papp- founder of Health and Safety Works, LLC

Elaine Papp of HealthandSafetyWorks.net attended joint MCSAC and MRB meeting September 21st 2015. The 2 day meeting was devoted to CMV driver wellness programs.

So, what is it all about? The FMCSA, a regulatory agency, is talking about wellness for truckers?? HMMM — should drivers be worried? Why is FMCSA doing this? Is it an attempt by the federal government to tell drivers what to do with their bodies? Are they going to regulate our exercise, smoking and weight?

These are some of the questions drivers are asking about FMCSA’s new initiative to provide wellness programs in a private/public partnership. The questions arise from an announcement about a public meeting between the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) and the Medical Review Board (MRB). Both groups are advisory committees that provide recommendations to FMCSA regarding specific questions, ideas, or concerns about commercial motor vehicle operation.

The latest joint meeting, September 21 and 22, 2015, was devoted to CMV driver wellness programs. According to the meeting announcement, “Together, the MCSAC and MRB will identify concepts the Agency and stakeholders should consider in relation to the issue of health and wellness of drivers of commercial motor vehicles and the establishment of a driver wellness initiative, a non-regulatory public-private partnership of stakeholders to improve drivers’ health. The MRB and MCSAC will discuss the structure, content, delivery, and evaluation of this initiative.”

Elaine Papp 2015

Elaine Papp, founder of Health and Safety Works, LLC, a transportation and occupational health consulting company promoting health and safety on the road and in the workplace.

I attended the first day of the meetings and listened to the presentations about current wellness program activity from OOIDA, FMCSA, American Bus Association, as well as a member of the MRB. I heard the questions of the committee members and the comments from the public. I learned statistics about the current driver health risks compared to the average American. I was impressed with the sincerity, the concern and the depth of the discussion. It is exciting to hear all the activity around helping drivers stay healthy and live longer!

Having heard the non-regulatory direction in which the Agency is moving. I applaud the effort!

A few of the statistics presented by Dr. Morris of the MRB show that a high percentage of drivers have adverse health risk factors:

 

 

  • Most Tucker’s are 40 to 54 years old
  • 86% are overweight or Obese (2007 data)
  • 69% are obese, twice that of US population
  • 8% exercise regularly, compared to 21% of adults in the US who exercise regularly.
  • 51% drivers smoke, compared to 17.8% of US population who smoke
  • Less healthy than average person
  • Many have at least two risk factors for heart disease

So knowing that the average driver is less healthy than the average American and knowing that the driver’s health status affects his/her ability to earn a livelihood, the Agency and many other organizations are moving to help drivers.

FMCSA is seeking ways to help drivers stay healthy, minimize illness and diseases complications that will cut their driving career and perhaps their life short! One part of their initiative is a new web page on driver wellness. It will be an on-line newsletter updated quarterly with articles about various health topics pertinent to drivers. It will include recipes of the month, driver success stories and healthy eating tips.   The page will also include links to other sites that will be helpful to drivers.

The Agency is also looking at ways to get more data about what drivers need and they reported on a study of driver health conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).   But, as one member of the MRB stated, “We need more biometric data,” especially to measure the programs success. So the Agency is looking to private organizations who can gather data anonymously and can report on any changes that occur over time .   Do drivers lose weight and, if so, does their blood sugar level improve? Does their blood pressure improve. If drivers exercise more do they lose weight? What is most effective in aiding weight loss?

OOIDA reported on their wellness initiative and discussed ways to expand their initiative. The American Bus Association presented information about the Bus Athlete Programs.

Group discussion brought out a lot of important information . For example the Teamsters have a long history of wellness programs but no measurements. Some organization are starting health coaching at truck stops.

My impressions from the meeting are 1) much of what is happening in driver wellness is a shotgun approach with little coordination; 2) Many of the driver wellness programs offer what they think the driver needs and they don’t measure to determine what helps, what works and what doesn’t – what approach is successful. 3) FMCSA is trying to bring some coordination and continuity to driver wellness programs, working with non-governmental organization and private industry.

During the first day of the meeting several ideas arose, such as:

  • Programs for each driver should be individualized.
  • One-to one, face-to-face contact is important in motivating people.
  • Be sure to get families involved.
  • There is a lack of literature on nutrition, health and wellness at truck stops.
  • Drivers don’t know the nutritional content of the foods served at the truck stops
  • Get all aspects of the trucking industry working together – truck stops, fleets, drivers, associations, etc.
  • Give Medical Examiners information on wellness to hand out to drivers.
  • Assist medical examiners to educate drivers on attaining optimum health and maintaining wellness.

It seems that when it comes to wellness and health we all need to trust one another and work together to help drivers and their families minimize illness and the costs associated with it, increase health and the energy that comes with it. Having an agency coordinate the effort is a valuable, worthwhile venture that can have really dramatic results for drivers.

I look forward to seeing the MCSAC/MRB joint recommendations for FMCSA. Since I wasn’t able to attend the second day of the meeting, when they developed the recommendations, like you, I will have to wait until the recommendations are published to see what transpired. But, in any case the effort is underway. It is a significant move for a regulatory agency to develop a non-regulatory program.

As soon as I learn about the recommendations and the Agency’s next steps, I will let you know in another article.

“Driver Wellness Programs and the FMCSA – What’s it all about?:

 

© 2015, Elaine Papp. All rights reserved.

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By: Elaine Papp

Elaine M. Papp RN MSN COHN-S CM FAOOHN Elaine M. Papp has a broad range of occupational safety and health experience, from private industry to international organizations. A board certified occupational health nurse with experience working for regulatory agencies, Elaine is now offering her knowledge and experience in occupational and transportation health through her newly founded company, Health and Safety Works, LLC. Prior to establishing her company, Elaine spent 7 years as the Division Chief of the Office of Medical Programs at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) where she gained extensive knowledge about the relationship between medical conditions, their impact on safe operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) and FMCSA regulations/guidance. Elaine was responsible for establishment of FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners including the training and testing components and compliance assistance materials. She also lead the Agency’s effort to create the hearing and seizure exemption programs. Elaine oversaw a staff of 10 who offered compliance assistance to the public answering over 3000 telephone calls and 2000 emails a month. She also served on regulation writing teams, oversaw the research of various medical conditions and their relationship to safe operation of a CMV, developed the Medical Examiners Handbook as well as various outreach and training materials for medical examiners, drivers and motor carriers. Prior to FMCSA, Elaine worked for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in several capacities: analyzing legislation, writing Congressional testimony, regulations and compliance assistance materials, participating in on-site enforcement inspections, and conducting presentations on behalf of the Agency. While at OSHA, Elaine was selected for the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) and spent a few months in Geneva Switzerland working with the World Health Organization and the International Council of Nursing (ICN) as part of the ELP development program. Elaine authored the International Council of Nursing’s (ICN) “Guidelines for a Health and Safety Program for Nurses” and a monograph entitled, “A Guide to Health Care Waste Management for Nurses.” Prior to working for the government, Elaine had her own company working as an Occupational Safety and Health Consultant. She has also worked in private industry for TRW, a fortune 100 company, as a Senior Health and Safety Specialist. Early in her career Elaine worked in a variety of health care settings — intensive care units, doctor's offices, hospital, non-governmental organizations. and health policy groups. Thus, she has developed a broad perspective of health care in the US and has cashed to focus on employee/driver health and wellness.

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5 Responses to FMCSA Introduces Driver Wellness Programs. - Post a Comment

  1. Les willis

    We look forward to more information on this subject. The one thing that we as Drivers and Fleet owners are Happy about is the “NON-Regulatory” approach that is being taken here A joint effort to bring awareness and education too Driver Health and Wellness is certainly welcoming and we applaud FMCSA for their efforts here. Our Facebook Group Heart Smart Highway was created just for this cause. To bring awareness to Healthy Cooking/Eating while out on the road and to show that one must make a Lifestyle change vs. participating in another diet. Great Post here Mrs. Papp and Thank you so much for your participation.

  2. Pat Hockaday (JoJo)

    Why are we funding an agency to create Safer roadways when they keep enacting policy that makes our roadways more dangerous?
    Now they are throwing up a smoke screen, at our expense, to prove they care about US???
    We all know that freight rates have been stagnant while the cost to operate is ever increasing. This environment promotes short cuts that may not result in safe equipment or safe operation of the equipment and they are concerned about what I had for dinner last night!!!
    MONEY!!!! It can be the root of all evil OR the solution to the problem if it is invested properly! Again, They are Spending Money to promote MY Health after they lock me into a 14hr day that has me bustin balls to get the job done so that I can pay the bills!!!
    Who has TIME under these circumstances to slow down, do the job right and get a decent meal when you NOW have to live at shippers/receivers, on the side of the road or in back of a strip mall???
    Where are the safe Rest Areas?
    Where are the safe parking places within the industrial districts?
    Why have we enacted regulations that REQUIRE an infrastructure be in place to make the regulations SAFELY WORK???
    Why do they focus on burnt out light bulbs and the health of Drivers instead of creating an environment that permits US to PAY for the SAFETY they that they are shoving down our throats???????
    Put on a show that covers up the inadequate job that you are doing and then ask for a raise, this is what the FMCSA is all about!!!!!

  3. Jerry Warnemuende

    I fear that this may become another way for the Federal Government to reach into our personal lives. In light of the ACA and other recent Federal programs it’s hard to believe that they (the Govt.) has our health interests in mind without any attachments.

    I would feel much better if any or all programs or suggestions came from private sources. It’s scary when a Government Agency gets involved in private issues. Next thing you know, “recommendations” will become law!

  4. Keith case

    Reading this made me think of two quotes. The first by Reagan “The scariest words you will ever hear are – Hello, I am from the government and I am here to help.” And this one, which is much older, “The road to – you know where – is paved with good intentions.”

    It is not easy to tell from the article, but I believe Mrs. Papp now has an independent business focusing on driver health and such as a consultant for trucking companies. I am all for people finding a niche and going into business for themselves and making a profit.

    BUT, I am not in favor of the FMCSA getting involved in my health any more than they already are. It is because of the FMCSA that I am considered obese because of my neck size with their bogus body fat index which almost required me to get a sleep apnea test even though I sleep wonderfully on a custom mattress.

    One size does NOT fit all and doctors need to be able to do the job that they studied for 8 years to do and not have a bureaucrat tell them how to do their job.

    Honestly, a good portion of my stress lately comes from seeing/hearing about the FMCSA wishlist that they want to get enacted before Mr. Obama leaves office. Speed limiters, Elogs, anti rollover devices, emissions in CA that are ridiculous, DOT inspection blitzes, DOT officers that don’t have a clue(some, not all), sleep apnea, and on and on. As someone I know puts it “The government making war on the citizens.”

    I worry as a small carrier if I can stay in business AND/OR if I even want to deal with all of this BS anymore.

    If all of these “safety initiatives” were to disappear life would be better and less stressful for probably 90%+ of the trucking industry.

    Basically, the FMCSA has become the snooping old lady across the street with the high power binoculars documenting every aspect of your life and in this instance instead of calling the police she IS the POLICE and the LAWMAKER and the JUDGE and JURY and EXECUTIONER. Think how that would would affect your life. Everybody has run into someone like that at some point.

    So, to get back on track, the FMCSA and all government regulatory agencies need to back off and allow business to do what businesses do and the government does not – create jobs and keep the USA Growing, Moving, and Strong.

  5. Bob Stanton

    Give FMCSA the benefit of the doubt and read what Elaine Papp’s article posts.

    Get invoved with the comment process and give them good information on what you need and want.

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