It has long been known that truckers play a huge role in the world economy. Not only do you move everyday goods to stores near us, but you also make sure that hospitals and clinics get the supplies they need. In fact, I once worked as a nurse covered by the Teamsters Union. It struck me as odd initially, but it made great sense when someone explained to me the power of having truckers on your side in a dispute. Sadly, trucker health hasn’t been taken very seriously over the decades, despite the fact that there is a good deal of evidence that truckers suffer a disproportionately high rate of diabetes, obesity, chronic back pain, and other maladies. But the good news is that there is a greater emphasis on keeping truckers healthy now. About time, right?
According to a January 2023 article in American Cranes & Transport, a magazine for the crane, lifting and transport industry, they stated, “In a win for the trucking industry, initial funding is in place to open 60 medical clinics across the U.S. over the next two years to serve as a healthcare network aimed at serving truckers, other travelers, and folks living in rural areas.” These clinics will be in areas with interstate trucking routes, run by Interstate Health Systems, and will include physical structures as well as telehealth. Some studies indicate that, once they have access to it, 60% of truckers are likely to make the lifestyle changes recommended to lower their risk of chronic illness and to treat it.
The St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund assists uninsured truckers with negotiating health care costs, assists with paying mortgage and utility bills, among other things, and offers a couple helpful programs like “Rigs Without Cigs” to help truckers quit smoking, an interactive diabetes prevention program, Healthy Habits for the Long Haul, and even vaccine vouchers. Assistance is not faith-based, you just have to be a trucker in need of help to be considered. Get details at https://truckersfund.org/.
Travel Centers of America (TA) and Petro have a variety of locations across the United States and Canada with healthcare facilities. According to their website, “Onsite medical clinics provide chiropractic services and DOT physicals. Free exercise rooms, outdoor fitness stations, and activity centers – with things like basketball hoops, horseshoe pits and walking trails – can give drivers a place to workout and unwind. Delicious food at the pace you want it, with StayFIT menu items and better-for-you snack options, and well-stocked convenience stores that offer fitness accessories like resistance bands, push-up bars and workout gloves.” Get details at https://www.ta-petro.com/amenities/stayfit.
Healthy Trucking of America (www.healthytruck.org) offers a series of prevention programs, pharmacy discounts, health coaching by phone, and screening services to determine if a trucker has pre-diabetes or diabetes and/or sleep apnea – some of the most dangerous conditions for a trucker.
As I have seen so many times in my practice over the years, a person really can turn back the clock on diabetes by eating better and exercising more. It can save you a lifetime of pills or injections if you can stave off Type 2 Diabetes – the most common kind of diabetes, associated with being overweight and having a poor diet. However, it’s not easy to do it alone, so the fact that there are all these different options for getting help with your diet and exercise while on the road is hopeful.
Why are so many truckers in rough shape? It’s often a lack of health insurance that keeps people from seeking health care. Insurance is one of the most difficult things to figure out. An important first step is to look at the terms you may not be familiar with (premium, deductible, co-pay, etc.) and find a glossary on the web page or google the terms so you know what they are talking about. It’s often tricky to compare insurances (hmmm… did they plan it that way?) but you probably want to do as much research as you can before deciding what you want and/or need.
Something that is important to know is that all states have insurance options through their health care exchanges (required by the Affordable Care Act) and a Medicaid program, but each state decides what income level makes you eligible and what services you can receive. Many people are aghast at the thought of having Medicaid as their insurance – they feel embarrassed or too proud to receive it since it is government assistance. But the truth is that we all pay into Medicaid through our taxes, and it is a very reasonable way to get some support for your healthcare needs.
If you’re not eligible for Medicaid and your employer doesn’t pay a large portion of your health insurance premium, you can search “trucker health insurance” on the web and several sites will come up including Truck Driver Health Insurance (https://truckdriverhealthinsuranceservices.com), Smart/Simple Insurance (https://smartandsimple.com/private-insurance/truckers), Truck Driver Institute (https://drivebigtrucks.com/blog/how-to-get-truck-driver-health-insurance-coverage), and Progressive Insurance (www.progressivecommercial.com), just to name a few. Here you will find information about the many different types of insurance and how they work, and when you’re ready, you can also purchase your insurance at most of these sites. Although I am not personally recommending or endorsing any of these companies or options, these are just a few I found that are specifically geared to truckers, and they might be helpful.
You must have your DOT physical done on a regular basis. But wouldn’t it be nice to have access to health care if something urgent comes up or you have finally decided that you do need to check that spot on your skin that seems to be changing? Get out there and start finding a place or two that could work for you and the insurance to go along with it. You have nothing to gain – except your health, happiness, and peace of mind!
~ Dr. Norma Stephens Hannigan is a Doctor of Nursing Practice who recently retired after a 43 year career providing direct care and teaching future nurses and nurse practitioners. Dr. Norma has treated many truck drivers at the various clinics she has worked. She currently writes for 10-4 from her home in New York.