Transport Industry Wellbeing: Driver-Led Behaviour Change

An estimated shortage of 15,000 truck drivers is expected by 2020 to meet the increased service demands of road freight in Australia (Latus 2013). To add to the problem, the average age of truck drivers is 43 years old with around 20% of drivers nearing retirement. The future of business success relies largely on attracting younger people to the industry and retaining current drivers. Both areas currently pose a challenge, not only in trucking but also in bus, rail and other transport arenas, as well as in other industries.

In addition to 70% of truck drivers being overweight or obese, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental health issues are highly prevalent. These chronic illnesses are largely preventable through diet and physical activity. There is a big incentive to change wellness behaviours, with truck licences depending on passing annual Truck Safe Medicals for drivers over 50 and every 3 years for those under 50. Keeping drivers healthy, productive and on the road is essential for the business, but also for individuals to maintain their  income.

Lost business profitability due to unhealthy workers is substantial. Presenteeism is a huge burden on the Australian economy (costing $34bn in [2010]), and this doesn’t factor in absenteeism or the replacement costs of a worker, estimated at 150% of driver salary (Comcare, 2011). The attractiveness of the industry is also compromised by a perception of poor work-life balance and negative health outcomes.

Some action is being taken by the industry to try and preserve the health and wellbeing of transport staff in order to engage, retain, attract and maximise productivity and longevity for its workers, but is it changing behaviours?

How can wellbeing behaviour change be created?

A recent review of health initiatives in the industry found that education, healthy vending machine options and verbal counselling did not independently influence obesity outcomes (Chapman 2015). In the same report, factors that did create change were incentives (rewards), peer mentoring, health profiling, personalised feedback and access to healthier food choices.

At HealthChase, we have spent 2 years building an online platform specifically around engagement and motivation to instigate sustainable behaviour change. We focused on user feedback, evidence-based game techniques and measurement of key behaviour metrics supporting health and wellbeing. Here are our top 2 findings.

  • Change happens for the team.

Never underestimate the power of the team. When asked, 86% of HealthChase participants said that they were motivated to change their behaviours for their team. They were less likely to make a healthy choice when they were the only ones affected.

As an industry, if you can foster strong camaraderie and great teamwork, you will be rewarded with an engaged team that retains staff, attracts new people and performs at a high level. This can be a challenge when drivers are operating on their own, so finding ways to bring your teams together is critical for the business, just as it is for the health and wellbeing of individuals.

This is where technology comes into play. We have found it is essential for our wellness program and web app to include engagement features built throughout to provide and encourage a sense of community, support, teamwork, sharing, social networking and fun.

Programs that ask employees what they want are also far more likely to promote behaviour change. Allowing businesses and employees to create their own programs, and in our case, Games, to meet their unique needs, job challenges, values and barriers to change, lets  teams ‘own’ their program, creates a vested interest in making it a success and promotes participation from within. We currently have participation rates of up to 91%, with an average of 90% of ‘Players’ completing the 25 day program and 77% engaging daily with the Game platform.

  • Change happens by promoting CONSCIOUS CHOICE around health behaviours.

People don’t like to be told what to do. They are more engaged when they feel they are respected as individuals and have choices that support their likes, dislikes and culture. For this reason, we reward healthy choices that support wellness by keeping them forefront of mind. 83% of our ‘Players’ said that the simple scoring that rewards the healthier ‘choice’ motivated change.

Conscious choice in action

Diet is now the leading cause of preventable disease in Australia. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is proven to help manage weight and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions. This is why it is at the core of all our HealthChase programs. Our ‘Players’ can choose what they eat, but a simple scoring approach helps them succeed in choosing the better option.

We know that drivers are time-poor and meals often come in the form of fast food. So once the truck or vehicle is parked it is a quick dash to get something to eat. The driver might typically choose a pie because it’s quick and easy. But this time he/she chooses a  wholegrain salad sandwich (or something with ‘game’ value) because it helps his team to accrue points. The pie loses value, as there is no benefit to the team and it may even cost the team if eaten too often.

It’s important to keep the program simple, flexible and supported by education to fit with the real constraints of the work environment and job demands. By keeping it ‘real’ and making it about everyday choices, 77% of our ‘Players’, on average, are meeting the Australian Dietary requirements for vegetable intake, versus only 6.8% of the Australian population. More importantly, 77% of participants have said they sustained improvements in vegetable intake after 6 months.

No one approach works in isolation.

There are many motivators that can promote action and behaviour change, but teamwork and conscious choice have been shown to induce the biggest impact. The least motivating factor was education; although knowledge is clearly important, turning knowledge into sustainable actions is the critical game changer.