Fatigue, other health-related problems benefit from in-depth medical program

DRIVERS are more likely to feel fatigued between the hours of midnight and 6 am, so it makes sense for carriers to adjust driver schedules to avoid those hours when possible. In addition, drivers who have to be on the road in that period should receive training that raises their awareness of the situation.

Fatigue and other health-related issues were discussed by Al LaCombe of Dupré Transport, Susan Whaley of Sleep Associates & Advanced Sleep, and Richard J Sagall, an occupational medicine physician.

Whaley pointed out that drivers may not know they have a sleep problem, or even if they do, how to address it. Drivers with sleep disorders cannot overcome fatigue, no matter how long they sleep. “They won't be able to have positive sleep,” she said.

Addressing the fatigue problem involves more than just carriers, LaCombe said. Shippers also must be aware of the problem and try to adjust loading schedules when possible.

Whaley added that when sleep problems are addressed, driver's general health improves, including weight loss, lower blood pressure, and more energy.

LaCombe added that when drivers change a driving cycle, they require three days off to adjust to the new hours. He said that dispatchers should be aware of driver's shift changes and assign them accordingly.

Sagall pointed out that good medical care for employees reaps benefits for the employer, and getting a worker back on the job as quickly as possible after an injury of illness can prove healing. “Returning to work is part of the treatment process — staying at home is counter productive,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of a no-smoking program, and suggested bonuses for employees who do not smoke or have successfully given up the habit. Eliminating smoking and weight reduction are two of the most important elements in improving health, he said.

Turning to the subject of medical providers, he said that provider services should be reviewed, including appointment wait times, use of physical therapy and tests, philosophy for work and life activity restrictions, and appointment requirements.

When selecting a provider, the employer can negotiate for certain services, for example, no fee if a patient has a long wait.

Physical exams should be thorough and include a complete medical history of the employee. Comments from the physician should be included in the diagnosis. A full body exam with the patient in a gown should be part of the service.

Finally, the physician should provide a letter to the employer and the employee, giving a medical opinion — the overall condition of the patient based on the on-job situation. “There should be no mention of non-related medical problems,” he said.

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