According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation-related incidents are the number one cause of on-the-job fatalities across all job categories. Because of this, truck drivers found themselves on TIME’s top ten most dangerous jobs list. The general “dirty” nature of the trucking industry has led one woman to want to clean it up using a movement she calls, permatrucking.
It seems that we always understand how important it is for the right goods, to get on the right truck, to get delivered to the right place, at the right time. However, when it comes to remembering who actually moves the estimated 43 millions tons of goods daily, our memories seem a little foggy.
Trucking: Bad For Your Health
Not only are truck drivers more likely to die on the job than any other occupation, their working conditions subject them to living an unhealthy lifestyle that can have some devastating effects on driver’s overall health. Findings from the 2014 National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Heal and Injury report that 7 in 10 long-haul truckers are obese—a rate twice as high compared to the national working population.
Obesity is not the only thing these drivers have to worry about, as they are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. As if that is not enough, a whopping 61 percent of long-haul drivers reported having two or more of the following risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- No physical activity
- 6 or fewer hours of sleep in a 24 hour period
Obesity can lead to an increased risk for many other health conditions including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep Apnea
- Heart Disease
- Joint and back pain
This is especially problematic because a driver showing signs of some of the above conditions can have their CDL license revoked. The worst part of it all is that when drivers do get sick, even if they can find the time to take off to see a doctor, 38 percent of them are not covered by health insurance or a health care plan.
Introducing Caitlin Welby
Caitlin Welby, the millennial CEO of RFX Forward, knows all of this and is changing how her family-owned company does trucking. Created in 1952, RFX Forward is a transportation, trucking, and logistics company. Welby wasn’t always interested in running the company, and for years, she traveled the world, attended art school, practiced Ayurveda, yoga, and vision coaching.
She finally did decide to return to RFX forward in 2013, and by 2015, the new president and CEO would use her life experiences to start a trucking movement with the intention to create evolutionary change across the industry. Permatrucking seeks to reduce the various inefficiencies in the trucking industry, including driver health and happiness.
Permatrucking: A movement, not a buzzword
In April of this year, Welby and her team at RFX launched a new initiative called Permatrucking. The idea is to use the concept of permaculture to transform the transportation and trucking industry. Permaculture is a design philosophy, most often seen in farming and landscape design, which is based on observing and imitating natural systems.
On the Permatrucking website, their mission reads, “PermaTrucking is a movement meant to enlighten and inspire change in the transportation industry using permaculture principles across the areas of People, Technology, Systems, and Beauty.” Their efforts will include new technologies to make trucks greener, safer, and more efficient; macro-level improvements across the transportation system; ways to make trucking healthier and more sustainable for humans; and to bring creativity and design into trucking.
Going Through Changes
Talking about permaculture, Welby says you “observe the system you’re in and not the idealized one you want to be in.” This mindset had led to some cultural changes at the RFX headquarters in Massachusetts. There are lunchtime yoga classes, and the weekly management sessions begin with gratitude circles and meditation. Town hall meetings are held where people can discuss issues while eating organic food. All 58 of her drivers are encouraged to participate in discussions about wages, health insurance, and nutrition.
One of the first changes that Welby and her team want us to give each driver a tablet that comes loaded with logistical information and also tips and tricks for exercise and finding healthy foods while on the road. Called “road hacks”, it is currently still in development, but will feature short videos to show drivers how to do various exercise, stretch, meditation or breathing techniques.
A big part of improving drivers’ health conditions is helping them to find and choose healthy foods. This may be the most challenging thing to do because it will be up to the drivers to actually choose healthy foods. Companies could provide drivers with an incentive or bonus for participating in nutrition or wellness tracking.
Caitlin Welby and RFX seem to be shining a light on the darkness that is the transportation industry. Her permaculture values might be just what this industry needs to make trucking sustainable. Truckers are responsible for keeping the world running. If not for them, nearly every industry would stand still. Caitlin Welby gives hope that driver-first changes will come to the industry soon.