SABEW: The Health of Trucking
Indianapolis, In. – Experts occasionally compare the nation’s trucking system to the human circulatory system. Less blood moving at slower speeds is a sign the overall health of the person is not doing as well. However, as more blood fills the system and it picks up to a normal pace, the overall health of the human body improves. Using this metaphor, a healthy body would be a healthy economy.
This week I had a chance to attend the 2012 Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) Spring Conference in Indianapolis. One of the events featured Bloomberg’s Bernie Kohn interviewing Russell.
Russell outlined a few key issues facing the trucking industry today. One of which, oddly enough, is the health and life span of drivers.
Kohn cited some studies claiming that the average life expectancy of a truck driver is 61. Long spans of sitting down, fast-food dominated diets, and odd and often insufficient sleeping patterns all contribute to the less-than-average expectancy.
Russell said Celadon has responded to the health issue through a program it calls “Highway to Health.” The company has a full-service health clinic that has its own nurses and nutritionist. So far the program sounds pretty successful. Russell told the story of one trucker who was already shedding pounds from walking around his tractor-trailer 50 times (approx. 2 miles) and dropping McDonalds in exchange for a slightly more healthy Subway.
Keeping drivers around longer is not just a kind thing to do for trucking companies. The industry is facing a shortage in qualified drivers.
Russell said that in addition to instituting the “Highway to Health” program, Celadon is also fighting the driver shortage by obtaining smaller trucking companies and adding the extra hands to its fleet.
In addition to rising fuel prices, trucking companies are also dealing with more and more states considering and implementing toll roads on major interstates. After the dialogue ended I had a chance to briefly interview Russell about what he thought of toll roads and the possible adding of tolls to I-70 in Missouri. He said that he, and many other leaders who make up the American Trucking Association (ATA) believe the addition of toll roads would be “disastrous”. Russell said it’s not because of fees, but because of the amount of time it can add on to transports. In Missouri, lawmakers have discussed using an “e-pass” format which would allow cars with a specified computer chip to pass through the tolling locations without slowing and be charged the necessary toll. I asked Russell about the alleged time-saving technique but he said that format can cause a wide-arrange of other problems because location where tolling occurs get backed up with drivers who do not have an e-pass.
All in all, Russell was a very interesting man who was more than willing to share his wisdom with everyone. Along with talking biz, he shared tidbits of life lessons he had learned in his years. One being that he never wants to be referred to as Mr. Russell because saying all four syllables is a “waste of time.” Another, is that he doesn’t shave because he thinks the five minutes each day adds up. While my bosses won’t let me skip out on shaving anytime soon, I will implement to “Russell Rule” on my name. Just call me Blake and save yourself some time!
(PHOTO CREDIT: Bloomberg)