Since the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires an annual checkup, and getting a yearly physical is generally a smart way to take care of one’s health, it’s a wonder why many truck drivers tend to avoid their yearly exams. Are they tired of the long waits, which may seem like more time spent away from home and family? Do they fear that the stress of their jobs, and perhaps lack of sleep or less-than-optimal eating habits, have led to poor health and a condition they don’t want to face?
It’s hard to say for sure, and we certainly shouldn’t generalize, but truck drivers are not showing up for their annual checkups, and many of them are even faking the fact that they went or going as far as “doctor shopping” to obtain a quick and cheap medical certificate.
How can doctors get drivers into the office to get their hearts, blood pressure, blood sugar and other vitals examined, so they stay healthy and are safe to be on the road? A combination of more streamlined procedures in the physician’s office and a good dose of health education is a great start.
Improving the doctor’s office experience
Due to rising overhead costs and lower insurance payouts, doctors are under increasing pressure to book as many patients and speed up their work as much as possible. This leads to overbooked offices and long wait times, which can deter many patients, especially those who don’t get enough time at home anyway. Additionally, when the Doctor finally steps into the office to see his/her patient, they try to eliminate simple gestures such as sitting down to discuss the patient’s health, avoid open-ended questions and encouraging family discussions.
Busy individuals like myself don’t want to sit for hours in a doctor’s office, and they don’t want to wait once they get into an exam room. If physician offices were to improve patient flow, either through technology or improved office architecture, truck drivers might be more encouraged to make their annual visits. They would also feel more welcomed if the Doctor actually took time to listen, introduce him/herself and allow for more conversation.
Doctors would do well to chart patient flow, address bottlenecks, and implement technology that automates patient follow-up calls, prescription refill requests, and repeat visit scheduling.
Addressing truck drivers’ health concerns
Since the DOT requires an annual physical, truckers should trust that there is good reason for these checkups. They keep truckers in good health so they can keep driving, and so public roads stay safer. Imagine a tired or sick driver who has missed checkups and is in poor health. This trucker is not the driver that the DOT, or an employer for that matter, wants on the road. Missed days at work due to sickness, and accidents on the road from unexpected heart attacks or similar health issues, become a detriment to trucking companies and public safety.
Truck drivers are continuously exposed to hazardous substances in their work environments, which can contribute to developing lung cancer or other conditions that can only be treated if found early on. Keeping annual check-up helps doctors catch and diagnose cancer or any other illness or disease.
Many truckers prefer to argue against reports and studies that seem to indicate drivers with dangerous medical conditions are causing fatal accidents. These studies may, in fact, be performed with some ulterior motives such as enforcing new legislation, but they still hold some truth.
The Department of Transportation requires an annual physical
Federal law mandates the DOT physical. But, because truck drivers are to be accountable via the honor system, and able to self-report the state health, the flawed system can lead to dangers for truckers and those who share the road. Getting annual physicals clears truck drivers for driving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and helps ensure they can handle the long hours, exhausting schedules and stress of operating a commercial vehicle.
The law mandating annual checkups for truck drivers is in place for a reason, and it makes sense for drivers’ personal health. It would be great to see doctors as a whole recognize truckers’ hesitancy to get into the office for a physical and to know that the physicians are doing all they can to make the visit a positive one. Pass the word: Checkups should not be skipped.
Arthur Guy is a patient.
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