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Could BMI Be the Best New Risk ID Metric for Truck Drivers?

September 22, 2015 By: Chris Tanke, HNI Tags: Blogs, Fleet Management, Safety

In the world of risk management, we are always looking for those metrics that serve as leading indicators for predicting and preventing that next loss from happening.

In trucking, one common way to analyze a driver’s risk profile is his MVR (motor vehicle record).  It stands to reason that if a driver has a boatload of speeding tickets, he’s at higher risk for a speed-related crash. But could Body Mass Index (BMI) also be an equally effective predictor of future crash risk?

A growing body of research suggests a driver with an obese or morbidly obese BMI is at greater risk of accident and injury. Consider the following statistics:

According to University of Minnesota Morris research, a driver is 43-55 percent more likely to be involved in a crash within the first two years of employment if his or her BMI is greater than 30.

Drivers with a BMI above 40 have double the amount of Workers Compensation claims than drivers who have a BMI within normal/healthy range.

When a driver with BMI above 30 gets injured, the average amount of medical dollars spent are about seven times higher than non-obese drivers.

Theories vary as to why BMI impacts or correlates with these outcomes. Some theorize that many of those obese drivers have sleep apnea, which in turn, causes drowsy driving.

Obesity also puts excessive stress on joints and muscles, which in turn may cause injury. Obesity related conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease can severely hamper injury healing.

Discriminating against potential employees due to their health status or weight (if they can physically do the job they’re applying for) is something that may get an employer into legal trouble. More and more states are passing legislation explicating protecting overweight would-be employees.

Yet many forward-thinking trucking companies with an eye on work comp, auto liability and health care costs are embracing BMI as a predictive measure of risk.  Rather than sit idly by, they are taking on this problem by doing what they can to control this risk factor.

At the end of the day, health is in the hands of the individual — however, there is a lot companies can be doing to stress the importance of wellness and make resources available to help employees make healthy choices. Ideas include things like:

  • “Know your numbers” biometrics campaigns (including mail-in kits for drivers on the road)
  • Pre-employment physicals to ensure a driver is fit for duty
  • Telephonic coaching with dietician to help drivers find ways to manage their weight
  • Equipping tractors with in-cab exercise equipment
  • On-site workout facilities
  • Vending machine “makeovers” with healthy food options.

The return on investment for driver wellness programs can be hard to quantify in the same way it can be difficult to assign a dollar value to the results of a safety program. How do you show the value of the accident that didn’t happen? Or the claim that didn’t “malinger” as the result of a healthier employee to begin with?

But given the level of risk involved, how can you afford not to invest in reducing this risk?

About the Author: Chris Tanke is vice president of relationships at HNI, a non-traditional insurance and business advisory firm that specializes in the transportation industry. Tanke has a wealth of experience in helping transportation firms manage their total cost of risk. Read more of his posts on HNI’s blog: www.hni.com/blog/could-bmi-be-the-best-new-risk-identification-metric-for-truck-drivers.

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