Archive for December, 2014

Obesity – should we talk about the dreaded topic? (Part 1 of 5)

By Jena Williams

Belt Last Hole

Just hearing the word obesity can cause anxiety in those who suffer from it. I know from personal experience. But it’s an important topic because it impacts us.

You may have heard of the survey of 1,670 long-haul truck drivers recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that they are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.1

That is not a good statistic, especially since often more than other workers, truck drivers must maintain their health in order to maintain their jobs. The CDC developed an infographic that sums up the costs of obesity in truck drivers. Obesity is linked to a host of health problems including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.

But what is the solution to the obesity problem? It’s not like we want to carry around extra weight. If it were easy to get rid of it, we would.

Over the next 4 weeks, we will explore the CDC’s recommendations and hopefully discover how to make them applicable to our real lives and hectic schedules. The recommendations are:

  1. Eat healthy and smaller portion sizes. (Do we know what a portion is?)
  2. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda. (Do you mean bye bye Starbucks, too?)
  3. Be more physically active. (But my job requires sitting all day!)
  4. Track your weight and body mass. (Ugh!)

Duh! No surprises here.

Don’t get me wrong as I’m not knocking the tips. They are all good. I just think many of us knew these tips already and what we need is to start the discussion on how to implement them, specifically for truck drivers. To be clear, I’m not a physician or a nutritionist, but hopefully I can share some ideas to help you be successful. In the upcoming weeks we’ll tackle some of the more common obstacles to each of the suggestions above. I hope you’ll check back and share your comments and suggestions each week as we work through them together.

Spoiler alert! At the end of this series, I’m going to suggest that you just pick one topic to address per month. You can decide now, or wait until we tackle the topics together to begin. It takes time to develop a new habit so by making small changes over time you’ll be more likely to be successful than completely upsetting your routine.  After all, these aren’t New Year’s resolutions. This is your new healthy life and we want you to be successful!

Note: If someone forwarded this blog to you, be sure to sign up in the left hand column to receive future topics.

  1. Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626.

How can it be? Another driver lost!

By Jena Williams

We just received a Washington State Patrol press memo that a 53-year-old truck driver from Gig Harbor, Washington has died when his Freightliner crashed into a tree. Again we don’t know all the specifics, but please be careful out there. Drive safe and wear your seatbelt. We want you all home safe.

UPDATE Link to story news article:


We are so saddened to hear of the loss of a truck driver last night

By Jena Williams

A 58-year-old driver died at the scene on Snoqualmie Pass about 9 p.m. At this point we don’t know for sure what happened, but our thoughts go out to the family, friends and company of the driver.

Report from KOMO News:

Report from The News Tribune:

Tarping tips from Santa

By Jena Williams

Santa has safely performed billions of on-time deliveries and stayed injury-free for over 1,600 years. “How?” you ask?  Because he has mastered the art of safely tarping his sleigh, of course!

Allow Santa to give you some tips and you’ll be safely on your way, too!

Click image to try simulation.

Click image to try simulation.

Link to Santa’s safe-tarping simulation:

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Excerpt from: A Visit from St. Nicholas by CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

Are electric pallet jacks worth the investment?

By Jena Williams

Electric pallet jack

Electric pallet jack

Recently we were contacted by Bill Smith, Safety and Compliance Manager at Brown Line. They were considering replacing some of their manual pallet jacks with the electric equivalent because they wanted to prevent injuries to their drivers. Bill asked to partner with us because he wanted hard numbers to determine if the safety tradeoff was worth the financial investment.

Keep Trucking Safe staff, including Stephen Bao, one of the ergonomists on our team, met Bill and his team at their loading dock in Mount Vernon to collect data on forces involved in using pallet jacks that were carrying loads ranging from 1,500-2,500 lbs. Stephen used a biomechanical modeling method to calculate load forces on different body parts of the worker during various tasks.

The tasks studied included pumping the pallet jack, pushing or pulling the jack to get it moving, and turning the jack both in the grooved trailer and in the warehouse. Stephen also measured the forces involved in pulling/pushing the pallet jack with a 1,500 lb. load over the dock plate (threshold heights of 2.5 and 5 inches).

As you might assume, these tasks were quite effortless when performed using an electric pallet jack.

Of the tasks tested, the most stressful on the body was pulling the manual pallet jack out of the trailer and up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate. This task was rated at so high a risk to the wrist, elbow, shoulder and ankles by the biomechanical analysis software that likely no one in the general population can perform the task without some injury to these body parts. There was also significant pressure placed on the low back.1

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate.

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate requires 175 lbs. of force.

The next most difficult task was turning a loaded pallet jack inside a trailer with a grooved floor. This task produced a very high risk of injury to the knee, ankle and wrist with a 2,000 lb. load. Lighter loads significantly reduced the injury risk.

If the decision to use electric or manual pallet jacks were just one of injury risk, electric pallet jacks would definitely be the way to go, but as we know there is more to the story.


There is no force on the body to maneuver a fully-loaded electric pallet jack.

Electric pallet jacks cost about $4,000-$5,000 each and require weekly maintenance and battery replacement ($200-$300) after a few hundred hours. A fully charged battery lasts about 8 hours so there is also the concern that a driver could run out of power.

Maneuvering a fully loaded manual pallet jack.

Pumping the handle of a fully-loaded manual pallet jack requires the application of over 70 lbs. of force. This is a high risk task for the hands and wrists of most people.

Manual pallet jacks cost about $400 each and require quarterly maintenance. Battery replacement isn’t required; however shoulder, wrist or ankle or driver replacement can be significant.

What do I mean by significant?

Consider that each year, 1 out of 13 truck drivers has a work-related injury that results in a lost work time workers’ compensation claim. Additionally, the most common type of injury is a strain, sprain or overexertion, which can result from the types of forces we identified. The median cost of these types of injuries to truck drivers is about $13,000.2 It’s much cheaper to get the electric pallet jack and replace a battery than a driver. In addition, electric pallet jacks can complete a loading job much faster than a manual one so productivity increases, too.

The decisions employers and safety directors make involving investing in safer tools and equipment can feel daunting. It helps to have the numbers in front of you and to draw on the experience of others. Bill mentioned that Brown Line was planning to target the routes with the most hills or heaviest pallet deliveries for the electric pallet jacks and if those worked out they might consider the using them with the rest of the fleet.

We all want to keep our valued workers safe and working. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with electric pallet jacks in the comments.



  1. Results of biomechanical analysis study at Brown Line, Mount Vernon, Washington, Stephen Bao, PhD, CPE, based on measurements taken on May 27, 2014.
  2. Rauser, Smith and Williams 2014. Trucking Industry: Examining Injuries for Prevention, 2006-2012. SHARP Program, report #90-148-2014. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Olympia, Washington.


Truck drivers are some of the best role models

By Jena Williams


Recently UPS released an ad about the true story of a boy and his UPS driver. The driver had delivered a special formula to the boy several times a week since his birth, and the boy’s dream was to one day become a UPS driver. The UPS driver didn’t make him wait until he was grown up to get the job, instead he gave him his own little UPS truck and let the boy deliver special packages to all his neighbors.

During this extra busy time of year, I wonder if truck drivers realize how much they and their big trucks are admired by the kids around them. You are role models and we do appreciate you!

Have a safe week, and thanks in advance for blowing your horn when the kids in the car are desperate to get your attention!

Link to UPS ad:

New report examines injuries in trucking for prevention

By Jena Williams

Trucking Industry Report

The researchers at Keep Trucking Safe just released a report called Trucking Industry: Examining Injuries for Prevention, Washington State, 2006-2012.

Usually injury prevention efforts are claim count focused. Although claim count is important, often more severe, higher cost injuries may be a more valuable priority for prevention activities. In response to this need, the researches used a new method to analyze Washington State Department of Labor & Industries workers’ compensation data to help employers and industry experts in determining where to focus limited injury prevention budgets.

For each of 6 different trucking sectors, the injuries are ranked using an average of:

1) The most costly in terms of medical cost.

2) The highest number of workers’ compensation claims.

3) The highest time-loss by injury type and source reported to the program. Injuries are ranked by type and source.

The report also includes information on fatalities and injury prevention tips.

Access the report here: