A program incorporating web-based education and other approaches can help reduce the high health and safety risks faced by truck drivers, reports a study in the NovemberJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), according to an ACOEM press release.

Ryan Olson, Ph.D., and colleagues of Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, sought to develop a new type of health promotion program for truck drivers. The program — using a combination of approaches such as Web-based health and driving safety courses, a safe driving competition, and motivational phone interviews with health counselors — was designed to take advantage of the laptop computers and cell phones truckers use to keep in touch while on the road.

The program produced real reductions in health risks: after six months, truckers enrolled in the program reduced their weight by an average of nearly eight pounds. They also improved their diets by reducing consumption of fats and sugar, with a trend toward increased physical activity.

The safety component led to reductions in risky driving behaviors, such as time over the speed limit and hard-braking events, as recorded by on-board computers. Drivers who took extra steps to earn a special safety training certificate achieved even greater reductions in health and safety risks.

Truck drivers are a prime example of the health risks faced by “lone workers” — individuals who spend significant time alone or traveling for work such as pilots, traveling consultants and salespeople, and telecommuters. Lone workers often have limited healthy food choices and opportunities for exercise and limited access to workplace health and safety programs. Truckers face specific health risks, including high rates of obesity and diabetes and high exposure to traffic risks.

The researchers made special efforts to design a program that would be appealing and effective for truck drivers. Some components seemed particularly effective, including Web-based health and safety education and telephone interviews with health counselors. “The approach may also prove useful for engaging other populations of lone workers in health promotion programs,” Dr. Olson and co-authors write.