Health Clinics for Truckers Out on the Road

by Fran Bernard, on Nov 1, 2023 9:09:29 AM


More and more, urgent care clinics are opening across the nation. Offering primary care, urgent care, and occupational health services. This includes Department of Transportation and pre-employment physicals, preventative care and wellness visits, vaccines, medication management, and more.

Professional truck drivers live a unique lifestyle; they are often alone, on the road, and far from home the majority of the year. 

Suggestions to help drivers stay healthy on the road have been discussed before. All drivers know it’s important to eat healthily and ensure they get exercise, even if it’s hard to follow through at times. Taking these daily steps to maintain their health can prevent illness, but what options does a truck driver have when they do get sick? 

Fortunately, there are new options available now that have the potential to catch health issues early and save a driver money.

“Professional drivers need all the help they can get when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road,” says Joey Truscelli, CEO, Hello Alvin, former Marine and former owner of a Verizon IndyCar team. "Now, when drivers stop at a truck stop or travel center, like Love’s Travel Stops, to fill their tanks, grab a bite to eat and take a shower, they can also access convenient, affordable care 24/7. We are passionate about bringing professional drivers access to healthcare wherever they are, whenever they need it, at an affordable price. This is a national movement, and we are here to help.”

Patricia Smith, nurse practitioner, sees her patients in a small building on the corner of the parking lot of a Strawberry Plains truck stop, five days a week.

She is motivated to think that what she does there makes a big difference, not only to her patients, but to the trucking industry as well.

Patricia works in an UrgentCareTravel clinic at the Pilot Travel Center. The clinic was the first of the Pilot Flying J and UrgentCareTravel that have opened together.

The clinic functions as a walk-in and will take all new patients: RVers, business and vacationing travelers, guests from the nearby hotels, and even permanent members of the community. But their primary patients, who make up 80 percent of Patricia's patients, are professional truck drivers.

Long hours, a sedentary lifestyle and rigors of the job lead to a higher incidence of chronic health problems among truckers. This affects not only their health and their life expectancy, but also their livelihood. More than half of drivers have one or more chronic health condition that leads the Department of Transportation to certify them for a commercial driver's license for less than the two-year maximum: one year, six months, or even three months.

Patricia hopes to manage those conditions first, then point truckers toward a healthier lifestyle. She estimates, once they become established patients, around 60 percent make those lifestyle changes: better eating, more physical activity and taking medications and getting regular care to manage their chronic health conditions.

"I think they're motivated to stay healthy, and I also think it's because they realize someone cares about them," Patricia said.


Mitch Strobin, vice president of service management for UrgentCareTravel, said getting to a medical facility to manage those conditions is sometimes challenging for drivers, who have to find somewhere to park their trucks, find transportation to a provider sometimes 20-30 minutes away, wait for care and then get transportation back to their trucks.

"That's four hours off the road," Mitch said. "This is on the road, on their normal truck route. They can park their trucks right here and be here often because they need care for these conditions. It isn't just a one-time visit; they need ongoing medical care."

The clinics share electronic records, so truckers could go to any one of them, he said. 

Interstate Health opened a new urgent and primary care clinic recently in the Racine Petro. “We are thrilled to open our new clinic in the Racine Petro, a premier truck stop that not only serves commercial drivers, but also is a landmark for the villages of Sturtevant, Mount Pleasant, and Yorkville,” said Jeff Seraphine, Interstate Health chief executive officer. “Our mission is to ensure access to quality healthcare for people who frequent America’s highways. By offering urgent care, primary care, and occupational health services to the people who know and trust the Racine Petro, we believe we are fulfilling our mission in a meaningful way.”

Interstate Health launched in November 2022 with significant backing by veteran transportation and logistics executives. The company aims to solve the disparities in health and wellness for commercial drivers, who face increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

UrgentCareTravel (UCT), with clinics at truck stops, offers DOT physicals, drug screens, primary care services, and work-related injury services.

Truck stop chains Pilot, Flying J, and TA-Petro offer health clinics at some locations that allow truckers to see a doctor or nurse practitioner in person and get back on the road quickly. TA-Petro has more than 20 clinics across the United States for drivers to receive DOT physicals and, in some cases, medical care and dental care.

All physicians offering DOT physicals are required to be active on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

TA-Petro also offers workout facilities in some locations through its StayFit program. Facilities include indoor fitness rooms, walking and running trails, basketball courts, horseshoe pits and more.

Pilot Flying J is partnered with UrgentCareTravel. Truck drivers and fleets looking for low-cost medical service on the road have a new option in UrgentCareTravel, a growing network of clinics based in certain Pilot Flying J locations off of major highways. In addition to offering basic clinical service to drivers themselves, the company also can provide basic care to drivers’ family members, too.

UCT’s service also provides drivers with DOT physicals, drug screens and treatment for work related injuries as long as they don’t fall under a workers’ compensation claim. Drivers with minor injuries on the job or pain that qualifies as first aid care can be seen quickly in the clinics rather than waiting at a doctor’s office or an emergency room.

For drivers diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, among other conditions, the clinics provide drivers with health plans to help manage their disease, which includes educational materials, a schedule of clinic visits and monthly phone calls from the nurse practitioners. 

In addition to chain locations, large independent truck stops such as Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa, offers chiropractic services, a dentist, and a workout room. Jubitz in Portland, Oregon, offers along with DOT physicals, chiropractic services.

It is so convenient for truck drivers not to have to take time off the road to travel to a medical center, now they can seek medical care in places they are already stopping.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) reports that if drivers were able to receive these services where they live and work, on the road, the time spent by drivers seeking these services would be reduced by a minimum of 1.5 hours, saving the industry over $700M annually in lost productivity.

Mitch says, “We’re truly serious about getting drivers healthy, for their sake, for their family’s sake, and for their company’s sake.”

These medical clinics also release a newsletter twice per month that focuses on providing health and wellness information and tips. Like other medical care providers, the clinic uses standard health record systems to allow for the easier transmission of clinical records and documents.

Forty-eight percent of drivers have at least one condition that limits their CDL to one year or less, Mitch said. That makes health management vital to address. Achieving better health isn’t too difficult, Mitch said, if drivers have accessibility and affordability. 

Parking can inhibit accessibility. Mitch said the hunt for just one space for one healthcare visit can cost a driver hours. Accessibility to drivers and parking are the main reasons that UrgentCareTravel decided to locate at truck stops.

The truck-stop strategy has worked well since UrgentCareTravel opened in 2014 with one clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee, Mitch said. The company has adopted other strategies, including a mail-order prescription service, which can mail pills to the driver’s home or to an UrgentCareTravel clinic.

We all know that diet has become a very important issue with drivers. Many of the conditions that drivers have are caused or aggravated by bad diets. There are many doable plans for drivers to do while out on the road as far as eating and even exercise programs. And the healthcare providers are more than happy to share these plans with the drivers. It doesn’t have to be hard for it to work.

“If you walk around your truck 32 times, that equals a mile,” said Mitch. “We are trying to make it a reality-based program.”

The TravelCenters of America also wants to make it easy to StayFIT and get what you need when you're on the road, including medical help and advice. They offer onsite medical clinics at TA, Petro and TA Express locations across the country that provide DOT physicals, chiropractic services, and more. Walk-in and same-day appointments are available.

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Topics:Life on the RoadHealth and Wellness

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