Working to Improve Driver Health

It hasn't been easy for truck drivers to stay healthy on the road. However, more and more professional drivers are receiving assistance to get healthy while working as an OTR driver.

Job security linked to health

Every two years, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires truck drivers to undergo a physical examination to check for any condition which could cause a driver to become incapacitated while driving. There is no specific weight limit, but many of the conditions the exam looks for, such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and heart conditions, are made worse by excess weight.

Fortunately, some carriers and some truck stop chains are working to provide drivers with healthier options.

Carriers encouraging health programs

Doug Robinson, a driver for U.S. Xpress, noticed that he was beginning to gain weight almost as soon as he started his job. “I have asthma,” he explained, “so with the extra weight on there, it isn't good for me.”

When U.S. Xpress joined a multi-carrier weight loss challenge coordinated by the Truckload Carriers Association, Robinson was one of the first to sign up. He started stocking his truck with healthy food and walking during his breaks; he would walk in circles around his truck if no paths were available. So far Robinson has lost 40 pounds of his 100 pound goal.

U.S. Xpress has begun providing employees with health fairs and cash rewards for healthy behavior.

Bruce Moss of Con-way Freight, which gives drivers access to wellness coaches and stretching exercises, says his company has already seen benefits in less time missed by employees and fewer workplace injuries.

Truck stops making positive changes

Truck stops around the country have been adding healthier menu options and exercise facilities.

Rolling Strong, a truck driver wellness association, is working with Snap Fitness to add gyms at Pilot Flying J truck stops. The first one opened near Dallas in June; so far they have sold over 120 memberships. Snap Fitness and Rolling Strong plan to install gyms in Pilot Flying J stops in Georgia and Tennessee by the end of 2012.

Pilot Flying J has also added healthy menu options, and they plan to launch a smartphone app which will help drivers determine which items on the menu are healthiest.

TravelCenters of America has also been working to develop healthier food options. Along with putting in basketball courts and developing walking paths, they have built small gyms in 42 of its 240 locations. Spokesman Tom Liutkus says that the existing gyms have already been accessed over 30,000 times, and they plan to have each of their truck stops fitted with a gym by the end of 2013.

Boyd Stephenson of the American Trucking Associations says that healthier employees will be financially beneficial to carriers. "I think a lot of trucking companies are coming around to the idea that their drivers are their assets,” he said.

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