For Your Own Good
It’s soap box time today, but I’m doing this for your own good. For real. I read some alarming stats lately: we 3.5 million commercial truck drivers aren’t in very good health. In fact, according to a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, transportation workers have the highest obesity rate of any industry in the nation – at 37.8%. Three years ago, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study of nearly 3000 truckers that found 85% were overweight and 55% obese.
So now you know when you get home from the road and your kid wants you to throw the football around a little bit with him – and you can’t for more than a few minutes – you’re packing too much blubber. That’s not the kind of spare tire you want in your belly box.
Have you taken a hard look in the mirror lately? I’ve seen truckers waddling through the truckstop parking lots, clutching clever orange and white coffee containers made to look like construction barrels, trying to hurry inside before they ran out of breath. And they were hurrying to get to the restaurant, to fill up that gallon jug with more coffee, sugar and fake creamer. Or to get to the buffet, figuring three or four plates would settle their stomachs for a while. The dashboard grew a new assortment of candy bars, doughnuts and cookies after every stop.
Admittedly, it’s not all your fault. Sometimes there’s nothing to look at on that same old long haul you’ve made a thousand times, and you nibble out of sheer boredom. Or maybe you’re a little down in the mouth, and feeding that mouth helps ease the pangs for a while. I knew a trucker’s wife who gained weight without realizing it. She stood all of 5’2’’ (when she inhaled) and weighed 110 when she started trucking. Three years later, she’d gained fifteen pounds (that she’d admit) and her back hurt, her knees hurt, and none of her clothes fit. She’d go into a truckstop restaurant and order breakfast for the two of them while he was refueling. The server was usually in shock by the time he got to the table, because the petite wife had ordered more food for herself than for him – and she ate it, too. With an extra cup of coffee and a glass of milk to top off the bacon, hashbrowns, toast and scrambled eggs. When she realized she was ‘digging her grave with her teeth’ she started cutting back, before she got to where she would’ve had to have help to get the weight off.
Don’t wait until you get to that point. The regulatory agencies are taking this whole obesity thing very seriously, and you should too. “Better health means safer drivers behind the wheel,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “A rigorous driver medical program … ensures individuals applying for a commercial driver’s license are first checked out for a variety of conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and respiratory disorders.” Could you get hired today if you went to a new carrier? Or would they turn you down, figuring you were too much of an insurance risk?
Drivers are getting a good response from TCA/Petro, which has locations in 41 states. Look for the healthier items on menus, marked with their ‘StayFit’ logo. Fresh fruit can be bought at many of the company’s convenience stores, too, but keep asking until all of them carry it. Exercise rooms are open at some truckstops, and over a hundred of them now have walking or jogging trails. Start slowly. Walk an extra block or two. Do a few sit-ups in your cab when you can. A driver I know puts a plastic bread tray on the floor behind her driver’s seat for repeated step-ups. She’s lost several pounds already.
Carriers, too, are offering programs to help their drivers lose the extra weight and the health problems associated with it. Some carriers are encouraging drivers to take bikes with them on the long hauls. Many have added a weight or exercise room to the drivers’ lounge area.
So you can do it. You can get your weight down to a level that gives you more years to enjoy with your kids and grandkids. If you can guide a truck and trailer through New York traffic, keep on rolling through the heat of an Iowa summer, deal with the snow up in Saginaw and not lose your shirt in Vegas, you’ve got the smarts and the willpower to cut down on the sugar and fried foods in your meals.
My money’s on you.
Drive Long and Prosper.