When 86% of truck drivers are overweight or obese, what is that costing the industry?
The answer, unfortunately, is unknown. As Linda Moran, director of business development at the Lindora Clinic pointed out to carrier executives gathered at the Truckload Carriers Association convention, “You know what your fuel and maintenance costs are but you are not tracking your healthcare costs as closely and know where your dollars are going.”
Yet the overweight and obesity rate of 86% in trucking is much higher than the national average in the US which itself is a shocking 66%. There are 3.5 million obese truckers in the US and being overweight and obese is linked to more than 60 medical disorders, including 12 types of cancer. For example, more than 90% of the obese have Type 2 diabetes. Drivers taken off the road due to high blood pressure issues could be off work for 4-6 weeks before they get their condition back in check. Obese women spend $4,879 more on medical costs than average while obese men spend $2,646 more (mainly because men are less likely to visit a doctor.)
“We have all been asleep at the wheel to allow this to happen,” Moran said. Her clinic is working with the Truckload Carriers Association in its Weight Loss Showdown, which has 11 carriers across North America competing with each other to improve the health of their employees. (Bison Transport and Brian Kurtz Trucking are the Canadian competitors.)
Moran said it’s estimated that 70% of all health care costs are caused by unhealthy behaviors. Eating right is a particularly challenging task for drivers, thanks to the many fast food outlets available along the major highways and the huge portions being served at many truckstops.
“Just around every corner there is temptation. Coupled with that is the challenge of being a ‘super size me’ nation. Your truck drivers are eating huge meals then sitting behind the wheel for hours on end,” said Ann Marie Coppen, PhD, director of research and clinic services at the Lindora Clinic.
Coppen said that many of the overweight and obese are embarrassed about their condition and have no clear understanding about how to change.
“But they have a desire to change and that’s all we need,” Coppen said.
Her company has worked with carriers such as Celadon and Knight Transportation and most recently Canada’s Bison Transport and Brian Kurtz Trucking to help their employees manage their weight and employ healthy eating and exercise practices into their life over the long term. Reducing body weight by just 10% can yield significant health benefits and lead to people no longer needing to be on blood pressure or cholesterol medication.
“Employees have to actually care about the healthcare costs they’re generating and make sound and wise purchases. But drivers will care if they know you care,” said Moran in encouraging executives to implement health and wellness programs in their workplaces.