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A culture of wellness the secret behind Erb’s weight loss success

NEW HAMBURG, Ont. – The scales have been tipped in Erb Transport’s favour, with the New Hamburg, Ont.-based firm winning the company portion of the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) second annual Trucking’s Weight...


NEW HAMBURG, Ont. – The scales have been tipped in Erb Transport’s favour, with the New Hamburg, Ont.-based firm winning the company portion of the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) second annual Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown.

The competition, managed by Lindora Clinic, got underway in September and pitted teams of drivers and staff from six carriers against each other to see which individual and company could achieve the greatest percentages of weight loss.

The team from Erb Transport lost a total collective weight of 315 lbs, going from 2,594 lbs to 2,279 lbs – a 12.1% drop in the team’s combined weight.

Carolyn Vokes Reibeling, human resources assistant at Erb Transport and coordinator for Team Erb during the competition, said interest in participating was so great that the company had to draw names to select the six drivers and non-driver staff that eventually took part.

“When we gave a phone call to the people to say, ‘Hey, you’re on the team,’ they were very excited,” she told Truck News at Erb’s Baden, Ont. terminal, noting that about two dozen other staffers opted to participate alongside the chosen team of 12.

Over a 10-week period, participants followed the Lean for Life program, which is based on a moderate-carbohydrate, low-fat, moderate-protein menu plan coupled with exercise, nutrition education, and lifestyle changes. The competitors received weekly phone calls from Lindora’s coaches, who educated them on nutrition and behavioural changes, helped boost their morale, supported them through their personal challenges, and recorded their weight loss.

“Plus, we got the support from our local HR people, with Carolyn giving e-mails on a regular basis,” said David Stocker, a regional driver and member of Team Erb who lost about 40 lbs during the competition. “It just made you feel part of a team. It gave you the motivation. And that was, I think, a big part of it – just to keep you motivated.”

“I called drivers on the road, and just said, ‘Hey, how’s it going? Anything I can do to help you?’ and just let them know that we, as a group, are very proud of them and their efforts,” Vokes Reibeling said.

Stocker said eating less, but regularly, helped to prevent hunger-caused overeating, while changing his on-road habits helped him find time to exercise.

“It’s harder because you’ve got to be behind the wheel for 10, 11 hours a day,” he said, “but one of the things they suggested is when you get to the truck station, park in the far corner (and) do the walk.”

Stocker noted that meal planning also goes a long way and recommends bringing foods like tuna and protein bars on the road, to help avoid the fast food that’s so prevalent at rest stops.

“Getting the big burger and something deep-fried – that’s probably 99% of the problem right there. You’re sitting all the time anyway and now you’re adding to that with high-fat, high-carb meals. Basically, you’re a heart attack waiting to happen,” he told Truck News.

For besting the other competing teams, Erb received a $12,000 prize donated by TravelCenters of America/Petro, which Erb officials say will go towards allowing staff to re-enter the weight-loss program. Vokes Reibeling says Erb staff have been impressed by how “doable” members of Team Erb have made their new healthier choices seem.

“There’s a heightened awareness that it’s doable, that physical activity can be incorporated in their day,” she said of Erb employees. “There’s a lot more people going out and walking and choosing healthier eating habits.”

“We are very proud of Team Erb for their accomplishments. Not only have they changed their own lives, but they have motivated others at the company to make lifestyle changes,” said Wendell Erb, president of Erb Transport.

Creating a culture of wellness
Though it was Erb’s first year involved in the TCA Weight Loss Showdown, Erb management have been promoting a culture of health and wellness at the company for the past five or six years, according to David Dietrich, vice-president of human resources at Erb.

“Unfortunately, drivers have challenges eating well while they’re on the road, don’t often have the opportunity to exercise, there are fatigue issues, there’s stress issues, so we thought that we wanted to do something to help our employees and, particularly, our drivers,” Dietrich said.

“Part of the impetus for the program, as well, was our chairman and founder Vernon Erb sustained a heart attack, unfortunately, about six years ago,” Dietrich added.

During Vernon Erb’s rehabilitation program at St. Mary’s, a local cardiac hospital, he worked with the hospital to form a health-related partnership, creating an educational program for employees consisting of 11 modules, including information on how the heart works, cholesterol, diabetes, nutritious eating, exercise, etc.

The company’s health and wellness initiatives have snowballed from there, including an incentive-based, company-wide fitness challenge, and have even earned Erb a pair of awards from the Region of Waterloo (silver, and most recently, gold) as part of its healthy workplace program.

Dietrich says it’s “absolutely critical” for trucking companies to play an active role in their employees’ health and wellness.

“Number one, we care very much about our team members, our drivers and our team members in general,” he said. “But as well, the trucking industry is having a crisis in terms of recruiting and getting new people to enter the industry. We need to make sure we take care of the drivers that we have and that they’re able to stay in their chosen careers as long as they’d like and not have health issues that prevent that.”

–  To view a video about Erb’s weight-loss competition win and its culture of health and wellness, watch ‘Erb pulls its weight’ at Trucknews.com/videos.


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