Bring on more wellness advisors

by Al Goodhall

“Speedy hires new wellness advisor and driver trainer. Will this newly-created, health-focused role become more prevalent in the trucking world?” Truck News asked that question in its June edition under their wellness section. Assistant editor Sonia Straface interviewed Jared Martin, CEO of Speedy Transport along with Jason Jannetta, Speedy’s newly minted driver trainer and wellness advisor. 

The resulting article was a fascinating read. I, for one, am keen to see trucking companies marry driver training to driver wellness. In my opinion this would be a win-win for drivers and their employers.

The Globe & Mail published an article titled, ‘The business case for healthy and happy employees’ the same week the above article was published. Here a just a couple of highlights from that article.

• An investment in wellness programs returns two to five times the cost to the bottom line;

• Wellness programs ignite employee engagement and should be seen as a strategic initiative not just an independent program run out of the human resources department.

Over the past few years, we have seen a much greater awareness of driver health issues throughout the trucking industry. A number of companies have run weight loss challenges and the trucking media reports on driver health issues more frequently and in more depth than they have in the past. 

I have attended a number of seminars on the subject myself but rarely are other drivers in attendance. From what I have seen so far, drivers don’t appear to be changing their habits in significant numbers. 

Drivers may be well aware of the negative effects of fast food, a sedentary life behind the wheel, lack of exercise and smoking, but many are resigned to accepting this as part of the job. This is often summed up with the expression, “That’s trucking.” In other words it’s always been done that way and will never change. Kudos to Jared Martin of Speedy Transport for taking a more innovative approach that engages drivers through a wellness advisor rather than delivering a canned program that many drivers would probably end up leaving on the shelf.

For the past 14 years I have kept a focus on my own health to combat the negative effects of this sedentary lifestyle. The prescription for anyone to improve their physical health is pretty simple. Eat in a healthier way, don’t smoke and exercise more. It goes without saying that it’s easier said than done. My experience over the past year has been a case in point. Despite all the knowledge I have gained and all the successes I have experienced, I know I would benefit greatly at this point in my life if I were able to sit down with a wellness advisor and gain a fresh perspective.

In the autumn of 2000 I committed to changing my life one day at a time. I had much success. First I quit smoking and the next year I started following that simple prescription of eating less and exercising more. It worked. By the end of 2011 I had lost over 80 pounds and had taken up running as my exercise of choice. 

For much of that time I had been doing open board long-haul work usually on the road for three to four weeks, then home for three to five days. I think it was the fall of 2010 when I started doing a dedicated run from southwestern Ontario to Winnipeg every week. 

That put me home two days per week. Life was good. In the spring of 2012 I started working with a personal trainer two days per week and my health stepped up another notch. I had never felt better. I was investing 10-12 hours per week in exercise at this point and that is a huge time investment for a long-haul truck driver, but to me it was worth every minute. Life is all about impermanence though and my circumstances changed.

After working for several years in Asia our daughter returned home in 2010, married, and the grandchildren started to appear. For my wife and I, having our daughter and grandchildren in our lives was the best thing that could happen. Changes, even positive ones, can have ripple effects that we don’t foresee. It’s no longer feasible for me to invest 10-12 hours per week exercising. I simply don’t have that amount of time available anymore. So for the past year I’ve been struggling to find a new balance and feel that my personal health is slipping backwards. Time at the gym has stopped, running has been reduced to walking sporadically and my frustration is building. Life is difficult, isn’t it?

My story isn’t your story but as drivers we all have one thing in common. We invest a huge amount of our lives in our work. Time is precious. I say bring on the wellness advisors to help each of us find that balance.

Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall. 

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