In an attempt to bring more awareness to the pressing state of the poor wellness of those in the trucking industry, Healthy Trucker – a division of NAL Insurance – has launched a Healthy Fleet Challenge where participating industry members will have a go at collectively walking around the world in the month of July (that’s 25,000 miles for whoever is counting.)
The challenge is designed to be a fun way to promote a healthy, active lifestyle that is easy and exciting to upkeep.
Participants in the challenge will be wearing a Fitbit device – a pedometer that connects to your smartphone to track your steps on a daily basis. Those who choose can download the Moves app instead, that works the same way at the Fitbit device. The competitors’ steps will be tracked on an online leaderboard to create friendly competition between the participants. The hope is that by the end of July, the combined participants’ steps total 25,000 miles or more.
What sparked the birth of this competition is the plain fact that the health issues surrounding the transportation industry are no secret.
It’s an industry that is very sedentary and doesn’t seem to be as active as their working class counterparts; a study published in January of this year from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that nearly 75% of truck drivers sampled in America were categorized as being obese.
This statistic makes obesity twice as prevalent in the trucking industry as it does in the rest of the US working population.
Though the challenge isn’t driver-specific and is mostly geared towards the business executives, Glenn Caldwell vice-president of sales at NAL Insurance said that this sort of top-down education and promotion of health and wellness is the best way to start changing the image of the industry.
“We all understand that we’re living in an industry that is maybe not the healthiest out there right now,” he said. “A lot of that comes down to the sedentary lifestyles that the drivers live. Our goal is to get them up and moving more.”
Melodie Champion, nutrition and fitness coach and representative of Healthy Trucker also added that most people who work in an office environment, like business executives and those who sit a lot, like drivers, often forget about the health risks involved.
“I think health and wellness is kind of a secondary thought for most industries and for most people,” said Champion. “We don’t want to do anything about [our health] until it’s too late and we are sick and unhealthy.”
In addition to the challenge promoting health and wellness, Caldwell noted that it can also be good for business, since he says wellness could be the answer to the lack of drivers that is subsequently plaguing the industry.
“A big issue we have is the driver shortage,” he said. “A lot of it comes down to retention and being able to attract and retain quality owner/operators and drivers, and wellness is the way to do that. Drivers want to be taught how to eat better and be more active so they can be healthier for their families.”
Unlike other initiatives to get the industry healthier, the Healthy Fleet Challenge isn’t just about weight loss.
“We find a lot of our members’ (concerns) on the Healthy Truck program aren’t just about weight loss,” said Champion. “(They are to) decrease stress and increase their activity level, so we wanted to do something that everyone across the board is capable of doing. Everyone can walk, so that’s why we decided to do a walking challenge.”
These Healthy Trucker walking challenges have made a significant impact earlier this year.
Debbie Sparks, vice-president of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) had nothing but good things to say about them since the TCA had their own Healthy Trucker-run challenge at the TCA convention this past March.
The TCA Challenge had 11 officers of the TCA equipped with wearable Fitbit devices to count their steps through the three-day convention. The results were staggering.
Combined the participants logged nearly 1.6 million steps and walked more than 790 miles in just three short days.
“It was amazing the feedback we got,” said Sparks about when she initially told the TCA officers about the challenge. “They immediately started challenging each other. They just really got 100% behind it.”
During the gala and auction at the convention, there was a one-year health and wellness package up for grabs.
“The bidding got so crazy, I’m not sure what happened,” said Sparks. “But the audience challenged the guys at NAL to throw up two more one-year packages. We had three huge winning bidders all over $10,000, that they each spent on a one-year health and wellness program for their corporate companies.”
Sparks believes that by starting the push towards a healthier lifestyle with business executives, the message will trickle down to drivers and others in the industry.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘Five to ten years ago we tried to do health and wellness’ but the real difference I’m seeing today is that it’s actually starting from the top down,” she said. “And that’s where change is going to happen. You know, business leaders adopt it and now we’re really seeing a huge impact.”
Proceeds from the $1,000 donation to enter the upcoming Healthy Fleet Challenge will go directly to the Heart & Stroke Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To get your business on the path to wellness or to get involved in the Healthy Fleet Challenge that begins on July 1, please visit www.healthyfleet.com or call 855-422-8333 to register.
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface