BRAMPTON, Ont. — Former truck driver, Jason Jannetta, says he landed his dream job using the one thing he never expected – Twitter.
Those in the industry who have never heard of Jason Jannetta, may actually know him as #FitTrucker (or @UrbanHauler) on the social media site.
He posts multiple times a day (more often than not, all day) to his 1,100 followers about any and everything related to truckers’ health and wellness, from things like the benefits of drinking green tea to the importance of eating clean both on and off the road.
Among his favourite hashtags are #noexcuses and #changethegame; a modern-day mantra that needs no explanation.
Luckily for Jannetta, Jared Martin, CEO of Speedy Transport, was one of those followers.
“I really enjoyed a lot of his posts and what he was trying to do for the industry,” said Martin, who was thinking about how to help his company get on the track to wellness. “So we brought him in for a meeting.”
Jannetta was a driver for The Beer Store at the time and agreed to sit with Martin. Jannetta shared his philosophy about why he believes health and fitness are crucial to the future of the transportation industry.
The next day Martin called Jannetta offering him a position at Speedy. Jannetta is currently Speedy Transport’s driver trainer and wellness advisor; a position that he says marries his two passions.
“I love trucks and I love the transportation industry,” said Jannetta. “But I love fitness and wellness. It’s something I believe in and it’s something that I live seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
Martin says a lot of Jannetta’s job will include things like teaching drivers about how they can improve their lifestyle, by preparing meals before they go out and deliver – as opposed to eating out during every shift.
Jannetta’s position expands past the drivers at Speedy; he is also a wellness advisor to the internal staff, including management and those in administration.
“If you look at your typical truck driver, or even your typical transportation person, this industry doesn’t take very good care of themselves,” said Martin. “And it’s an industry that demands a lot of hours. So it’s not necessarily hitting the gym every day. But a lot of it could just be the food you intake.”
Martin claims the new position’s purpose is two-fold: his employees become healthier and more knowledgeable about their well-being (which, as Martin noted, could be the only source from which some could be getting this information) and the position shows his staff that management cares for them.
“It’s about taking care of our people,” said Martin. “This is an opportunity for our drivers and for our staff to talk to somebody at the company’s expense to just help them out with some of their lifestyle habits.”
What’s unique about Speedy, specifically, implementing this new position is that they have no company drivers.
“We’re 100% owner/operator,” said Martin.
Martin says this makes no difference despite the stigma in the industry that owner/operators are easily replaceable.
“They’re part of our family,” he said. “They’re very much a part of our company. They operate for Speedy Transport exclusively and they work under our insurance. It’s a little bit of a different set up than your typical owner/operator fleet.”
On his very first day on the job, Jannetta felt the impact his new job had on the company when a driver who was seriously worried about his health sought him out.
“I was leaving office around 6 p.m. and I had this driver come up to me and he said, ‘Are you the new driver trainer? What’s this wellness thing?’” Jannetta said.
“He told me he was concerned about his health; about the way that he ate, the lack of exercise, his weight. He had some serious medical issues because of his weight and he almost had a tear in his eye when he talked to me.
“He said, ‘Do you have some time for me?’ and I said, ‘Most definitely, that’s what I’m here for.’”
Jannetta says that first encounter sent him over the top.
“I phoned Jared right away after that happened,” Jannetta said. “And that’s what he wants to see. He’s very progressive. And he knows that (wellness) is a very key component for him having a successful business. And honest to God, he really truly does care about his employees.”
Jannetta is currently working with that driver and helping him on the path to wellness by showing him the right kinds of foods to eat, how to prepare meals before a long-haul trip and even how to buy groceries.
But not everyone is as willing to make the change from truck stop buffets to protein shakes, vegetables and baked chicken.
When dealing with those who aren’t so receptive to accepting a lifestyle change, Jannetta says he isn’t going to push or pressure.
“You can’t change everyone and I’m not there to change everyone,” he said. “I don’t want to be the type of person knocking cans of Coke out of someone’s hand and saying don’t eat this and don’t eat that.”
Alternatively, Jannetta says he wants to influence those who aren’t the most open-minded by making an example of those who are.
“I’m hoping for one or two employees that I can really focus on and that I can make such a dramatic change, that it’s just going to be a wave,” he said. “As we know, in this industry, there’s a lot of hard-nosed veterans who are stuck in their ways.”
Martin says the ultimate goal is to have this position implemented at trucking companies across the board.
“I want (this position) to fill the gap in the industry,” said Martin. “I want to make it a position that is not only suitable for Speedy but for all transportation companies.”
Martin says that being a younger CEO (he turned 35 this past April), he wants to stress the importance of health across his company because it’s something he’s grown up with, being part of a generation that is aware of the consequences of eating poorly and not exercising.
“Healthy lifestyle” and “truck drivers” have never been in the same sentence for obvious reasons. The job is sedentary and fast food restaurants are all over the highways and at truck stops.
To boot, wellness was never really a concern in the past because the age of the drivers wasn’t a concern.
Now, however, with almost half of drivers reaching or past the age of 50, health is a major concern for companies who are looking to keep the drivers they have healthy as well as those looking to attract younger drivers who aren’t afraid of living a life where they are on the road for days, sometimes weeks or months at a time.
Martin says there are no concrete short-term goals yet – like a set number of pounds or waistline inches he wants his company to lose collectively.
Instead, he hopes for results of this new position will change the image of the industry in order to attract the younger generation to become professional drivers.
“Nobody actually picks transportation to be their number one employment,” said Martin. “It’s usually a fallback plan. And I don’t want it to be a fallback plan for people. I want people to go to school to work in logistics.”
Jannetta emphasized that without driver’s paying attention to their health, a domino effect would plague the industry.
Without proper instruction, drivers fall ill. This, in turn, affects the company because they don’t have drivers and therefore can’t run a smooth business. Lastly, the customers don’t get their goods delivered on time.
“I just want to bring the awareness in how easy it is to have a fit and healthy lifestyle to all employees at Speedy Transport. It’s not complicated; you don’t have to be on a diet and only eat lettuce and drink water. I want people to be healthy, successful, long-term employees.
“I’m concerned about their futures. There’s moms, there’s dads, there’s aunts, there’s uncles, there’s grandparents (at Speedy). I want them to have full vibrant healthy lives.”
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