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Truck News

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.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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  • I could not get over the similarities in your article to an earlier one on the topic of sleep apnea and driver health and obesity. I included some excerpts below.

    I recall reading another article noting a relationship between diesel emissions and driver weight. I don’t have the article but I believe it claimed that there was a physical response to these emissions that caused weight gain.

    In any case, this appears to be a huge problem and probably has a place in the debate about Hours of Service regulations. I do not know if there have been accident studies that look at the drivers’ health and body mass index rating but maybe the hours of service regs are not the problem and issues like sleep apnea, excessive weight, driver health, and quality rest are. These relationships do not seem to be coincidental and the professional driver seems to be fighting a losing battle. These are important considerations when they are driving 80,000 pound vehicles down the highway and there should be some assistance for them. It’s not only in their interest but it is also in the public’s interest.

    Opinion: Sleep Apnea and the Regulatory Agenda 4/25/11
    By John Hill
    Industry Adviser
    SleepSafe Drivers Inc.

    Studies show that people with untreated sleep apnea face a long list of increased health risks, including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, memory loss, chronic fatigue, obesity and a doubling in the chance of heart attack and stroke.

    Estimates vary, but based on one 2006 study used by the FMCSA Medical Review Board, which provides the agency with recommendations regarding medical requirements for commercial vehicle drivers, suggests that between 24% and 41.9% of all commercial drivers could qualify for OSA screening.

    Savvy industry executives realize that drivers are essential to their business and treating OSA where needed is an investment in those drivers, their families and the company

  • When your sitting in a comfortable seat for hours on end, eating good inexpensive meals at a truck stop and no place really to go except in that truck stop while your waiting to be able to drive again, what do you expect to happen, people are going to get fat.

    What needs to be done, a mind set change, that when your in a truck stop, get on an exercise machine and do a workout for an hour or so, do something to burn that excess food that your consuming, besides holding down the throttle and shifting gears.

  • I drove for many years as a flatbed driver, I was able to stay fit. As a driver I would always enjoy securing the load and making an exercise routine out of it.

  • How many times have you stoped for fuel and at the same time tried to find something to eat and all they had was soda, chips cookies and candy bars. And if your lucky pizza, fried chicken, wings, cheeseburger, hotdog, donuts… Once in a while there might be bananas or apples that are weeks old. Come on truck stops. Help us out here!

  • As a former OTR driver I would like to comment on what would help considerably with this problem. Power inverters so a trucker could carry a fridge and microwave in their trucks keeping them out of these greasy spoon truck stops that make truckers fat and gouge their pocketbooks.

    Most truck stops have very few if any healthy food choices. And if they do have them it cost you a small fortune. And as most of you know, most trucking companies don’t pay that great to begin with. Especially if you’re a new driver.

  • @ Paul,

    That’s great that you were able to stay fit Paul. However not all truckers are flat bad drivers. And many companies actually discourage truckers from dong physical labor such as ( unloading trucks ) to avoid potential comp claims. I was a flat bed driver to begin with as well, and enjoyed the physical labor, but not all truckers have the option to be physically active because of the nature of their job.

  • My husband has been an OTR O/O for years. He does have an APU on the truck and keeps a fridge, microwave and George Foreman grill on board. He buys quality meats/chicken/fish, fresh fruit, veggies and cooks for himself. It not only allows him to have healthy meals, but gives him something to do during breaks beside lay in bed and watch TV. Of course, his dog also offers him the opportunity to get out and exercise. His cost for food is only about $50/week and he gets nothing fried, imitation or unhealthy. Prior to the APU, he had an inverter and still powered everything just fine. In the summer, he carries a small BBQ. It can be done, he hasn’t been sick in years, is at a healthy weight and saves money! It is a totally win, win situation!

  • Like Bobbie’s husband, my husband and I pack our own food. Have a Burton stove, 2 10in,covered fry pans. One pan can hard cook a dozen eggs at once. Buy canned tuna in nothing but a little sea salt, canned organic chicken, fresh vegetables, plain yogurt.
    We have dropped 90# between the two of us.
    companies would rather have you on the move constantly. Most of what I heard about driver health had nothing to do with how a driver actually is, feels. It’s all about productivity. This article says the same in different words.
    With a few exceptions, the days of a company caring about driver well being are long gone. The only caring has to do with how much money that driver can generate.

  • My grandfather was obese and lived to be 100 with zero health problems. No high blood pressure, heart disease or anything. Obesity doesn’t kill you. Malnutrition does. It depends on how you got fat. If you got fat on nutritionally stripped foods, such as fast foods, then, yes, you’ll be unhealthy. If you got fat on nutritionally sound foods, such as grass fed beef, pastured pork, pastured chicken, grass fed butter and non GMO foods, then you’ll be healthy like my grandfather. I drove OTR and saw nothing but unsound foods in these truck stops. Foods that sported a list of chemicals that were a mile long. These truck stops don’t even sell butter, they sell margarine, which is the deadliest form of junk. I believe that truck stops were designed to kill truckers thru malnutrition! It’s not the obesity that makes you ill. It’s the bad food.

  • My husband been a company driver and o/o and now back to company driver. He’s been driving for 13 years. In his trucks he has had fridge,micro-waves,small hot plate so he can cook good meals. He also carrys a weight bench w/150 lbs of weights. When he stops at a rest area in the middle of the day,he lifts weights. and when he stops for the night he goes towards the back of the truckstops and lifts weights again.So there are ways to exercise and try to stay healthy.

  • I have been messing around with an idea to try to help drivers get in shape but need some feedback and maybe some assistance with the idea, i want to try to get a work out video for working out in your truck different ideas routines and suggestions. I would like in the future to have maybe a group of us that can get permission from the truck stops to do a work out segment at local truck stops to get drivers that want to work out the chance to work out with other drivers, we spend a lot of time alone in these trucks might be fun to work out and talk and meet new friends and drivers. Anybody have suggestions or thoughts maybe we can get Truck News to help..Lets get fit for our family’s and children in 2012 and 2013!!!

  • Who cares about truck driver’s health? No one. Sorry for the directness of my answer. It’s about time for us to do something about our own dilemma. I am doing something about it in North Carolina. I’m finished truck driving but now I’m building mobile 500 square foot cardio workout centers to be dropped off at truck stops. I’m tired of everyone giving mouth about truck drivers’ health issues when in fact they Do nothing. Check out http://www.truckershealthclubs.com and see what you can do to take care of yourself and your family.

  • I’m considered overweight on the BMI chart because I’m 5’10” tall and 178 lbs. I only have 7% body fat. I’m a steel hauler and get plenty of exercise on my route that averages about 12 deliveries per day.

    There are a lot of very fit truckers that are considered overweight by a chart made to conform to people with desk jobs. The data is skewed.

    I work with a bunch of flatbed, route runners. We are all in good shape. I recognize that there are plenty of out of shape truckers, but 86% is simply overstating the problem.

  • Great article! Being a driver myself I know how easy it is to slip onto the highway to obesity. I found myself pushing the 300 lb mark and had a spare tire forming at my belt line. Fortunately just before breaking that massive mark, i was introduced to Herbalife meal replacement that gave me the nutrition I needed, satisfied my hunger, and could be quickly made even while sitting at a traffic light. In a matter of six weeks I went from 48′ waist to 40 and shed almost 50 lbs. The greatest benefit was that my need for sleep to replace nutrition was gone. I no longer had that 10th hour “wall” to get over. This has been great for me and i would recommend it to any other driver. I enjoyed the benefits so much that my wife and I signed up as distributors.

  • It sure is tough being a trucker, and staying in shape. Here’s my situation:
    I drive out up to 3-5 days at at time. I slip seat between trucks and so don’t have my own fridge, microwave, toaster etc, and I cross the border. You have to be careful about what you take across the USA line, and therefore makes it difficult to pack food. That means I end up buying my food at a truckstop, not always the best choice,
    So how are we supossed to keep ourselves healthy on the road in these circumstances.?
    I am open to suggestions