When David Copeland left his job as a trainer in a boxing gym to restart his truck driving career, he was missing a vital part of his exercising life: his working bench. He also was faced with the sad truth that driving is an unhealthy lifestyle unless you take action. He did.
"I took my bench, reconstructed it, cut it in half so it still does the same exercises as the big bench. I take it wherever I go. Whether I’m at a shipper, receiver, my 30-minute break or when I’m down for the night and doing a reset, I bring my machine out of the truck and work out."
The 58-year old Phoenix-based Copeland has been driving on and off for 17 years but constantly for the last five, and the sight of him working out on the pavement attracts attention. "Drivers see me doing my workout and want to buy one so we started making them and I carry a few around with me." The patented bench costs $179.99 online, but he offers it to drivers for about $150 when he's on the road. "It's not always about the money. When somebody comes by, I say, 'hey, let's work out together.'"
He has sold about 300 units of the Absolute Abs Plus Fitness Bench made especially to fit inside trucks.
"That whole machine only weighs 25 pounds. The middle bar comes out, and you can store it easily, put it straight behind your passenger seat. You can even store it under your bunk. Some guys showed me pictures where they made racks on top of their roof and they store it there. When they’re ready to work out, they unhook it from the inside on their ceiling; it's so easy. I wanted to make it as simple as possible for drivers. Once I get the proper funding, I’m going to make it even simpler, because I already have a hinge I’ll put on there. It will fold up, and you can carry it like a chair. You can do 40 different exercises."
Copeland relies on word of mouth, truck events and social media to introduce others to the workout machine. He does a lot of Facebook Live videos at truck shows and one driver who saw his video later caught up with him at a TA in Joplin. "He knocked on my door at 3 a.m. He said, 'brother, I’m sorry to wake you up, I can’t be here in the morning, but I need to buy a bench.' I worked out with him. Another driver saw me and said 'I can’t leave the yard, but can you please come to Springfield and bring me a bench. I’ve been following you over a year and I need one of those benches. I went down there and sold him a bench."
Another time he had finished a roadside inspection by the California Highway Patrol when he told them it was time for him to do an inspection on them. "He looked at me like 'what'd you say?' I guess I came on a little aggressive. I pulled out my fitness machine and started working out right there in the bay. The inspector said 'let me try that.' I start filming him. He called another inspector and he started working out. They called their supervisor, and he tried it. 'We need one,' he said. I was going to charge them at first, but decided not to. I made them one with the CHP logo on it. I'm taking it up to them."
Thirty-eight-year-old OTR Driver David Perkins met Copeland at a Colorado truck stop about a month ago and the full-body workout aspect of the machine appealed to him. Copeland showed him how to use the machine. He bought one and has already lost 20 pounds. "I use it every day. I love everything about it."
Another driver named Kevin uses his machine three days a week, and the 56-year sees results. "Some days I would be sluggish when I got up. Now my breathing is a lot better and I’m doing the leg exercises. Drivers sit too long and when we get up our legs get real stiff, so it’s been helping me a lot. I sleep better too… David's commitment to helping people change is the most positive thing I’ve heard in anybody, especially out in this field. He's constantly driving others to look at their health."
Says Copeland: "It’s really important that we get the message about health and exercise out to drivers even if they don't buy a bench. The most important thing is to stay healthy on the road -- period. You want to get home to your wife, want to see your kids graduate, want to see your grandkids. They love you and you love them, so you have to start doing the correct things out here on this road as far as eating habits, exercising, staying healthy to be able to make it home."
He once asked operators at truck stops how many drivers have died in their trucks during the past year. "One operator told him five had passed away. Heart attack, stroke. This is something that a lot of us drivers don’t know. The only thing we’re doing is hustling and bustling, going up and down the road. 'I got to get the next load, I got to get here, I got to get there. Oh, my dispatch called me, I can’t stop.' No, no, no. You're driving maybe a 70,000-dollar truck, but your body is worth more than that."
One of my biggest pet peeves is a driver getting fuel, running in getting something to eat and sitting behind the wheel eating. You’re killing yourself. How can you digest your food correctly? You can't. A lot of guys are on Rolaids, Tums whatever, because their stomach hurts. Well, your stomach hurts because it’s knotted up all the time and you keep stuffing it with food, so when you do have a bowel movement, everything doesn’t even come out anyway. You’re putting yourself at a high-risk area for colon cancer. You’re just opening doors for so many things, if you’re not being conscious of what you’re doing."