Ending a stereotype

April 1, 2012

Usually, I start this column by relating to a specific date or recent news item that seems to affect the industry, but this month, I can’t seem to cite a timeframe or event that makes this issue continue to gain momentum. Perhaps, it is the recent final rule on hours of service, the continued examination of driver medical regulations, or even the Truckload Carrier Assn.’s (TCA) very own Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown; but driver health and wellness is an issue that never seems to go away and continues to gain momentum.

America’s truck drivers have long been stereotyped as unhealthy and overweight, living a lifestyle that suggests they are unwilling or unable to do anything to change it. As I mentioned earlier, however, TCA’s Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown certainly disproves that stereotype. Working toward a healthier living lifestyle, these truckers have strived to achieve an improved diet and fitter way of living, even when driving across the country, regardless of what their driving hours are.

Eleven TCA-member carriers took part in this challenge by competing to determine who could achieve the greatest percentage of weight loss in just 10 weeks. In addition to losing weight, the competitors experienced the benefits of lower blood pressure, less fatigue, and perhaps even reduced pain in the hips, back and knees. The participants have also reduced their risk levels for strokes, heart disease, and even sleep apnea. The latter condition is of particular importance as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently in the midst of developing standards and regulations for obstructive sleep apnea that could possibly have the facility suspend and/or terminate a driver’s CDL.

The goal of the truckers in Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown was to achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle without the pressure of rules and regulations. They committed to the program so that they could see hard and fast results. Much like the NBC hit television show, The Biggest Loser, the desire to live a better life trumps all, not a regulation that may or may not promise to improve on driver’s health (insert witty hours of service remark here). In other words, a mandate does very little to create the desire or challenge needed to lose weight. Even people living normal lifestyles have a hard time losing weight, so this goes to show the challenges truckers face in this endeavor.

Long workdays and weeks away from home are the nature of the beast when it comes to being a professional truck driver. And because of this lifestyle, truck drivers must possess an even stronger drive to lose weight and continual dedication to a program that effectively keeps the weight off. In a climate where mandates and regulations are mistakenly believed to be the solution to every problem, TCA and its competing members have discovered through Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown that the combination of an effective health and wellness program teamed with a driver’s genuine desire to lose weight is a much more prudent approach and realistic solution to improving the health and wellness of truck drivers.

David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].

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