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Push For Healthier Truckers Gains Momentum

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That’s something truck stop chains have been trying to change.

TravelCenters of America, which operates under the TA and Petro Stopping Centers brands, launched a program two years ago called StayFit that includes placing small, free gyms in truck stops, offering healthier eating options and half portions, mapping walking routes near truck stops and building basketball courts in some locations.

“We wanted to remove as many barriers to drivers’ health as possible,” said TravelCenters spokesman Tom Liutkus, who said the company has gyms at 42 of its more than 240 locations, with plans to outfit them all by the end of next year. He added that the gyms have been accessed more than 30,000 times.

Gym franchiser Snap Fitness has partnered with Rolling Strong, which provides wellness programs aimed at truckers, to open gyms at Pilot Flying J locations. The first one opened south of Dallas in June: A nearly 1,000-square-foot stand-alone building filled with weights and a dozen or so machines. So far, more than 120 memberships have been sold for that gym.

“We know that we have an audience out there that needs help,” said Snap Fitness chief executive officer and founder Peter Taunton. By the end of the year, they also plan to install gyms inside Pilot Flying J truck stops in Georgia and Tennessee.

A monthly membership of about $30 also gives truckers access to Snap Fitness’ more than 1,300 gyms, Taunton said, 60 of which have tractor trailer-friendly parking.

Pilot Flying J plans to add a function to their smartphone app to help truckers identify healthy food choices at their locations and fast food restaurants. David Parmly, the company’s employee services manager, says their truck stops have adjusted recipes to make them healthier and offer oatmeal for breakfast.

Bob Perry, president of Rolling Strong, said truckers flock to daylong wellness screenings that his company sets up at truck stops nationwide.

“We never have to recruit anyone over. We are packed from the time we open till the time we leave,” Perry said.

Robinson, the U.S. Xpress driver trying to lose weight, said that before joining the weight-loss program, he spent his evenings on the road watching television, checking Facebook and talking on the phone.

“At first I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to exercise.’ At the end of the day, I don’t want to walk. It’s all about planning,” he said. “I just had the willpower to do it.”

Bruce Moss, vice president of human relations for Con-way Freight, said they’ve found that their wellness program reduces the number of people who call in sick, lowers workplace injuries and controls health care costs. The program gives truckers access to wellness coaches and has them stretch before starting a shift.

Last year, more than 11,500 of Con-way Freight’s 21,000 employees, the majority of them drivers, consulted with wellness coaches.

Eleven carriers participated in the Truckload Carriers Association’s inaugural Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown this spring, with each carrier signing up 12 employees – half drivers, half office staff. A second showdown, which, like the first, offers the individual winner $2,500, is happening this fall.

Besides taking part in association’s spring weight-loss challenge, U.S. Xpress has a points system that rewards healthy behaviors with cash. They also hold health fairs and have placed blood pressure machines in their main terminals.

“All you can do is put the options out there, educate your people and show them the benefit of what happens if you take these steps,” U.S. Xpress spokesman Greg Thompson said.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Nov 1st, 2012 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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