Shift in Eating Habits, Exercise and Attitude Pays Off for Overweight Driver
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SAN DIEGO — Mesilla Valley Transportation driver William Velazquez knew he wanted to make a change when he found himself tiring easily while playing with his children. His life as a truck driver keeps him sedentary for long periods of time, so he knew getting healthier would be a challenge. But his company offered a program to help.
After following a regimen of healthy food choices and exercise, Velazquez lost 60 pounds.
Velazquez shared his story during an Oct. 23 education session at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition titled, “How Your Driver’s Health Is Affecting Your Bottom Line.”
“Change does come, but it has to be gradually. And you have to have some kind of discipline and realize you need to get that help,” he said.
“A culture of wellness makes for a more productive, safer workforce,” added Jackie Jones, Mesilla Valley’s chief marketing officer. “We’ve seen it, but we also know it doesn’t happen overnight. Whatever you do, make sure that it is optional, friendly and fun. If you don’t, that’s the quickest way to turn off a driver.”
Jones noted that the carrier incorporates an app-based program from Rolling Strong, which she said has helped drivers like Velazquez reach their health and wellness goals. The Rolling Strong mobile app helps fleet drivers monitor their fitness and wellness goals with the use of trainers and wellness education.
Velazquez stressed that a shift in attitude must also take place for drivers who want to make positive lifestyle changes. “My health comes first, and you start to change by discipline and creativity,” he said. “I buy food and cook it in the truck, [and] brought weights in and planned (my workouts).”
Rolling Strong president Steve Kane said the driver lifestyle makes change a challenge. “Sitting in a truck for that long presents an incredible uphill battle,” he said. “This is a wellness challenge.” He also stressed that management buy-in is crucial for fleets that want a healthier driver workforce.
Panelists (from left) Steve Kane, Jackie Jones and William Velazquez discuss driver health and wellness best practices. (Anneliese Mahoney/Transport Topics)
“It comes down to leadership,” he said. “[Fleets] may be experts on moving freight, but not health and wellness. This may be a bold statement, but doing nothing is not going to fix (this issue).”
Kane added, “Wellness has become a very watered-down word. A lot of us just think ‘I’m going to download an app now,’ and have (wellness).”
Jones maintained that fleet leaders must be personally involved and proactive in encouraging drivers to participate in a wellness regimen. Out of the nearly 2,500 employees of Mesilla Valley, 322 have participated in the fleet’s wellness program — nearly 13% of the staff.
“You have to show that you care,” she said. “It starts with the vending machines, providing healthy options. It is a top-down approach. You have to lead (with wellness) and for others to follow.”
In a fitness journal he maintains, Velazquez tracks his effort. For instance, he likes to ride a bike or cardio train at truck stops. He also has another favorite activity.
“I have a trampoline,” he said, eliciting chuckles from the crowd. “At first I was embarrassed when people saw me then I realized it’s not about them, it’s really about me and wanting to change.”
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