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Owner-operators become a driving force for change in the trucking industry
Any driver who thinks they don’t have the power or connections to make changes in the industry should know about the Trucking Solutions Group (TSG). It began when a few owner-operators decided to trade ideas for improving business and discuss problems they were encountering on the job. They scheduled weekly conference calls that proved helpful. Then they took another step and contacted key people in various areas of the trucking industry. Soon their concerns were being heard by people who could take action to help. Today the group of working drivers is often consulted by industry leaders to get the trucker’s point of view. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro has even been a guest on some of their calls.
Road King spoke to Linda Caffee, one of the founders of TSG and former chairperson of its Driver Health Council.
Q How did the Driver Health Council get its start?
A A few of us in the Trucking Solutions Group were making a concentrated effort to walk regularly, exercise and eat better, and we ran into problems doing that when we were on the road. We knew that we were not the only drivers struggling with the issue. So we formed a subsidiary group under TSG to talk specifically about health issues.
Q What does the Driver Health Council do?
A We share information with drivers through our website and our Facebook page, giving them tips for exercising on the road and eating healthy. We also organize Health Walks for drivers at truck shows. That started because we were starting to walk ourselves, and my daughter said, “Why not get other drivers to walk with you?” We partner with TA and Petro for the Health Walks and they’ve become a good way to show drivers how quick and easy it is to walk a mile and a half.
We’ve also started to organize blood drives at the truck shows. Very few drivers know their blood type and most are not home often enough or long enough to donate blood.
The ultimate goal is to improve our health and spread what we learn in the process to other drivers. We have a weekly call so that each of us stays on track and keeps informed. The group is made up of people who approach staying healthy in different ways. Rick Ash lost about 60 pounds through diet and exercise. Scott Grenerth, current chairman of the Council, is a vegan. Jeff Clark, another member, runs marathons. When we are invited to talk about health on radio shows, we share our experiences and what we’ve learned through them.
Q What do you count as some of your victories?
A Whenever we are contacted by a driver who tells us that they are walking and trying new ways to improve their health, that is a victory. At the OOIDA truck show a few months ago, we had more than 100 people walk with us and I think it is becoming more accepted among drivers to get out and move. I like to think that we had something to do with TA and Petro mapping out walking trails for drivers because we did initiate conversations with executives there about the need to have a safe place for drivers to walk that is not in the path of all the trucks.
Q Why is there so much more interest in driver health these days?
A Things have changed. Drivers are looking at the new FMCSA regulations, knowing that, as these rules go into effect, there’s a possibility that being unhealthy will mean losing their CDL. They’ll lose their way of making a living if they don’t do something to improve their health.
There is also more awareness of what we do to our health by just sitting behind the wheel all day long. We need to take care of ourselves because this job is hard on our bodies.
Q What are the other benefits that truckers who lose weight and exercise will see?
A That’s a big one. You don’t get sick as easily — and drivers are exposed to whatever cold or flu is going around, all the time. You have more energy when you aren’t carrying around extra weight. You are more alert while driving when you eat right and include some physical activity into your day. You are not exhausted at the end of your shift. There’s a huge benefit in just feeling good.