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Truck stop visit illustrates how hard it is for truckers to maintain healthy lifestyle

If you specialize in truck wreck litigation so you can do research at truck stops, you might be a redneck lawyer.

On a long car trip a couple of days ago, I stopped for caffeine at a truck stop that is part of one of the big national truck stop chains. Walking around the store area, I reconfirmed something I wrote recently about how hard it is for long-haul truck drivers to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine.

About 98% of the food and beverage items in that truck stop were high in fat, salt and calories. Adjoining the truck stop was a fast food outlet with virtually no items that you would eat if you were trying to maintain healthy weight. There were some in-cab cooking appliances that a driver could use to prepare food he brought from home, but nothing that would constitute a healthy meal. However, it is unusual to find a supermarket where fresh produce could be purchased with parking spaces for big rigs.

While truck stops often have showers and video games, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with any exercise facilities. If a trucker wants to run on his off duty hours, consider that most truck stops are located on busy highways by freeway exits, hardly conducive environments for safe running.

A trucker who was a former professional hockey player once told me what an ordeal it is for him to find decent food and a place to exercise. For anyone less motivated than a former pro athlete, the strong tendency is to become increasingly obese and unhealthy while driving over the road. At the truck stop I visited this week, that was grossly obvious as about 90% of the truck drivers I saw were very significantly overweight. They looked like prime candidates for obstructive sleep apnea.

It would be refreshing to see one of the truck stop chains start marketing to truckers on the basis of healthy food options and availability of gym facilities along with showers.

Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale), and is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy,. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education programs for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.

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5 responses to “Truck stop visit illustrates how hard it is for truckers to maintain healthy lifestyle”

  1. SHABBIR KISAT says:

    I LIKE TO HAVE GYM AT MY LOCATION,NORMALY THEY SIT AND WATCH TV

  2. Paul Carpenter says:

    Refreshing and interesting indeed! It’s going to take some time and reeducation. Ironically, while OTR I found 30 – 60 minutes of exercise easier to accomplish than now – home daily. My work days were generally shorter, and for the most part, my drive / sleep schedule was self determined. But wow – it would have been great to have had a gym to pump some iron in, in every – or even most – truck stop. Now I work anywhere between 10 and 14 hours to make the same earnings. On the 14 hour days, this means I get home with roughly 9 hours to sleep, shower, prepare for the next work day, let alone fit in 30-60 minutes of good hard work in or out of the gym. It is great on the 10 / 11 hour days when I get home, decompress, get tomorrow’s items in order and wake up early to get a good sweat working before work…on other days however I am too beat or mentally fatigued to do much else than go to bed. On the topic of diet, it is far easier for me to save money and eat healthier doing the daily work. When I don’t take lunch, I do my best to find a healthy alternative. That’s become easier, but for whatever reason the price of healthy alternatives is insane! Five dollars for what one might call a side salad…a few ounces of nuts or healthier trail mix for four or five dollars. Between a small salad for lunch and some nuts to munch on through the day – you’ve just spent 10 bucks on one meal! Compare that to the value options offered at the fast food joints & we’re looking at 3 meals for the price of one! Not to mention the snacks – $2 for 3 times the weight of pretzels or chips for one third the cost of nuts or trail mix! I mean this stuff in the truck stops is already overpriced…and when you see the price variances between healthy alternatives – it can be staggering. More work needs to be done to bring healthy alternatives & lifestyles of the trucker to the forefront of the industry. As with most things – the onus has shifted to the driver to figure out when, how & how much it’s going to cost. My current company wants me available one hour prior to the start of my shift – I’ve moved my shift back so I can get to the gym, in order to get some activity into my workday. Before I did this, my quit times were too unpredictable to guarantee my getting into the gym after work. This worked out great for roughly 2 months…within the last couple months my employer has begun setting me up with appointments that require I start one hour prior to my shift – when I am scheduled to be in the gym. So, I have been taking the disciplinary actions against my work record, and lost detention wages (detention is unpaid if you are late due to a “late” start) in order to maintain balance between work and a healthy lifestyle…unfair…but not too many other options. Beyond that, it has taken some of the joy out of going to the gym, it’s no longer “me” time, as I find myself staring at the clock stressing over not being at work…setting myself up for a stress filled ride to work wondering if the stress will be alleviated or elevated based on my employer’s plans for me. Sometimes I can numb myself to the stress, other times it does get past my “numbing filters”, but I do always deal with it in a professional manner remembering the motto from the safety training in my early days in the industry “nothing we do is worth getting hurt or hurting others”. How true…how true!

  3. Paul Carpenter says:

    Refreshing and interesting indeed! It’s going to take some time and reeducation. Ironically, while OTR I found 30 – 60 minutes of exercise easier to accomplish than now – home daily. My work days were generally shorter, and for the most part, my drive / sleep schedule was self determined. But wow – it would have been great to have had a gym to pump some iron in, in every – or even most – truck stop. Now I work anywhere between 10 and 14 hours to make the same earnings. On the 14 hour days, this means I get home with roughly 9 hours to sleep, shower, prepare for the next work day, let alone fit in 30-60 minutes of good hard work in or out of the gym. It is great on the 10 / 11 hour days when I get home, decompress, get tomorrow’s items in order and wake up early to get a good sweat working before work…on other days however I am too beat or mentally fatigued to do much else than go to bed. On the topic of diet, it is far easier for me to save money and eat healthier doing the daily work. When I don’t take lunch, I do my best to find a healthy alternative. That’s become easier, but for whatever reason the price of healthy alternatives is insane! Five dollars for what one might call a side salad…a few ounces of nuts or healthier trail mix for four or five dollars. Between a small salad for lunch and some nuts to munch on through the day – you’ve just spent 10 bucks on one meal! Compare that to the value options offered at the fast food joints & we’re looking at 3 meals for the price of one! Not to mention the snacks – $2 for 3 times the weight of pretzels or chips for one third the cost of nuts or trail mix! I mean this stuff in the truck stops is already overpriced…and when you see the price variances between healthy alternatives – it can be staggering. More work needs to be done to bring healthy alternatives & lifestyles of the trucker to the forefront of the industry. As with most things – the onus has shifted to the driver to figure out when, how & how much it’s going to cost. My current company wants me available one hour prior to the start of my shift – I’ve moved my shift back so I can get to the gym, in order to get some activity into my workday. Before I did this, my quit times were too unpredictable to guarantee my getting into the gym after work. This worked out great for roughly 2 months…within the last couple months my employer has begun setting me up with appointments that require I start one hour prior to my shift – when I am scheduled to be in the gym. So, I have been taking the disciplinary actions against my work record, and lost detention wages (detention is unpaid if you are late due to a “late” start) in order to maintain balance between work and a healthy lifestyle…unfair…but not too many other options. Beyond that, it has taken some of the joy out of going to the gym, it’s no longer “me” time, as I find myself staring at the clock stressing over not being at work…setting myself up for a stress filled ride to work wondering if the stress will be alleviated or elevated based on my employer’s plans for me. Sometimes I can numb myself to the stress, other times it does get past my “numbing filters”, but I do always deal with it in a professional manner remembering the motto from the safety training in my early days in the industry “nothing we do is worth getting hurt or hurting others”. How true…how true!

  4. streaming says:

    Great ! I hope you will not stop posting new articles. I read all your posts.

  5. This is a refreshing, really interesting blog post. Just because truckers are stereotypically low-maintenance, does not mean they shouldn’t be entitled to all of the healthy food options the rest of the country expects. On a related note, there is a connection between obesity and sleep apnea – a condition that contributes to drowsiness behind the wheel. Here’s our blog post on the subject:http://www.michiganautolaw.com/auto-lawyers-blog/2008/05/07/michigan-truck-accident-lawyer-tip-connection-between-obesity-sleep-apnea/. The personal injury lawyers of Michigan Auto Law also look out for the interests of truckers, especially the ones who are hurt in auto accidents.