Utah researchers to study health-safety link in long-haul trucking


Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Jose Gomez doesn't quite fit the stereotype of a long haul trucker. He stores a bicycle on the back of his cab, rides it when he stops for a break, and usually passes by the traditional truck stops.

"I don't stop at truck stops to eat there," the C.R. England Global Transportation driver said. "I actually go to a grocery store, buy my groceries and make sandwiches, salads or other healthy stuff. I want something that won't put on weight."

Gomez is a new breed of trucker, the type researchers at the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health hope to encourage if data from their study proves a sedentary lifestyle — so common among most truckers — may compromise health enough to trigger highway accidents.

In data collected so far, researcher Dr. Matt Thiese says "over half of the people in our study are technically obese, and another quarter of those are in the overweight category."

C.R. England Global Transportation driver Jose 
Gomez stores a bicycle on the back of his cab 
and rides it when he stops for a break.
C.R. England Global Transportation driver Jose Gomez stores a bicycle on the back of his cab and rides it when he stops for a break.

The stats show long haul truckers generally have a higher body mass index (BMI). There's more diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure among the group, and drivers tend to be older by several years.

Unlike Gomez, who is still in the minority, the stereotype lingers.

"For 40 years, truckers pull into a truck stop. It's their greasy spoon. They get out and eat, get back in their truck, go to bed, then do it all over again the next day," Thiese said.

The University of Utah team will analyze more than 100,000 drivers. Researchers will go back 10 years, and then compare their findings with both fatal and non-fatal truck accidents — statistics that are routinely collected by the federal government.

Drivers will also be divided into two groups: One group will make no changes in lifestyle while the other will carry refrigerators and safe stoves in their cabs. Each trucker will be choosing healthier food options with the goal of losing 10 pounds over a six month period.

Even though the study is three years from completion, C.R. England isn't about to wait. In fact, the company is already out to change the 40-year-old stereotype by literally housing a little city within its walls, designed to encourage a healthier new breed of drivers.


The healthier our drivers are, the better they're going to rest, the better they're going to drive, and the more apt they are to stay with us a long time.

–Thom Pronk, C.R. England recruiting


Some truckers are already making the change. Avoiding snacks and keeping a refrigerator in the cab are part of a new recipe for survival. One trucker, identifying himself only as Sean, said, "I'm not a health nut. If it doesn't taste good, it ain't going into my mouth. But I do watch what I eat. I'm not just going to go fast food after fast food. It's just not healthy."

In its little city, C.R. England has a fitness room, a medical clinic and a sleep diagnosis center now to identify common sleep disorders. In fact, for drivers with sleep apnea there's even a CPAP machine inside the cab to make sure they get a good eight hours sleep.

Thom Pronk, who heads up C.R. England's recruiting, training and safety program, says, "The healthier our drivers are, the better they're going to rest, the better they're going to drive, and the more apt they are to stay with us a long time. And for us, that's what it's all about: having safe drivers who want to be here for the long haul."

Pronk says a healthier lifestyle simply has to play out now on the big rigs and the people who drive them.

Email: eyeates@ksl.com

Related links

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

UtahBusiness
Ed Yeates

    STAY IN THE KNOW

    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast