The physical fitness and overall health of the aging truck driver population in the U.S. is becoming a concern among industry experts, especially as fitness relates to job performance.

“Certainly, the more physically fit and healthy drivers are, the more alert and less fatigued they are,” Rebecca Brewster, president & CEO of American Transportation Research Institute in Smyrna, GA, told Fleet Owner. “Being physically fit also makes them less susceptible to injury as an increased fitness level gives them more body strength and flexibility – critical aspects when loading and unloading trailers, for example.”

Yet the overall prognosis for truck drivers isn’t good— she said that according to recent research, 55% are overweight and more than 50% smoke, compared to a national overall average of 20.9% and 25%, respectively.

“Clearly, [drivers] have the final responsibility to eat right and exercise,” Brewster said. “But the stress out on the road, the lack of time to exercise, all contribute to the issue. My personal belief is that we as an industry must do what it takes to support ways to make drivers more fit and healthy -- because the bottom line impact for carriers cannot be ignored.”

She said simple things such as providing healthy snack foods for drivers, providing gyms, even tying bonuses to driver fitness levels can pay off for carriers in terms of reduced workers comp costs and days lost to injuries.

“Trucking really needs to take a hard look at itself – it’s high time to examine this issue of health and wellness in trucking because of the obvious benefits they can have for both carriers and drivers alike,” she says.