Shift into shape

Americans’ love for super-sizing our fries (and consequently our thighs) is taking its toll: 300,000 people die each year from obesity-related causes such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Not surprising considering more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese and less than one-third get the recommended 30 to 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

The news may be even worse for truck drivers. You are twice as likely as non-truckers to be overweight, a fact that keeps truck and seat makers scrambling for more “belly room” to accommodate ever-expanding waistlines. Seventy-five percent of driver deaths are attributed to weight-related high blood pressure and heart disease.

And while most Americans need to get healthy to live longer, more productive lives, truck drivers have an added incentive: Failure to get fit could cost you your business.

More stringent rules on blood pressure levels already have forced some drivers to give up their licenses – at least until they can get their health under control. Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is working to establish a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, a move certain to make it even more difficult for some drivers to pass their Department of Transportation physicals.

Such a change is needed because the current examinations don’t adequately assess a driver’s fitness for the road, FMCSA said. The system is so lax that FMCSA has seen cases of drivers with disqualifying medical conditions operating commercial motor vehicles. But once the registry’s in place, “it should be a more exhaustive physical,” Rose McMurray, FMCSA acting chief safety officer, told attendees at the Commercial Carrier Journal Symposium in Scottsdale, Ariz., last month.

FMCSA also has established a Medical Review Board tasked with reviewing and updating all physical qualification standards and developing new ones as needed. And the agency has asked for comment on a proposal to require drivers to show evidence of medical qualification requirements when applying for or renewing their CDL.

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Not in the best of shape? Don’t worry. The wheels of government turn slowly; it could be some time before these initiatives become law. But don’t dawdle. It takes time to undo years of unhealthy living, so you’d better start now. Your life – and your livelihood – could depend on it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out the January issue of Truckers News for the launch of its Fit for the Road program, which follows five truckers as they strive to lose weight and get healthy.