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Helping the Trucking Industry Win the Battle of the Bulge

Learn how The Trucking Fitness Company is on a mission to make the trucking industry a healthier place. 

Episode 159: The trucking industry is the backbone of society. To keep the industry healthy and strong, the people who work in the industry must be healthy and strong. But let’s be honest, maintaining a healthy diet and a regular fitness routine is not easy and we are going to introduce you to someone who is challenging the status quo in the trucking industry.

My guest today is Dr. Mark Manera the Founder and CEO of The Trucking Fitness Company.  

Dr. Mark Manera headshot, and The Trucking Fitness Company logo. In this episode, learn how The Trucking Fitness Company is on a mission to make the trucking industry a healthier place.

Dr. Mark is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and he is on a mission to make the trucking industry a healthier place.  

Guest Website: TruckinFit.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

You’ve all heard me say this many times before the trucking industry is the backbone of society to keep the industry healthy and strong. The individuals who work in that industry must be healthy and strong as well, but let’s be honest, maintaining your health and having regular fitness and a good nutritious diet is a uphill battle. For many of us, it’s not so easy. Especially for drivers, salespeople on the road, even parts technicians and repair technicians, it can be a struggle. So today we’re gonna challenge the status quo in the trucking industry. When we talk about health and fitness, my guest today is Dr. Mark Manera, the founder and CEO of the Trucking Fitness. Company. Dr. Mark is a doctor of physical therapy and he’s on a mission to make the trucking industry a healthier place. So I’m so happy to have him on the show. Dr. Mark, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. Thank you for being on the show.

Dr. Mark Manera:

Jamie, thank you so much for having me on. I’m excited to have this conversation and to be invited on the show.

Jamie Irvine:

So normally we have a heavy focus on heavy-duty parts and maintaining fleets and keeping their operation costs low and their trucks and trailers on the road. You know, uptime is a big part of our conversation, but what about maintaining uptime for the individuals and the people who work in the industry? That’s what we’re here to talk about today. We’re gonna challenge the status quo, and I gotta be honest, I’m kind of excited about this conversation more for myself than for anyone else. So this all applies to me first and then anybody else who feels they need that information, that’s okay. So let’s just talk about the status quo, the trucking industry, when we talk about physical fitness and nutrition.

Dr. Mark Manera:

Yeah. I’m mean, I think, you know, you kind of hit the nail right on the head there with the conversation about maintenance and, you know, making sure everything is up to the status quo and up to the highest regulation is awesome when it comes to trucks, but when it comes to the person behind the wheel, it kind of gets swept under the rug. And it’s easier to say you know, that person can deal with their own health on their own. It doesn’t really have to do with, you know, my company, the freight that I’m moving. But you know, the truth is it does, it has a lot of costs from a, you know, employee satisfaction standpoint from how quickly and how efficiently your freight’s being moved to just, you know, from a work comp and injury standpoint and the liability your company has for the people that it employs.

There’s a lot of things that, you know, unfortunately the trucking industry and transportation has kind of just put on the back burner. And I think it’s kind of cared about maybe a couple times a year when, you know, it’s the beginning of the year, everyone thinks about their health, but the other, you know, 11 months, it’s kind of like, eh, well, it’s this huge issue and we can get into the statistics, but it’s really an industrywide problem. And so I think, you know, my goal, and I can tell you the story of how I got into this. But my goal with all of this is to make the trucking industry a healthier place, really own the category of drivers health, because no one has stepped up for these drivers and, you know, they’re literally dying because of it. And, you know, I’m just really on a mission to help drivers, exercise, eat healthier and, you know, consistently do that throughout their whole career.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, you know, in our show, when we’re talking about maintenance and repairs on a vehicle, we always talk about the economic impact of the decisions that we make. So you reference the ultimate impact of ignoring your health, death, but there’s a lot between where we are today and death, that still has a big cost to us personally, when we ignore our health. So what’s at stake for an individual if they ignore their health beyond before death.

Dr. Mark Manera:

Yeah. Well, you know, I think to start that conversation, I like to put some numbers to it. So, you know, right now in north America, in Canada, I know you’re up in Canada, but Canada in the United States, there’s around 4 million people who wake up every day and drive a truck for a living, right. 85% of them are overweight. One in every seven has type two diabetes. And the real kicker and the one we just talked about is as a group, truck drivers have a life expectancy 16 years less than the average population. So take a second for, you know and think about that because, you know, drivers on their own, just having trucking and driving a truck for a career, make so many sacrifices. And then by the time trucking’s over and they actually want to enjoy way their life, they’ve got all of these different diseases and health crisis that they’re dealing with.

And then on top of that, you know, on the top end, they get kicked down 16 years off their life. And it’s like, well, no wonder we’re having a tough time bringing people into this industry because I see those statistics. I see the life style a lot of these drivers are forced to live, I don’t want to be a truck driver either. And so what we’re trying to do is, you know, I think improving the quality of driver’s health really helps, you know, improve the quality of life drivers live, but also is a piece to the pie, to the driver’s shortage and just improving the image of who a truck driver is. So I didn’t answer your question at all, but I’m very passionate about this and I don’t think I don’t obviously, you know, I think the driver shortage is this huge problem. There’s so many pieces to the pie, and I don’t think solving the health of drivers is gonna solve the whole issue, but I think it’s a part of it. And I think it’s a critical part of it.

Jamie Irvine:

You did in part answer my question, because I mean, I just did the quick math, if one in seven of the 4 million drivers have type two diabetes, that’s 571,000 people. And I think about the people who support the trucking industry, like the repair technicians and the parts technicians and the sales people who are out on the road, you know, it’s tough. It is tough working in a shop or behind that counter or on the road in a vehicle supporting the trucking industry. And then you have all the drivers themselves. It is tough to have a regular exercise routine and watch what you eat. It’s so easy to just stop in at a drive through and pick something up when you’re pressed for time. And all of those different careers I just mentioned are very challenging and they put a lot of stress on the people who are in those careers. So let’s talk a little bit about the fundamentals and the basics here. Why is regular physical exercise so important? Just give us the overview. I think we all know, but it’s good to hear it again.

Dr. Mark Manera:

Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s a ton of long-term and short-term benefits. From a long-term standpoint, it is probably the number one way to decrease your likelihood of any early death, but also a bunch of disease states from some cancers from diabetes, osteoarthritis name it. And I guarantee exercise has a part in, I guess lack of exercise has a part of why potentially someone is suffering from that. But short-term, you know, everyone’s talking about mental health and from an decreasing anxiety, you know, increasing energy level, just feeling better and feeling more confident in your health. Those are just some of the, and helping you sleep a little bit better. Those are some of the short-term benefits of exercise. I think just from looking at people in transportation and people, you know, working more of the, maybe some shift work, working as a driver, working as a diesel technician, like you just said, I think too many people look at living a healthy life as a all or nothing type of situation.

And I look at it as a spectrum, right? And on one end of the, you’ve got the most unhealthy person in the world who does nothing, doesn’t even move off the couch, eats Papa Johns every single meal. And, you know, just is very unhealthy. And then on the other side of the, uh, you know, spectrum, you’ve got Arnold Schwartzenegger who is getting ready for the next body building show. And there is this huge array of area where most people probably fit somewhere in here and they think they have to make this jump all the way to Arnold Schwarzenegger level. But if you just made a little couple changes to your day to day routine and made your every day, 10% healthier, the impact that that could have, and, you know, the difficulty level of doing 10% healthier, just increasing just a little bit, doesn’t really change your life very much but the effects can be huge.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. Let’s talk about that for a minute. So, you know, I was thinking of Arnold actually, or the rock or someone like that. I mean, these guys are training six hours a day plus, and they’ve got people helping them with their diet. I mean, they are all in and nobody in the regular world who that doesn’t make that their full-time job can swing that. So how big of a difference can it make on your health? If you just put aside, let’s say 20 minutes a day of vigorous exercise?

Dr. Mark Manera:

Well, I’ll tell you for firsthand from someone. I just had a conversation with this guy named David he’s in our program and he’s a driver and flatbed driver, and, you know, he’s made some small changes to his diet. He started doing some exercise here and there a couple times a day, and we’re not talking 20 minutes. We’re just talking a couple of exercises throughout the day, and he’s lost a ton of weight and he’s, I think, 52 years old. And he says, he feels like he’s 30. And you know, he feels 20 years younger. And just the effect of, you know, he’s lost 40 pounds or something in that ballpark, which is huge. But imagine just every day, being able to take that 40 pound weight vest off and move. I mean, that is the effect that if someone is overweight and you’re able to lose some weight, I mean, it’s, it’s pretty clear when you think about that, you know, example of, yeah, it’s gonna feel really good.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back having issues with your commercial equipment? You need ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council also known as TMC. TMC develops recommended practices, addressing the most pressing technology and maintenance issues affecting commercial vehicle fleets. You can join TMC for just pennies a day. And when you do, you’ll get access to thousands of pages of technical information, and you can attend events like the upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting and Exhibition March 7th through 10th in Orlando, Florida. For more information, check out TMC at TMCtrucking.org. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the status quo in the trucking industry, how difficult it is to have a good, healthy focus on, making sure we’re getting enough exercise and eating right. And we were talking about the impact of exercise on our physical health. Now we’re gonna shift gears and I wanted to talk a little bit Dr. Mark, about what mistakes people are making when they make decisions about what they eat. Because you know, as hard as you exercise, you can out-eat, you know, a bad diet can cancel out a good exercise routine pretty quickly. So what common mistakes are we making? And what can we do to change?

Dr. Mark Manera:

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s very similar to the all or nothing mentality that a lot of people have, you know, unfortunately there’s just a lot of like fad diets that get pushed to of people and it makes people say, okay, I have to either be all in or all out. And the truth is if we just make some small changes and you know, you go in with, you can enjoy cake, you can, you can drink a beer here and there. I personally do it. I’m sure you do it too. It’s, we’re human. We’re here to not hate our life. Right. And so, you know, I think it’s all about portion control and finding small ways to make your current routine just a little bit healthier. Right? And so I like a habit based approach and we have a program called the Level Up program where the drivers start with one habit and the first habit actually is cutting out drinking your calories right?

So we really try to focus, okay, what’s the low hanging fruit here. And this all started from a driver we had actually in the beta program of our program, two years ago, who he came to us and one of the things he said was every single day, while driving down the road, he drank 12 or two 12 packs of Pepsi a day, 24 sodas a day. And obviously that is not the average, I would assume for most people, but all we did was cut out some of that soda. We first transitioned to diet soda. We made some other zero calorie beverage options and just slowly cut out some of those empty calories and the amount of sugar that he was consuming. And he was diabetic too, which 24 Pepsis are not very good for your blood sugar. But it was crazy the impact.

And I think he lost like 20 pounds in the first month from just that one shift. So it’s really, when I think about, you know, step one of eating healthier is look, I like telling drivers, or anyone to write down and just track. You can write down on a piece of paper or you can take photos of just an average day of eating, because first off, not a lot of people completely comprehend everything that they’re consuming. Especially not how large of a serving size they’re eating. So if you write it down, then you can take a step back and look at the numbers and say, okay, where’s one or two areas that I can make a small shift that would not be that much different, but would help cut out some calories and be a little bit healthier.

And, you know, that might just be, instead of, you know, your normal average serving of four, you know, half a bag of Doritos, which is actually like four servings of Doritos, maybe you just eat one serving of Doritos, right. Or it’s a shift from two Pepsis a day to one Pepsi a day or two diet Pepsis a day, or finding another zero calorie beverage. And I really just like to have drivers and have people think about, Hey, what is, you know, the, the smallest commitment I can make at the beginning that makes a pretty big impact overall. And I can do consistently.

Jamie Irvine:

So just like with exercise also with your nutrition, don’t underestimate the value of small incremental changes over a longer period of time. So let’s take a look at this from a business perspective, we have commercial fleets, and then of course, if you’re a parts person or a repair technician, maybe you work for a shop, you’re a driver, you work for the fleet. There’s an economic impact when our people that work for these companies are having health problems. So if we are able to improve our health, how does that have an economic impact on the company we work for?

Dr. Mark Manera:

Yeah. I mean, I think the biggest one right now is everyone trucking is talking about retention. And if you’ve got drivers who are scared to see DOT physicals on their calendar, or they’re not able to control their blood pressure, blood sugar, their weight or their suffering from sleep apnea and they can’t control it because obesity has a big, you know, can have a big impact on that. If you can help these people have the resources in coaching. And honestly the encouragement to get started, I mean, that can go from a driver who now you have to replace and then train and spend all this money training and recruiting a new driver, you just saved a driver that, you know, is a great behind your wheel. You trust them, they’re safe, but they just couldn’t on their own figure out their health.

So I think from a retention standpoint, you know, number one, you’re showing your drivers that you care and that you’re thinking about them outside of their next load. And two, over time, his is not something that happens tomorrow, but over time, you’re creating a healthier culture at your company and you are retaining your, you know, loyal drivers that who’ve been there for years and years. And then from a work comp standpoint, you know, there’s a ton of data on the increased risk that a driver being obese has of just being at work, walking around the truck, slips, falls, all of those things, skeletal injuries, all increase if the driver is overweight. And so I think if we can help these drivers get stronger, be more resilient, lose weight, and just feel better overall, they’re gonna be more satisfied at work, and they’re gonna be less of a liability for your company.

Jamie Irvine:

Sounds like that’s a pretty fast way to 10 X results because replacing people is so expensive. And also it’s not just about the economics. It’s also about giving back to the people who support this wonderful industry that supports society. So if someone’s listening right now, and like I said, at the beginning of this episode, this episode was for me as much as it was for anybody listening. So we never throw stones at someone else. We’re always looking at ourselves first, but what do listeners need to do as a first step, if they want to get healthier and they want to engage in your program? We’re gonna put a link in the show notes for your website. So just walk us through the first step, how it works and what your program is all about.

Dr. Mark Manera:

Yeah. So I think the first step that anyone who is thinking about being healthier needs to do is look introspectively at yourself and say, what’s your why, why do you want to do this? Is it for your family? Is it because you don’t like what you see when you look in the mirror and that’s okay, because you have to figure out what your why is because that helps you stay with it through the ups and downs. And that is the motivation there. And, you know, I think when someone just jumps into it and they don’t really have that deep meaning of why they’re starting, it’s really easy to fall off and then kind of get back to your normal routine prior to starting. And I would recommend writing your why down. So you see it every single day and it keeps in the front of your mind.

But so if you’re a driver and you know your why, and you want to get started, go to our website, sign up for a membership. You fill out a quick questionnaire and you get placed, based off the questionnaire you get placed in a personalized program based off of you, your current fitness level, your goals, and then also where you want to exercise at. So we’ve got workouts that drivers, or we’ve got programs that drivers can do in their truck. We’ve got programs they can do outside of their truck, or even at home. So we’ve got local drivers who do it at their house. We’ve got drivers in February up in Canada who are doing it in their truck because can’t really warm up when it’s zero degree celsius, right?

Jamie Irvine:

Zero? Try minus 40.

Dr. Mark Manera:

There we go. Minus 40. Okay. And then, you know, we’ve got drivers down in Florida who are making everyone jealous because it’s 75 degrees and they’re exercising outside of their truck. So we really try to make this as personal to you as possible, and just give you the easiest entry point possible. And so we’re gonna give you all the equipment you need. We’re gonna have an app there that is basically like having me as a personal trainer in your truck with you, because you’ve got 24/7 access to message a coach, anytime you want. And we’re going to answer any questions you have and just get you on the right path to consistently living a healthy life over the next 10, 15 years of your career. And you know, I’ll just say personally through my health journey and just some of the drivers we have in our program, that I talk to, it’s life changing, and it’s a little bit of an adjustment at the beginning, but if you can get through that and set it up in a way that works with your schedule and you can do consistently, you’re never gonna turn back and you’re going to thank yourself that you got started and you just took step one.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. Today we’ve been challenging the status quo in the trucking industry related to truck drivers health. And we’ve been speaking with Dr. Mark, the founder and CEO of the Truck Fitness Company. To learn more about the Truck Fitness Company and to check out Trucking Fitness radio, visit truckinfit.com. So that’s T R U C K I N F I T.com. Links will be in the show notes, Dr. Mark, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Dr. Mark Manera:

Thank you so much for having me.

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