The growing issue of truck driver obesity

09 Sep 2019

Compared to others the same age and gender, New Zealand truck drivers are more obese and find it harder to maintain a healthy level of fitness. And we’re not alone; a recent study showed that our truckie counterparts in Australia are also at higher risk of obesity than most.

There are a number of factors that contribute to truck driver obesity; long hours, the sedentary nature of driving, tight deadlines, lack of time for exercise and limited access to healthy food options.

New Zealand truck drivers stated that in an average 24-hour period they have 14 hours’ worth of driving and truck-related time and eight hours sleep, which leaves only two hours for family/exercise/recreation. For many, exercise is simply not an option.

Compounding this situation is the availability of healthy food options – when on the road the easiest places to stop for food are typically fast food outlets, which are also the most fattening.

The Australian survey highlighted the following findings:

  • Truck drivers consume fewer servings of fruit and vegetables per day than recommended
  • Less than one-third of truck drivers met the recommended minimum of 150-minutes of exercise activity per week
  • Approximately two-thirds of truck drivers are classified as obese

Is this an education issue?

The short answer is no. Most truckies are aware of the importance of maintaining a lifestyle with well-balanced diet and exercise and willing to make changes, but struggle to make it fit within their tight schedules.

“Out of all the jobs, this would be the hardest to maintain a fitness level. You don’t jump out of your truck and go run six kilometres after a 14 hour day. You crawl home, have tea, say goodnight and you go to bed.”

- “Fit for the road report”, TERNZ

While there is an onus on drivers to find time to exercise and make healthier food-choices, this is an industry-wide issue that also needs support across the many facets, including employers and internal company policies or incentives, industry systems and Government policies and regulations. 

For truckies, there are some good resources available in the Fit for the Road programme, which has been developed specifically to assist with improving driver health. It offers tips and guidance for reducing barriers and focuses on exercise and physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation and improving work/life balance.