Starting in late summer 2012, Montague Bikes and Prime, Inc. Trucking, based out of Springfield, MO, will be partnering to pioneer an advancement in the trucking industry, a sea change in health.  America relies on its trucking industry for economic success, but hundreds of hours behind the wheel add up; as a result long haul trucking has one of the highest obesity rates of any industry. Obesity and related health issues have been linked to high crash rates, but that is all about to change.

This year’s chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Mr. Robert Low, founder and president of Prime, Inc. Trucking has made a solemn commitment to create a culture of fitness in the trucking industry.  At the forefront of this movement is Mr. Siphiwe Baleka of Fitness Trucking, Inc., who has joined Prime, Inc. as Driver Fitness Coach.  A former Ivy League swimming champion and recent distinguished triathlon winner, Mr. Baleka has been working to create this culture of fitness, even while working as a lease operator with Prime.

And this week, at the National Truck Driving Championship in Minneapolis, MN Mr. Baleka will be taking the first steps in a partnership with Montague Bikes.  In an industry where space, speed, and performance are crucial, Montague bikes provide the opportunity for fitness on the go: folding saves space, no tools required saves time.  A Montague folding bike provides an onboard solution for fitness in one of America’s great industries, improving health, fitness, and quality of life for those on the road.

Mr. Baleka will be promoting a culture of fitness in the industry, with Montague folding bikes as the onboard gym.  Fitness Trucking already offers services to individuals and fleets who want to improve their health.  Prime, Inc. will be increasing the scope of this mission over the next year, including the  formation of trucker triathlon teams.  To show its support for fitness in the trucking industry, the U.S.A. Triathlon team contracted Fitness Trucking and Prime, Inc. to carry athletes’ bicycles to the final USA Triathlon Olympic qualifier this year in San Diego, CA.

Riding foldable bikes allows truckers to bypass the limited hours and monthly membership fees of a gym, and to fit more extensive, rigorous workouts into their busy schedules.  This kind of exercise is a powerful weapon in the battle for health and wellness.  Studies have shown that the majority of truck drivers are overweight or obese.  One obesity related health concern is sleep apnea.  Persistently disrupted sleep, which is the hallmark of apnea, leaves overweight operators exhausted and driving long distances in a chronically fatigued state. Further studies have linked this chronic fatigue to high rates of collisions.  Tired drivers are more likely to cause crashes, making the roads more dangerous for all users.  The fitness movement within the trucking industry aims to change these trends.

Specifically, Trucker News reported in 2007; “Studies show that approximately 73 percent of drivers are overweight and more than 50 percent are obese. . . . Weight issues – especially those brought on by poor eating habits and lack of exercise – can lead to serious health problems, resulting in a shortened life span and low quality of life. The costs associated with obesity-related health issues in sick days and out-of-pocket expenses can add up to thousands of dollars per year for a trucker […]” .  Such losses may compromise a trucker’s ability to make a living.

One obesity related health issue is obstructive sleep apnea.  The prevalence of sleep apnea among truckers was documented in a 2009 by Cambridge Health Alliance study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.  Science Daily reported that “[a]pproximately 2.4 to 3.9 million licensed commercial drivers in the U.S. are expected to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). […]Philip Parks, MD, MPH, […], the lead author of the study says, ‘It is well-known that obesity, a leading risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, is on the rise in the United States. Truck drivers with sleep apnea have up to a 7-fold increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.’”

As long ago as 1994, a study by the American Sleep Disorders Association and Sleep Research Society demonstrated a solid connection that drivers suffering from sleep-disordered breathing have a much higher accident statistic.  Disrupted sleep leaves drivers overly tired and more susceptible to delayed reaction during a crucial moment, or even falling asleep behind the wheel.  The effects of this trend were documented in a 2006 report by Science Daily: “[a]bout 5,600 people are killed each year in the U.S. in crashes involving commercial trucks. Many of the crashes happen when the driver falls asleep at the wheel. It’s estimated that driver fatigue causes 100,000 crashes each year which is 40% of truck driver accidents.”

Trucking demands a high level of focus and commitment, for countless hours behind the wheel.  This focus and commitment, when directed toward fitness, is sure to yield success.  Together Montague Bikes and Prime, Inc. are working to ensure the health of an industry at the heart of America, making the roads safer for everyone, whether they’re on two wheels or eighteen.

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