Tulsa Company Helping Truckers Pick Up Healthier Habits

Tuesday, October 29th 2013, 5:22 pm
By: Dave Davis

There's a trucking company in Tulsa that's making national headlines for trying to fix one of the most unhealthy lines of work in the country.

When you're driving a semi for up to 11 hours a day, the last thing many drivers think about is their health.

Life on the road can be hard, hard on families, hard to stay awake, and we're finding out more about how hard it can be on your body.

The Centers for Disease Control outlines the ugly truth. The obesity rate among truck drivers is 50 percent and the average life span is 61 years old. The Bureau of Labor shows bad diets, little exercise and irregular hours make it one of the riskiest jobs in America.

Seven years ago, Mike Potter was on his way to becoming a statistic.

"I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired," Potter said. "There's got to be a better way to live, there has be something better."

Potter was a truck driver for 14 years. He weighed 380 pounds. A typical dinner for him was three or four cheeseburgers, fries and soda.

And then his mindset changed, he said, overnight.

"For me it was just a matter of, I just woke up one morning and said, 'This is enough.' That's really all there was, it was just that simple," Potter said.

He lost 140 pounds in 18 months. Potter works for Melton Truck Lines in Tulsa, a company that has been nationally recognized for their driver wellness program.

They have free health screenings, an on-site clinic, healthier vending machines, incentives for running in 5Ks and marathons, and an on-site gym, which ironically used to be the smoking lounge.

Potter said he's noticing a culture shift in a line of work that has long been linked with unhealthy employees.

"A lot of us who have been in this business a long time are tired of seeing our friends, you know, get diabetes and lose a leg or not be able to drive anymore," Potter said.

The message is getting through to drivers like Steven Rowedder, who, thanks to a free blood test at work, found out he was at high risk for diabetes.

"I'll be honest with you it kind of scared me, but now I know, 'Okay, you have to change,'" Rowedder said.

And if more drivers like Potter and Rowedder get on board, the health of truckers just might change, too.

Melton is building a brand new building, with room for a 3,400 square foot gym and a walking trail.