Feds Spend $2.6 Million on Weight Loss Program for Truckers

Truck drivers receive motivational phone calls on the road

AP

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent more than $2.6 million giving truckers weight tips, including motivational phone calls while they drive.

Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) is conducting the study, which claims truck drivers face a "growing health crisis."

"Drivers experience multiple roadblocks to health, including laws permitting long work hours and an isolating job structure that restricts physical activity and dietary choices," according to the NIH grant. "Despite the growing health crisis, there is a lack of effective weight loss and health promotion interventions for truck drivers."

"To address this research gap we developed an innovative intervention that is integrated with the job structure and modern technologies of truck driving," the grant said. "Our approach uses mobile computing technologies to provide training and feedback during a weight loss competition, and delivers motivational interviewing on cell phones."

The study has cost taxpayers $2,658,929 since the project began in 2011. The project has received $386,985 this year and will continue to receive funding until March 2016.

OHSU is soliciting truck drivers to participate from across the country in what they call SHIFT, or "Safety and Health Involvement For Truckers."

"Any driver at a participating company with an interest in managing or losing weight should volunteer," according to the SHIFT website. "If you've seen an advertisement at your terminal or received a flyer in the mail, your company is participating."

Aside from motivational phone calls, truckers in the program record their "weight and behavior" every week. They can also receive free health screenings and can win lottery prizes.

Published results from the study suggested that obesity is to blame for accidents involving 18-wheelers.

"Driver health problems, especially obesity and related conditions like sleep apnea, are related to driving errors and increased crash rates, impacting both driver safety and the safety of the general public," according to a paper published in January 2014.

The paper also noted that truck drivers have "less than half the crash rate per vehicle mile compared to passenger car drivers."

Twenty-nine truck drivers participated in the pilot study, according to the paper, and lost an average of 7.8lbs, or "roughly 1 BMI unit," in six months.