Dr. Mark Manera

Interview by
Published on
April 8, 2022

In this episode...

Life on the road for truck drivers is serious business, and if their health is neglected, it could lead to serious health problems as well. The Center For Disease control found some common health problems among truck drivers - obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, and cancer. If these problems are left unchecked, it could very well lead to them losing their commercial driving license. Dr. Mark Manera, founder of The Trucking Fitness Company and podcast co-host of Merging Lanes recognized this problem and wanted to help companies provide solutions. Healthier drivers are happier and are able to keep America moving. Life By The Mile sits down with Dr. Manera to talk about major steps taken towards helping drivers achieve better health, how companies can sustain health and wellness activities, and much more in this episode full of care and compassion for America’s highway heroes. Have you experienced health problems on the road? How did you manage? Join our conversation in the comments section.

Dr. Mark Manera

Changing The Way The Trucking Industry Thinks About Drivers' Health - Doctor Of Physical Therapy - I Help Trucking Companies Effortlessly Develop Heal


what we're trying to do is go to burger king instead of the double whopper and a large onion ring and a large coke get you to know get a small onion ring get a grilled chicken sandwich eat at burger king just pick a healthier option there and that's step one

we're here at the mid-america truck show 50th anniversary it is an absolute joy to have dr mark monero ceo and founder of the trucking fitness company in st louis missouri and uh you said to call your mark yes yeah thank you so much butch for having me on it's really wonderful now listen life of the mile delivered by freightworks we want you to go and subscribe to the youtube channel like it share it make your comments this is going to be such an important conversation because one of the things that freightworks which sponsors life by the mild is so committed to is trucker health professional driver health in every single way spirit soul mind and body but you know what mark the reality is we've got a major health situation with drivers in america what i would like you to do is take your expertise and paint the picture of what the problem is yeah so i always start with how i got into this and saw i'm a physical therapy physical therapist by trait i actually was working with drivers in the clinic rehabbing them uh from work comp claims uh musculoskeletal injuries to uh post surgeries like total knee replacements and i really saw right there firsthand the struggles drivers have what kind of their what kind of things would you see they'd be coming in with what yeah i mean one in particular that really stood out that really inspired me to start the truck and fitness company was a guy driving over the road for 37 years and just had a total knee replacement diabetic overweight and honestly had needed surgery for about 20 years but because of trucking he couldn't do it and then the pandemic hit and he had the time and he got it and i worked with him firsthand and you know i just honestly i don't have a background in transportation i don't have family who was in trucking so that experience in the clinic was really the first time that i got to know the day-to-day about trucking and what drivers go through and honestly uh when it comes to their health the barriers that a lot of drivers they saw firsthand i mean just like an army medic in a war exactly sees what's happening on the battlefield for the whole area of professional drivers trucking and logistics you were seeing firsthand the reality of their health situations which are what talk about what the deal is yeah so i see it firsthand i have a conversation i i'm like hey do you exercise on the road it's like no we can't do that and so you know being in the medical field the first thing i do is hey let me look at the research and you know i go there and you see in north america we have around 4 million drivers in north america and 85 percent of drivers are overweight one in every seven suffers from type 2 diabetes and the kicker that really hit me in the face was that as a whole truck drivers have a life expectancy 16 years less than the average i know you know mark i was reading the centers for disease control 16 years less life on average that's unbelievable it is and you know i think something down deep into my core that i personally believe is that i don't think anyone's career should define their health and i think that includes trucking and i think right now one of the biggest barriers is that as a cdl holder and as a driver the mindset is well i'm screwed because i'm a trucker there's nothing i can do about it and that is really one of the big things that made me say okay hey i need to help these people i need to start the trucking fitness company and give them a way to fight back what is it about a professional driver's life this may be stating the obvious that contributes to being sedentary and the malay what is it about the daily rhythm of life that contributes to this well you know obviously you said your job is to sit behind the wheel and drive for what 8 to 12 hours a day whatever whatever it is and i think a lot of drivers get down on that and what i try to tell them is hey you can't get down and get down on yourself for the things you can't control right you put food on the table a roof over your family's head by driving that truck but it's the hours outside of driving where it's like hey we have some wiggle room and let's just focus on nailing those down and focus on the things we can control and so i think it's time i think it's mental stress driving all day you got to mentally thriving and then to lock yourself in and say okay now i'm going to exercise that's got to be psychologically and even physically hard it's it's yeah it's it's really difficult and i think the other aspect is a lot of these drivers are isolated and they don't have someone holding them accountable and they don't have someone who they can go to and be like hey butch you haven't uh you haven't done your workout in three days where are you at and so i think there's just a lot of things that just make it really easy for a driver to say i'll do it tomorrow i'll do it tomorrow and then tomorrow comes i'll do it tomorrow and then 10 years later like i've been saying i'll do it tomorrow for the livestream get ready to do it and a driver manager calls yeah get ready to do it you got a situation with a delivery uh you're just weary you know you say to yourself psychologically i deserve just to take a break right yeah yeah and you know i think what my part of what we're trying to do at the trucking fitness company is to you know there's a lot of barriers that are added up that make it really easy for drivers to say hey i don't i can't do this right and we're trying to take away as many of those as possible and one of those is how can we set it up where anywhere at any time you've got five minutes you've got 15 minutes you've got 20 minutes let's get the app out let's go let's do the workout it's all written out for you and you can do it anywhere at any time now let me let me ask you this question so uh tell me a little bit about what led to you starting your company yeah so so like i said i was in uh the physical therapy field i was in a clinic in so i'm from st louis and i was in a clinic in southern uh missouri and i just got the opportunity to work with a ton of drivers and i didn't have a background in transportation like i said what would how did you get who was the person that introduced you to trucking and transportation how did that happen yeah the the couple of drivers in the clinic i was rehabbing they came in for physical therapy uh you know small talk hey what do you do for a living i drive a truck and that's kind of where i'm i'm an intriguing person i i like to ask questions and i i like to have you know a relationship outside of hey this is what we're doing for rehab so i just got to know them on a personal level and i was just really inspired by some of the stories they were telling me about some of the specific struggles when it comes to health and wellness and the one thing that i saw was you know as a physical therapist you say hey how often do you exercise and one of a lot of the drivers you know took a step back and was like i'm a trucker i don't do that and that was like hey there's a real mindset problem here and that was one of the things that really intrigued me to say hey uh i can i can be the solution here and i can help shift this uh narrative in the industry okay now tell us a little bit about the trucking fitness company what is it what do you do what are the tools that are available wax eloquent about that yeah so we are a one-on-one personalized coaching service for drivers to help you exercise and eat healthier on the road i think way too many drivers make it they're thinking step 9 10 11 of eating healthy instead of what's step one and just getting started and so we give drivers the easiest entry point into exercising and eating healthy and then on the flip side we have the accountability where we want to have that coaching relationship with each driver and on the highs we want to be there to celebrate the success and on the lows we want to be like hey let me help you get back on the right path and i think those three categories are really what pushes the needle and i think for a lot of drivers and a lot of trucking companies one of the biggest downfalls has been that wellness programs or exercise and fitness programs in the past have not been specific to the lifestyle of a driver and that's why they failed and what we're trying to do is niche down and say we are built for drivers we understand your lifestyle our program is designed to fit into your lifestyle not change your lifestyle because you can't do anything about how far you have to drive and where you eat at all yeah at first it can seem like a high mountain too totally difficult to scale right totally and and so that's where i think hey let's not look at running a marathon let's look at just taking the first step and then you take the second step and then you just continue to build on it and you get the tires turning and then once the tires are going you start rolling and it becomes easier too because it becomes a part of your day-to-day life instead of a change of everything at once talk very specifically about the tools and the utilities that you make available drivers describe if i'm a driver tell me what i would get yeah what it would cost i mean give yourself a commercial yeah so we've got an app right on the driver's phone and when they sign up they fill out a questionnaire then they get a one-on-one coaching call onboarding call with a coach and we place you in a personalized exercise program that is based off your current fitness level your goals and then also where you want to exercise that so we've got programs in the truck we've got programs out of the truck and we also have programs at home okay and then on the nutrition side of things we take a habit-based approach and we've got a program called the level up program where it's let's start at level one it's one habit once you nail that down and you hit a certain standard you move to level two then level three then level four and you just keep stacking habits okay versus go on weight watchers and you got to change everything at once and i think that's where when you have the constraints of life on the road changing everything at once is not possible it's not you can't stick with it you may be for a week but it doesn't fit into your lifestyle and when you've got these statistics of life expectancy 16 years less 85 percent of drivers are overweight diabetes a week's not going to change that it's going to be a lifestyle exactly exactly now what's what's really interesting here too mark by the way it's dr mark manero ceo and founder of the truckee fitness company st louis missouri this is life by the mile delivered by freight works we're here at the mid-america truck show if you haven't subscribed to our youtube channel make sure you do that like and subscribe engage and share mark based on what you're saying it seems like you're a monogram solution you're not a cookie cutter approach and a lot of these weight loss programs for example don't take into consideration or accommodate to the vagaries and the unique things that are part of a trucker's life is that safe to say it's 100 and i think one of the biggest things that when it comes to drivers is you have to meet them where they're at every driver starts at a different place and you also have to build that relationship because from a health and wellness perspective a majority of these drivers don't have someone in their life that they can talk to that they can who pushes them a little bit and also holds them accountable and i think that's what we're trying to provide and we're trying to show drivers hey we're leading with empathy we understand life is crazy one day you might miss your workout but we're also going to hold you accountable because you have these goals and you've got this bigger why of i want to be there for my kids i don't want to die you know i want to enjoy life after trucking and i don't want to be a part of that statistic of decreased life expectancy and you know i think we are just really focused on what can we do to show drivers we care which the secret is you actually do care and and meet them where they're at and just give them an entry point right and it seems to me too that there's no shame there's no blame there's no condemnation so it's an easy open access to let's have a conversation about your health and what we can do to to support and serve your goals right yeah the shame might work for one day because it's like uh yeah it's it's not the right approach and then you know i think just with any fitness journey there's just as much mental health uh that that we're having to negotia navigate and the psychology behind you know changing some lifestyle changes and also changing the identity because a lot of these drivers identify as i'm a driver i'm an overweight driver and this is just what i do and we're trying to shift that narrative of yeah you're a truck driver but that doesn't mean the other half of i'm out of shape i'm yeah right because what i guess what happens there is when you have that mindset and you really take that to heart and you let yourself be defined as i'm just going to be an overweight truck driver it gives yourself permission to hit exit 57 where you got all those onion rings and cheeseburgers and and you're thinking to yourself i work hard and i deserve to eat yeah exactly and you know you you mentioned the fast food restaurant and i think that's the biggest thing that a lot of people when they come to they're like expecting hey i'm gonna have to meal prep i'm gonna have to do all this other stuff what we're trying to do is go to burger king instead of the double whopper and a large onion frings large onion rings oh my gosh that's a tongue twister that's a hard one and a large coke get you know get a small onion ring get a grilled chicken sandwich eat at burger king just pick a healthier option there and that's step one right we're not asking you to you're not asking somebody to become vegan you're not asking somebody to eat only salads and what happens is the self conversation and the self-indictment all of that what it does is it tells the person this is too hard they're going to tell me you got to fast every other day they're going to tell me i can only eat stuff that's green and leafy right exactly and i think i think people have this association in their mind of healthy living equals i hate my life when it comes to what i eat and it's not about that it's uh we're trying to build a lifestyle that you can live for the rest of your life which includes ice cream it just doesn't include ice cream after every meal right it's all about moderation and not a half gallon of neopolitan ice cream at night because you made your load early and you're rewarding yourself with lots of calories yeah you know i i like ice cream i like desserts i like whoppers i just like them in moderation and i also like other aspects of my life of exercise and finding ways to be healthier uh but i can still enjoy those those things and i don't have to be restrictive and be like it's all or nothing okay folks i want to make sure that you heard what dr mark manera just said you're not going to have to give up ice cream forever you're not going to have to give up all your fast food but you're going to learn a new lifestyle and one that's healthier allow you to live longer so you can share it with people that that you love now talk real specifically about the app what will the app do yeah so the app is a platform where you've got your own member you've got your own profile and right through that you get deliver daily workouts that have video and written instruction on exactly what to do it's got timers and says hey in the next 45 seconds do this many reps of this exercise all right rest 30 seconds and then you also get nutrition advice on there we've got restaurant guides we help you build meals at tr healthy meals at truck stops and then you also have 24 7 access to message a coach and have that relationship and build that relationship so it's like having a lifestyle coach that's available 24 7. that's great yeah we say hey this is the closest we can to have a personal trainer in your truck and kind of going back to the nutrition of what you were mentioning there is i think a lot of people look at nutrition as this light switch i'm healthy i'm not healthy and i think what a lot of drivers should reconsider is it needs to be a spectrum and on one end of the spectrum you've got the healthiest diet in the world on the other end you've got the most unhealthy double whopper slap the mayo on there large onion rings all this other stuff unhealthy and majority of drivers are somewhere in the middle right some are maybe a little closer over here somewhere over here and instead of saying hey i need to flip everything to that healthiest healthiest diet in the world what's one or two changes that just pushes the needle a little bit closer and i found that if you look at the low hanging fruit yes which everyone has right and it doesn't change your day-to-day life that crazy and it probably you know can fit into your lifestyle really easily you get you get momentum and it's really crazy what one or two small changes can do uh from a weight loss perspective from a controlling blood pressure and uh blood sugar perspective and it's just from a sustainability and getting into the habit of it a much better approach now you know it seems to me too i'm sure this may be the case so confirm or disconfirm it once a person's in the program they're getting you know they've got the app they're getting your help and they start they start to feel better yeah you know i think immediately one of the biggest things especially with exercise and from exercise is a boost of energy you feel good you know a lot of these drivers go from sitting to laying from sitting to laying and then all of a sudden they get out of that those same postures and positions and they're like all right okay things are feeling a little bit better and you feel more energized you got blood flowing and that's its own reward and that confirms the new behavior so you can make the steps forward i heard someone say once mark start simply but simply start exactly you know i think the other the other thing is that the best time to start was 10 years ago but the second best times right now and i think the further you push that right now getting started um the the larger the uphill battle is because you just continue to stack some of those bad habits and you know i think the other thing on the flip side is it's never too late to start um i think a lot of people get down on themselves i've been doing this oh i'm just i'm too far gone i just can't do it and it's not it's not uh it's never too late you've got so much that you're fighting for if it's your family if it's for you if it's for your career because you just got you got done with your dot physical and you got handed a temporary card for the first time and you're like oh crap what am i supposed to do here there's a lot to fight for and i just any driver out there don't give up today's the best day to get started maybe monday when you get back from the mid-america trucking show is the best day to get started but get the help if you need the accountability or you just need actionable steps on hey how i understand this i got a million things i'm trying to juggle how do i actually just get started get a coach get some help so you have someone on your team who's fighting for you too without mentioning names can you give me one or two kind of case studies or success stories just to encourage people that may be listening and go ahead yeah so we've got a driver like i said we have an onboarding call at the beginning of every uh and whenever someone signs up we have an onboarding call and one of the drivers who signed up one of the things on the onboarding call he said is every day when i'm driving i drink two 12 packs of pepsi going down the highway 24 pepsis and uh you know what we did was one of the first sugar on that has got to be through the roof uh is it surprising he was diabetic overweight there was so many empty calories he was consuming and so what we did is we just slowly cut down switched to zero calorie beverages we cut down the amount of soda he was drinking and he didn't even he wasn't exercising at 10 i think he was going on maybe a five minute walk we've gotten exercise of the day through the app that takes five minutes he was doing that every couple of days but just from that one switch he was losing weight he was feeling more energized he wasn't feeling like crap because when you're drinking that much sugar all day and say yes you can understand and um you know he was just feeling the effects of just that one habit change and you know he now he's controlling his blood sugar better he's off of soda probably lost weight too definitely yeah and it was uh it was crazy of just you know 24 sodas is a lot of empty calories and when you're trying to get into a caloric deficit to lose weight it's really hard when you've got that much soda you're consuming so just by making that switch he was cutting out i mean at that point thousands of calories a day um and so that's one of those stories of obviously most people aren't drinking 24 sodas a day but even two or three is a couple hundred calories that you can cut out and just by that one switch if you do it consistently you know you can see the you can see the number on the scale you can see the impact exactly talk a little bit about you know we obviously have women they're professional drivers talk about this program specifically for women yeah i i think actually what we've seen is that uh our membership percentage is higher uh has a higher percentage of women than the trucking industry as a whole and i think it makes sense that uh there's a lot of women who want to make sure this lifestyle and they they care about what uh they care about their health and wellness they care about their quality of life out there and i think what we're doing fits into that and one of the things i always say is that at the beginning we had a beta test and we had a group of drivers who i got on the phone with every single day or every week and just had a conversation with and we had one female driver who at the beginning we just had the out of the truck program and she was like i'm self-conscious i kind of am scared to get out at the truck stop at times and work out i don't want to be hassled yeah and so we developed the in the truck workout just for her and it's become the most popular program in our in our program so it was actually driver inspired exactly and it was a female driver who just wanted to feel more confident getting their workout in and they did they felt self-conscious they didn't feel safe getting outside of the truck stop so we developed it and it was a hit and i would say i don't know the percentage but a large percentage of the people who start the program are like yeah i want to do this in my truck uh because of self-consciousness

yeah if somebody's interested in becoming part of the program uh tell us the website tell us how they can find out more yeah so we work with individual drivers owner operators and we also work with fleets if you go to truckingfit.com so t-r-u-c-k-i-n-g-f-i-t dot com or just look up the trucking fitness company on any social media we've got a ton of awesome content we've got a membership page that they can sign up for you can get the first month 50 off to give it a shot and what i would just encourage you is give it a shot take the leap it's worth it i know we're not going to fit every everyone you know there's different styles there's different energy that people like we're probably not the solution for every driver out there but i know we're the solution for a majority of them and i think from a fleet perspective you know everyone wins if drivers are healthier right and if you can provide this as a benefit to your drive or to your drivers right it shows them that you're thinking outside the box and you're thinking about them more than hey where's your next load going well and of course you know at freightworks one of the things that we have is a deep value is that we tell drivers we really care for them we're interested in relationships not just transactions you're not a number your name we're conscious of your family you know i tell people often we never want to lose sight of the fact that there are little children in some cases looking through the glass of the front door for daddy or mommy to come home and health enhancement is really a value to not just the driver but to the people that they love as well 100 and you know i think i i completely agree with that and i think that goes a long way and i think i talked to way too many drivers to know that uh that's not the norm uh for some for trucking companies i think there's a lot of drivers who uh feel like a commodity yeah exactly you're like a commodity now let me ask you this you obviously have a life outside of the life that you're following professionally tell us a little bit about that yeah so i uh i live in st louis i'm married my wife amanda is also a physical therapist we met in pt school kidnapped something yeah and uh we we both went through school together and i uh love fitness i love health and wellness and uh i also like watching uh survivor the office and uh some tv everyone what do you do to keep yourself healthy yeah i like lifting weights i like going on walks i like you know on the nutrition side of things i like eating chicken some beef uh vegetables uh an assortment of things you can cook i do do some cooking no not i'm definitely no gordon ramsay but i i uh i do some i meal prep once a week where i just have a stockpile of food that i microwave throughout the week well you know what's really so uh interesting and motivating for us to see we've got an incredible driver lounge hope you could see it someday at freightworks and rutherfordton north carolina it's our company headquarters but to watch drivers come in we've got granite counters state-of-the-art all the to watch them come in and some of them food prep yes it's so awesome we're actually going to do some episodes at some point where we have drivers that are giving uh recipes it's awesome menus cooking show and all of that yeah cooking segments uh as it relates to that let me let me ask you this talk a little bit about the value of walking a lot of people thinking i got to go out and run and can you talk about walking as a easy tool anybody can do yeah i think i think it's a great starting place and i think you know i think way too many people when it comes to exercise look at these crazy uh they're like i need to have this elaborate plan of i need to do this this and that instead of just focusing on hey how can i just move more how can i get going i can get breathe in a little bit heavier than just sitting there and i can just move and you know there's a ton of research on you know getting a certain steps per per day and it's not ten thousand um but that's a that's a great goal number to hit but for a lot of drivers that's just not possible because you're not on your feet but i think for a lot of drivers walking can be a great tool because you can do it anywhere at any time it was 4.6 miles for me yesterday yeah well i yeah i got i got a lot more steps yesterday than i normally do i i work from home um and i i need to i need to take a lunch walk more often than i do uh but walking is a good it's great it is it is and i think you know i think from a weight loss perspective you can walk and lose a ton of weight because uh you're making changes to your diet it doesn't have to be this crazy intense workout um i know you know if you're in it's december and you're in wisconsin maybe walking is probably not the best option maybe you want something in the truck but i think uh from a mental health perspective there's a lot of things of getting outside getting out of your truck maybe just getting some thoughts and and having some nature time and getting outside it's really important too that is so good now let me ask you this uh in in the days ahead what do you see for your company yeah i think we are really looking forward to working with more enterprise fleets because i think from a mission and impact standpoint i think the individual drivers are awesome we're always going to be able to work with them but if we can impact 200 500 a thousand drivers at a time by making uh by partnering with trucking companies that's the way that's the direction we're wanting to go versus you know one one driver at a time okay and so tell me just real quickly what is it you find about enterprises companies that uh commit to you what what is it about the company that motivates them to go into a relationship with you yeah i mean i think it's kind of that uh you know the the mindset and the deep value of hey number one we care about our drivers and we're thinking about them outside of where their next loads at and we want health is a big component and quality of life when they're out on the road is a really big component but i look at our our program as like the iceberg effect right you've got health and fitness and exercise at the top and then below you've got retention you've got decreased work comp claims you've got decreased health insurance costs you've got a differentiator while recruiting because you know those when you look at different companies yeah the pay is a big thing that drivers look at but when you look at the benefits they're all very similar to a very significant offering exact salad bar of company benefits to be able to do that to say hey you know what we don't just say we care here's a reflection that we're going to help you become the healthy driver that you there's a lot of things from just drivers being fit to drive behind the wheel they're energized they're they're as healthy as possible and i don't think a driver who's you know overweight in diabetics uh you know not safe but the healthier version of them i think is a safer driver i think they're more alert they're ready to go and they're yeah they're they're just more focused behind the wheel and um i think also dot physical is a scary time for a lot of drivers and if they have they know that they have a resource where hey a couple months before the dod physical i'm going to really lock this in or they get back from a d.o.t physical and they're like hey i need to do something oh awesome freight works or my company has this benefit i'm going to take advantage of it i knew this was going to be a great interview you've been tremendous and the mark of a good conversation is it ends quickly and we're about to end we're going to take our exit in just a moment this is life by the mile delivered by freight works dr mark minera ceo and founder of the trucking fitness company in st louis missouri now listen because you've been such a stellar guest we we want you to be a brand ambassador for a mile this is a life by the mile cap it's got a little happiness on the ba and patriotism on the back part of it that's our goal awesome thank you so much for being here today and and mark we look forward to our conversations in an ongoing way in the days ahead i'm sure we'll have you back on uh we want to do a frequent health segment so let's talk about the possibility of you being somebody that can commit remotely from time to time i'd love that we're at the mid-america truck show this is life of the mile delivered by freightworks i'm butch malpe your host dr mark minera and it's been great to have you thank you so much for having me on i appreciate it great thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to the channel by clicking here we'll see you there


Get emails about design, user experience, user interface & productivity each week. We'll keep them short & to the point.

Thank you! Be on a lookout for an email from us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.