A Q&A with Bob Perry, COO and founder of Rolling Strong
By George Spencer
The Insider recently caught up with Bob Perry, COO and founder of Rolling Strong, a driver wellness program whose mission is to “Reverse the declining health of America’s CDL drivers and get them home safely.” Perry also spoke at a seminar on the subject at BISC’s summer meeting in Baltimore.
We asked Perry to tell us how he became an advocate for driver wellness and why it is important to have a wellness coach.
Q: Why did you get in this business?
A: I’m from a family of truck drivers. My father drove for 40 years. Two of my brothers drive. I drove. Everyone in my family was expected to drive, but it wasn’t for me. When my father retired, he had high blood pressure and was diabetic.
I’m attached to this business because I know the challenges my family faced. Your livelihood as a driver is tied to your medical card. When you have this job, it’s tough to manage your health. At driver training school, no one gives you any health education. Truck schools only qualify you to drive the truck, not how to manage your health. We all need to do a better job of providing health education. Now, passion drives me to help men and women who drive buses and trucks.
Q: Is drivers’ health getting better or worse?
A: If employers don’t provide more support to these men and women, they’ll find that drivers are being issued more short-term medical cards than long-term ones.
If you look at the statistics, the number of three-month cards being issued is going in the wrong direction. By the time a driver is issued that three-month card, the odds of him making drastic changes are slim to none.
(Editor’s Note: The longest term medical card is two years. If a driver is issued a one-year card, that may mean he has prehypertension. That driver then has a year to show he has made improvements. If not, the doctor may give him a three-month card, giving him 90 days to improve or face unemployment.)
Q: What services does Rolling Strong offer?
A: We offer personal CDL wellness coaches. All coaches know the industry. They all have a connection to the industry either through a family member or friend who is a driver. Coaches meet drivers in person and by phone. Rolling Strong partnered with Freightliner to create FIT, an in-cab and hotel room exercise kit.
We partner with grocery chains such as Kroger and Harris Teeter whose 11,000 stores have self-administrated health-check stations. In-store pharmacies provide blood pressure and blood sugar screenings. They will also weigh drivers and tell them their BMI (Body Mass Index).
Typically, a local store will host screenings for a client. When the pharmacist gets a driver’s readings, our coaches, who all have wellness certifications, are there. If a driver’s readings are severely elevated, a coach advises him to see a physician.
Our smartphone app connects each driver to a coach to help him establish wellness benchmarks. A coach might help a driver enter his food preferences and can help him find the best meals for his profile. There’s video content that takes drivers through a workout.
We explain to drivers that the information we receive is confidential. Their company gets aggregate reporting, not individual data.
Q: If I’m a driver, what message will I hear from a coach?
A: We tell drivers, “You are the true road athlete. See yourself as an athlete. Put the right fuel in your body and maintain it the way you maintain your vehicle. Look at all the preventative technology in your motorcoach such as ELDs, camera systems, forward collision avoidance, and lane departure warnings. What preventative health steps are you taking in your own life?
Chapel Hill, N.C.-based freelance writer George Spencer is a frequent contributor to ABA media.