Friday, January 20, 2017

Yale Graduate-Turned-Trucker Works to Improve Truckers’ Health

A photo of a semi-truck cruising down the highway.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Siphiwe Baleka is a remarkable man. Aside from earning his degree in philosophy at the highly prestigious Yale University, he was also the first African American to make it onto the First Team All-Ivy League Swim Team. But that’s not what makes him remarkable.

Baleka, who is now in his 40s, fell on hard times about six years ago and decided to take on a job as a trucker. But after only two months in, the former athlete noticed he had gained 15 lbs.

"Life on the road is tough. It's lonely," Baleka stated. "There's not a whole lot to make you feel good. So eating is one of the things you kind of have some freedom with, to make you feel good."

Baleka did everything he could to lose the weight. He even resorted to doing exercises inside of his cab. But no matter what he did, nothing seemed to work.

Baleka’s struggle to gain back control of his health almost made him quit his job. It’s an all-too-common phenomenon in the trucking industry. In fact, a recent survey conducted by HireRight Transportation found that 21% of drivers leave the industry due to health concerns.

But after experimenting with several different weight loss programs, Baleka finally found success in a low-carb, high-protein diet combined with short bursts of high-intensity workouts. And now that he’s back to being fit, he wants to help other truckers get healthy, too.

So Baleka developed a wellness program that’s specifically designed with drivers in mind. Inspired by the technological devices that are already used in the industry, he decided to develop one that’s capable of monitoring the driver’s health.  

"At that time, the only thing that we didn't have any real-time information on was the driver—the physiological state of the driver," Baleka stated. "These digital health devices now allowed me to do that. I can monitor the physical condition of the driver just like we do with a truck."

So far, the program seems to be doing well. Hopefully it will inspire other trucking companies to institute wellness programs as well.