Just 25% of men and 20% of women truck drivers exercise at least 30 minutes a day five times a week. Truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese compared to the average U.S. worker, and suffer from conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sleep apnea at rates much higher than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That doesn’t even take into account the loneliness that truck drivers face on the road, living a life of relative solitude, away from families for days or weeks at a time, all of which contribute negatively to overall health.
It’s not a life for everyone, but most reading this article already understand these facts.
Dogs are said to be man’s best friend. Make a friend with a dog, and you will have companionship for years. But there are an estimated 3.3 million dogs living in shelters, unable to find forever homes, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
There would seem to be symbiotic relationship between dogs and truck drivers – each looking for companionship, and each able to benefit from that relationship. That is what brought Mobil Delvac and Pedigree dog food together to find ways to pair dogs looking for homes with drivers looking for road companions.
“Mobil Delvac cares deeply about the trucking industry and we are committed to making a positive impact on truckers’ well-being,” Leah Ritter, brand advisor for Mobil Delvac, told FreightWaves. “We wanted to bring awareness for what truckers do for the United States day in and day out. And by having a dog, we have found… an increase in their happiness, we’ve found an increase in their activity and so we want to be a force for their well-being.”
Mobil and Pedigree created Mutts4Trucks, an effort to hold adoption events aimed specifically at attracting and pairing truck drivers to shelter dogs across the country. The first event was held in late September at TravelCenters of America’s Nashville, Tennessee, location. It featured an appearance by Grammy-nominated country music star Cassadee Pope. The animals adopted were from the Nashville Humane Society.
Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN) truck driver Amber Carlton-Wise adopted an animal at the event.
“I’m lonely, sometimes I get bored, or when I go home on home-time, I don’t know what to do because I’m so used to trucking now,” she said. “So, I said I have all this time and I got love – everyone’s got love to give – so I’ll use that love for a pup.”
Mutts4Trucks held its first adoption event at the end of September at the Nashville TravelCenters of America location. The drivers had a chance to play with and bond with the animals before deciding whether to adopt them. (Photos: Amy Handegard)
The CDC says that pet ownership can lead to decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in their human companions. Many pet owners also have fewer moments of loneliness and increased activity levels. A 2017 study of Swedish pet owners published in Scientific Reports found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than those without a dog. In fact, many of the top health factors leading to earlier deaths were lower in dog owners, the study found, even when factors such as smoking or obesity were included. Those living alone with a dog had a 33% reduced risk of death.
Dog ownership leads to increased activity, said veterinarian and senior author of the report Tove Fall. She told Time that dogs provide other benefits as well. “I have met numerous owners that are convinced that their pet has been instrumental for them, often in terms of social support. As a dog owner, I also notice that the people I meet during walks are often other dog owners, especially in bad weather.”
Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) released a study earlier this year that found 80% of pet owners say their pets make them feel less lonely and 85% of both pet owners and non-pet owners believe companion animals help reduce loneliness and 76% say they help address social isolation.
For truck drivers, many of whom feel isolated on the road, pet ownership offers an outlet to overcome these problems, reduce their sense of loneliness and improve their health.
“We know dogs have mood-boosting effects on the people whose lives they touch, and we also know that life on the road for a trucker can be lonely. The Mutts4Trucks program benefits both dog and driver, because it brings a forever home to dogs in need, while providing truckers with a furry friend for the road.”Elizabeth Barrett, Pedigree brand manager
“We know dogs have mood-boosting effects on the people whose lives they touch, and we also know that life on the road for a trucker can be lonely,” Elizabeth Barrett, Pedigree brand manager, said. “The Mutts4Trucks program benefits both dog and driver, because it brings a forever home to dogs in need, while providing truckers with a furry friend for the road.”
One existing problem is that many companies have policies forbidding animals in their cabs, Ritter said. Mobil and Pedigree will collect data on the drivers that adopt the animals so they can quantify the health benefits of having a dog in the cab, hoping the data will ultimately sway companies to reverse policies.
“The next phase of this is to continue with these types of events… and start working with our fleets,” Ritter said. “Fleet companies have certain policies that say no dogs in the cab, so we want to work with them to show them the data we’re collecting that truckers are happier when they have a companion.”
Happier truck drivers tend to be more loyal to their fleets and healthier overall, experts said.
No new events are scheduled at this time, but Ritter said Mutts4Trucks is working with TravelCenters and in talks with Walmart about leveraging some of their locations for future events, with several adoptions taking place in 2020.
Even if a driver is not a full-time dog owner, Mutts4Trucks is looking to see if they can help relocate animals for adoption.
“We’re going to be looking for ways to leverage truckers who don’t want the full responsibility of taking care of a dog to help get dogs to where there is demand,” she said.
For Mobil, the end goal is improving drivers’ lives and raising awareness of the role truck drivers play in the American economy.
“I don’t think people appreciate when they go to a restaurant that the food was brought by a trucker, or when they go to the hospital, the medicine was brought by a trucker,” Ritter said. “We don’t want them to have a negative impression of truckers because they do so much [for Americans].”