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Beat the Bulge: Fighting the HGV Obesity Crisis

British Summer Time is officially here, promising warmer weather, longer evenings and greener views from the cab seat. Spring also brings more fresh produce into the limelight, with seasonal ingredients making fresh vegetables key players on the plate.

There’s no doubt that life as a HGV driver has its plentiful perks – from the chance to travel the country to the flexible hours – but no career is without its drawbacks, and one would be foolishly naïve to claim any such remark to the contrary.

Over the years, various research and studies have shown that HGV drivers are showing a growing concern for their health in the form of nutrition. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety’s study of long-haul truck drivers classified 69% of respondents as obese – more than 50% higher than rates among other workers. Even more recently, the RAC found that 41% of lorry drivers reported that a lack of healthy foods on the road was one of their biggest frustrations – far more than company car drivers (21%).

Whilst campaigns could be lobbied to force road side shops and eateries to provide healthy options, for us at Barnes we feel the far quicker and more practical method to start drivers on the road to better health is to take full control of what is eaten by preparing one’s own food – and there’s never a better time of the year to start than now.

Obviously, the main obstacle to work around is the hours of shifts – those in the professional lorry driving industry cannot always eat their three square meals a day at the same convenient times. This is where some effort must be placed into preparation – taking half an hour to prepare all necessary meals ahead of when they are needed, so that they can be taken on the road as and when.

For breakfast inspiration, overnight oats are a perfect choice – filled with calcium, slow release energy, fibre and vitamins. A key staple of the modern lifestyle blogger’s ammunition (though this should be no reason to be put off!), overnight oats involve soaking porridge oats in milk (ensure it is skimmed) for at least 5 hours (or overnight) in the fridge. This is your base, and you can add any toppings you wish – berries, bananas, seeds, nuts, honey, spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg – you name it, it can be completely personalised to your tastes. The logistics of transporting (pardon the pun) and eating your overnight oats are key – and investing in a large amount of differently shaped Tupperware and a cool bag is vital to cleanly and easily storing your meals.

As far as lunches go, there is nothing better than a salad. At this point, many will be put off as images of limp, bitter leaves swirls in their mind – but this really does not have to be the case. Using your favourite lettuce, tomato and cucumber as merely a base (try to get fresh, in season and local for maximum flavour), from here you can re-create your favourite meals without the stodge, fat and extra calories, but instead work on hitting your 5-a-day with a range of different colours, vitamins and minerals.

Love Mexican food? Take your spicy chicken breast, onion and pepper mix as a topping and add sweetcorn, black beans and jalapeños. For those looking for refreshing Mediterranean flavours, try a Greek salad with flavoured olives, feta cheese and red onion, topped with a dressing of lemon, olive oil, garlic purée and oregano (store your dressing in a separate small Tupperware box and add just before eating it to prevent your meal from turning soggy), accompany with some shop-bought tzatziki and wholemeal pitta bread. There is no point in preparing a salad knowing that you are less than enthusiastic about it, as you will end up giving in to cravings if you’re not satisfied – you must work with the ingredients and flavours you know you love.

For those who cannot be converted to salads, never fear, there are plenty of other options. Instead of buying a sandwich on the road, make your own so that you can control the amount of butter or mayonnaise, or swap thick sliced white bread for a wrap or pitta. Homemade soups are ideal for a hot meal hit and can be easily be transported in a flask – try classic cream of tomato, carrot and lentil or minestrone, ideal for upping vegetable and protein intake whilst promoting the feeling of fullness for longer.

The key to healthier eating is, as it always has been, balance. Preparing each and every healthy meal ahead of driving may be stretch, so instead focus on smaller changes. Enjoy a hot meal from a roadside café if you have eaten a healthy, lower calorie breakfast; or if a bacon sandwich is your favourite way to start a morning, aim on reducing the number of days you indulge or only treat yourself if you know you will be eating your homemade, healthy meal later on – it’s all about balancing it for you.

We’re hoping these recipes and lifestyle preparation tips will encourage more HGV drivers to make that first step towards a healthier lifestyle and reduce the startling figures quoted at the beginning of this post – if you’ve tried your hand at these, or perhaps have your own creations, we’d love to hear about them on our Twitter page or in the comments below.

Pay-Per-Mile: The Best Route to Road Maintenance?

With both emissions and road damage becoming a growing problem, the UK Government is keen to implement measures that can tackle these problems head on. To do so, Parliament has proposed that a mileage and emissions fee is introduced, so that the raised money can fund the repair of road damage caused by HGV vehicles. The Department for Transport, on the other hand, claims that there are currently not any solid plans to introduce the scheme, although it has been confirmed that talks are in place to update the 2014 HGV Levy, which applies to vehicles of 12 tonnes or more. With road upkeep and repair costs of approximately £120 million incurred each year, we consider whether a pay-per mile scheme is the best route to road maintenance, or whether additional or alternative plans should be explored.

In a bid to receive ‘contributions’ towards road upkeep, the HGV levy is effective on all heavy goods vehicles operating on UK roads, with international lorries being required to pay relevant fees prior to entering the country – including Northern Ireland. Currently, costs range from as little as £1.70 daily, to an £830 annual rate, variant on bands. Due to the size and weight of heavy goods vehicles, there is evidence to suggest that the substantial number of vehicles travelling on Britain’s roads each day causes a significant amount of wear. Interestingly, the new scheme proposed calculates costs based not only on the potential road damage, but also on the level of emissions that individual HGVs omit.

However, in light of the recent news which found one in 13 lorries to be cheating emissions, we ask whether introducing a pay-per-mile scheme and changing the current levy should be the first port of call in receiving contributions from motorists. In the research conducted, of the 3,735 lorries assessed, 293 of them were found to be incorrectly publishing levels which were within the legal levels, when in reality, the levels were significantly higher and breached legal restrictions. To provide an equal and fair charging system for all HGV drivers, we believe the Government needs to address a greater problem first: the cheating of emissions. It is imperative to consider that with the new fee proposals in place, motorists and businesses may be further motivated to cheat emissions in an effort to avoid the payments. With this research suggesting that emissions are largely being cheated to keep the vehicle on the road for longer, as high emission levels require the vehicle to be repaired. Pivotal to this point is a concern that affects us all as individual road users: safety. It is crucial that we all maintain a vehicle that operates in accordance with our laws, as it allows for everyone to equally and safely use our roads.

Additionally, the proposal of a pay-per-mile scheme invokes a mild irritation within us as a company and within many other HGV drivers alike due to the boom in online shopping, meaning that the population demands more lorries on the road. The scheme, as discussed above, details how the levy and the potential new scheme would fund road damage caused by the significant number of HGVs on UK roads, however, whilst the number of heavy goods vehicles in operation has increased, so has the demand for HGV services. The demand is no longer excessive during seasonal periods, but rather constant, as there are now expectations from consumers for goods to be delivered next day, or in many instances, on the same day. As the industry attempts to meet the demands of online orders, even with an extreme shortage of drivers, further developments in fees are less than ideal when considering other areas of importance, such as attracting new young drivers to the industry.

So whilst we question the priority of some HGV issues in comparison to others, it is of course important to note why a pay-per-mile scheme is in discussion amongst industry leaders. Whilst international drivers are expected to pay a fee prior to entering the country, there is a critical view that the current system exempts international drivers from contributing to road upkeep. As a company who operates both in the UK and further afield, we at Barnes most strongly believe that all must pay their way. A HGV is a HGV, no matter where its company’s origins – it would seem that an element of fairness should be introduced with new laws, with all paying a rate to contribute to the roads they use.

What are your thoughts on the new proposals? Let us know on Twitter!