Friday, March 16, 2012

TCA’s New Leader, Robert Low, Eager to Improve Driver Health

By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the March 19 print edition of Transport Topics.

Prime Inc. President Robert Low puts his commitment to improving truckers’ health on the line at lunchtime, playing full-court basketball with co-workers. “Driver health and wellness is a personal passion of mine,” he told Transport Topics this month during the Truckload Carriers Association meeting in Florida, where he was elected chairman and promised to make health and wellness a priority.

Low, 62, highlighted that commitment with a focus on longevity of drivers, whose life expectancy is at least 15 years fewer than that of the average American. “That is just not right,” he said. Drivers “just want to work and love to work,” Low said. “They are [literally] dying to work. We need to do something about that.”Other health facts are sobering.Low cited the fact that at least twice as many drivers smoke and have diabetes, compared with other workers, and only 8% exercise regularly.

While Low didn’t mention it, a study by the American Dietetic Association found that 86% of drivers are overweight or obese. That’s three times the national average for all workers (see story, p. 22). “If you care about your people, you have to follow through,” said Low, who added that he’s being realistic in thinking that it won’t be easy to get drivers to stop smoking, lose weight and exercise.

Low, who stands about 6 feet tall, continues his commitment more than four decades after filling the shooting guard position at Skyline High School in rural Urbana, Mo., about 50 miles north of Springfield, Prime’s headquarters.“I really enjoy the experience,” Low said of playing indoor five-on-five games. He added that workers sometimes dunk the ball over him. Before the court was built in 2000, lunchtime games were played in a truck yard, shooting at a basket fastened to a building and dodging trucks backing in and out.
He keeps playing because, “I really enjoy the experience,” he said.

Asked why driver wellness is a growing priority now, Low said, “We have a lot more information on the detrimental effects of sleep apnea. We understand how devastating diabetes is. It’s an epidemic — a progressive disease that is devastating if not treated.”

“These are conditions that can be corrected and cured with the right kind of health care and voluntary lifestyle changes,” he added. “We have the information; we have the knowledge; we know how to make it better.”Some pro-health steps already are being taken, both in the industry and at Prime, which ranks No. 22 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.
TCA has developed a health-screening kiosk and promoted wellness with a Weight Loss Challenge among carriers.

Prime has two full-time trainers at its fitness center to help with exercise, nutrition programs and smoking-cessation programs.The company also has a fitness center and trainer in its Pittston, Pa., terminal. Low particularly praised driver Siphiwe Baleka, an owner-operator for Prime, who has competed in triathlons and has produced a set of exercise and nutrition tapes for other drivers to use while they are working.

The tapes include push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches, the use of resistance weight bands and even yoga, Low said. There also are potential business benefits to improving driver wellness, as the driver population ages and a shortage becomes more acute.“We have to do this,” Low said. “You have to scratch your head and say, ‘What are we going to do going forward?’ to find drivers.” Low also pledged to step up the industry’s image-building campaign with a driver focus that was started by his predecessor as TCA chairman, Fikes Truck Line CEO Gary Salisbury.

“The image is very important for our industry’s drivers and their families,” Low said. Drivers “deserve to be respected like any other member of society, and in many cases that isn’t done.” Part of the image effort will be to continue programs such as Highway Angel, which recognizes drivers who help people in distress, and Wreaths Across America, which places wreaths on the graves of fallen veterans.

There’s more to be done on a broader basis with trucking’s image campaign, Low said, citing the success of the rail industry’s efforts. The railroads, with more than $70 billion in annual revenue concentrated at six large carriers, have spent as much as $50 million on their image campaign, he claimed, although an Association of American Railroads spokeswoman said later that AAR’s image spending was much lower.
The rails’ image campaign promotes their private capital investment and environmental benefits, using tweeting birds in the background of radio advertisements.

That campaign has been advancing at a time when some rail shippers are pressing legislators in Washington to boost rail competition, so far without success. Low said he’s looking for ways to increase commitment to upgrading trucking’s image from the diverse truckload industry, with tens of thousands of carriers. He’s backing that effort with a $5,000 personal funding pledge.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Robert Low (CEO & Founder - Prime Inc.) Named TCA Chairman

Published March 7, 2012

A long-time member of the Missouri Trucking Association, Prime Inc. is an active participant in MTA’s Truck Driving Championships and other activities. Internally, the company operates a successful charitable giving program that promotes education, health and human services, environmental and relief/development efforts and the arts, mostly for organizations located in the communities where Prime employees live and work.
The Truckload Carriers Association has appointed Robert Low, president and founder of Prime Inc. of Springfield, Mo., as its new chairman. Low, who will serve for the 2012-2013 term, was sworn in Wednesday, March 7, during TCA’s Annual Convention at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla.
Low established Prime Inc. in Urbana, Mo., in 1970. A decade later, he moved the corporate headquarters to Springfield. What began as a one-truck operation has evolved into a leader in logistics and international refrigerated, tanker, flatbed, floral and intermodal transportation, with a fleet size of 5,700 driving associates, 4,000-plus trucks and more than 7,300 trailers.
During his tenure with TCA, Low has served as Refrigerated Division chairman, at-large officer, secretary, second vice chair and first vice chair. He has participated in numerous committees and management panels, including the Carrier/Shipper Relations Committee, the Driver Recruitment and Retention Panel, and the Financial Oversight and Long-Range Planning Committee, among others.
For the American Trucking Associations, Low serves as a vice president at-large and a board and executive committee member. In 2000, he received the prestigious “Missourian” award, an honor given to Missouri citizens who have made outstanding achievements in the fields of business, government, or the arts. He also sits on the board of directors of Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn.
Low ensures that Prime Inc. is heavily involved with trucking industry projects and activities. For example, the company is participating in TCA’s Trucking Weight Loss Showdown, a battle to see which TCA-member team can lose the greatest percentage of weight (both individually and collectively) in a 10-week period. Prime also was involved with Wreaths Across America, an organization that coordinates veteran services and recognition through a variety of programs and educational initiatives.
Low says that he plans to focus on the health and wellness of professional truck drivers during his year at the helm of TCA. “Statistics show that our drivers die way too young,” he said. “Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, sleep apnea … these are severe issues that can – and should – be addressed. We want to attract the best drivers, retain them and then take care of them once they’re a part of the trucking family. TCA can provide the necessary education, resources and programs to help our members help their people.”
The theme of improving driver health is a natural extension of the positive trucking image initiatives championed by Gary Salisbury, TCA’s immediate past chairman, and many of the chairmen before him. These efforts have included producing and airing a patriotic television commercial viewed by an estimated 2 million-plus households; promoting a rising country singer who sings several positive trucking songs; ramping up the Highway Angel program; and producing an informative biweekly segment on a national radio program.
“I’ve been a proud participant in TCA’s many efforts to enhance the public’s image of trucking, and now I’m hoping we can reach out to drivers and potential drivers to build up their perceptions about a career in the industry,” said Low. “The mortality age of an over-the-road driver should not be less than non-drivers … it just isn’t right, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We can help drivers make better choices, exercise more, eat better and take care of themselves despite the nature of their jobs. We can make a difference for our drivers – we can help save the lifeblood of our industry.”
The following individuals were elected to assist Low and will serve as officers until the next Annual Convention, scheduled for March 3-6, 2013, at the Wynn Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nev.:
• First Vice Chair: Tom B. Kretsinger Jr., president and chief operating officer, American Central Transport Inc., Liberty, Mo.;
• Second Vice Chair: Shepard Dunn, president and chief executive officer, Bestway Express Inc.,Vincennes, Ind.;
• Treasurer: Keith Tuttle, president, Motor Carrier Service Inc., Northwood, Ohio;
• Secretary: Russell Stubbs, president, FFE Transportation Services Inc., Dallas;
• Assn. Vice President to ATA: Barry E. Pottle, president and CEO, Pottle’s Transportation Inc., Bangor, Maine;
• Immediate Past Chair: Gary Salisbury, president and CEO, Fikes Truck Line Inc., Hope, Ark.;
• At-Large Officer: Daniel I. Doran, president, Ace Doran Hauling & Rigging, Cincinnati;
• At-Large Officer: Daniel L. Oren, vice president, Dart Transit Co., Eagan, Minn.;
• At-Large Officer: Rob Penner, vice president, Bison Transport, Winnipeg, Manitoba; and
• At-Large Officer: Thomas Witt, president, Roehl Flatbed & Specialized, Roehl Transport, Marshfield, Wis.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Prime Inc. joins the TCA Trucking's Weight Loss Showdown

Watch Prime's video submission into the contest!

Trucking’s Weight Loss Showdown kicked off on Jan. 24, as teams of 12 drivers and staff from 11 TCA-member trucking companies throughout North America embarked on a special program to determine who can achieve the greatest percentage of weight loss in a 10-week period. The program, administered by Lindora Clinic, providers of medically based weight-loss and health management wellness programs, stresses a low-carbohydrate, low-fat, moderate protein menu plan coupled with exercise, nutrition education, and lifestyle changes. The first-ever Showdown is one of TCA’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and wellness of truck drivers and all trucking industry staff.

Learn more about the program here:

Prime Inc. and Success Leasing