Trucker plans campaign for drivers’ health

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Four years ago, Barry Pawelek, a 20-year trucking veteran, had a stroke – at age 54. Then one of his friends died of a heart attack, and another suffered a stroke. Three months after his own stroke, Pawelek himself had a heart attack.

Pawelek began wondering why so many truckers have heart problems: “Is it us or the job?”

His family had no history of heart disease. “Both my parents are 87 years old, and they’ve never had heart problems or cancer,” Pawelek said. “It had to be what I did for a living — the stress, poor food, the lack of exercise.”

People know that many truckers are stressed and obese, eat unhealthy food and are sleep-deprived, but no one talks about it, Pawelek said. He decided to help change that, by teaching truckers heart-healthy habits.

The American Heart Association told him that such a campaign could cost as much as a $1 million. Undaunted, Pawelek loaded up a trailer with nurses and informational materials and went on trial runs to the 2005 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., and the 2005 Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

Now Pawelek plans a full-fledged tour, the Campaign for Drivers’ Health, starting Jan. 1. 2006 and running for 18 months. “We’re going to do all five trucking shows, and then go through the top five truck companies and then the top five truck plazas, but some of them are not confirmed yet,” Pawelek said.

“We have a Kentucky tour trailer decked with a Sony tour screen,” he said. While the screen shows programs on a heart-healthy life, nurses will provide free health screenings, and American Heart Association volunteers will distribute educational material, Pawelek said., an online game company, will put up “Take Aim” game kiosks, where players can test their skill and learn about health, safety, road rules and DOT regulations, Pawelek said. High-scoring players could win prizes, he said.

Pawelek continues to search for sponsors. For more information, visit his website at