In trucking, we talk quite a bit about the care and feeding of freight hauling iron: the best components, the best fuel brands, the best lubricants, the best maintenance tips for maximizing fuel economy and truck longevity. You know the drill.
Yet in the not-so-distant past, rarely did the subject turn to the best care and feeding tips for drivers: the best foods to eat, the need for exercise, good restorative sleep, etc.
However, that’s a drill we’re getting to know much better of late.
Take Pete Thomas, for example: a truck driver who used to tip the scales at 415 lbs. No longer:
Exercise and sleep are important, for sure, but so, too, is the type of foods going into a truck driver’s belly.
That’s where Tom Kyrk comes in.
Kyrk, 39, a truck driver like Thomas, also struggled with his weight for many years. He began driving about a decade ago for a Texas-based refrigerated carrier and quickly learned that a sedentary occupation and truck stop food are a toxic combination – ballooning from 250 lbs. to more than 300 lbs.
While a doctor’s warning “scared him into losing weight,” he said, Kyrk realized exercise alone would not help him keep the weight off. He knew he needed to eat better as well.
As a result, he cooks in the cab of his 2015 Freightliner Cascadia tractor with ingredients brought from home or found at a supermarket within walking distance of where he parks for the night.
While some might scoff at his “mobile kitchen,” Kyrk (seen at right) not only turns out tasty, healthy food for himself with his "gear," he is trying to help other drivers cook and eat better as well.
Kyrk explained that he maintains two "kitchen" setups in his truck. One is a 12-volt kitchen consisting of two 12-volt portable stoves, two 1.5 quart slow cookers, a frying pan, a sauce pan/popcorn cooker and a coffeemaker (all RoadPro-brand devices, which is one reason he serves on the RoadPro Driver Council).
The other is a 110-volt kitchen with an electric grill, a larger crockpot and a rice cooker.
There are no solid numbers about how many over-the-road drivers cook in their trucks, Kyrk said, and only a few he knows do so exclusively, while a larger number mix cooking in their cabs with heating up meals brought from home and eating in restaurants.
But the longer drivers are away from home, the more likely they are to cook, Kyrk believes.
He added that the biggest obstacles to truck cooking are the driver’s lack of know-how, preparation, available cooking time and the desire, at the end of a long day behind the wheel, to get out of the truck and spend time with other people.
Kyrk is trying to make some of that easier; for example, by issuing his Rolling Kitchen Cookbook, an e-book that can be downloaded for free from his Road Tested Living website.
“I’m motivated to help other people and put a priority on that,” he noted, adding that Bob Perry of Rolling Strong – a fitness program for professional drivers – also lends support to his efforts.
Kyrk stressed, too, that his cookbook is “not all Broccoli and Brussels sprouts.” There are recipes for staples like meatloaf and mustard-coated pork chops, as well as desserts and snacks, he emphasized.
Kyrk also doesn’t expect to convert lots of truck drivers to eating cab-cooked healthy food immediately, either.
“I just want them to start cooking for themselves,” he said. “That’s the first step.”