Jon Wertheim, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
(SI.com)—The self-proclaimed Queen City of the Ozarks, Springfield, Mo., sits deep in the beefy midsection of America. It’s no coincidence that Prime Inc. is headquartered there. Just air horn blasts away from both I-44 and where Route 66 was born, Prime is one of the nation’s largest trucking concerns, with 6,400 long-haul drivers who can ferry 40-ton loads to either coast in two days.
The headquarters are a cross between corporate office park and world’s swankiest truck stop. As drivers await rig repairs or freight, they can luxuriate at Prime’s spa or use its library, weight room or basketball court. On a Friday in mid-December, a hundred drivers gather in a common room for a morning meeting. A supervisor congratulates them on an accident-free November, warns about misty conditions on I-70 and commiserates over new regulations that might add to their thicket of paperwork. The drivers—a diverse mix of ages and races, and more women than you might think—pay a level of attention usually reserved for in-flight safety demonstrations.
Their interest spikes, though, when the fleet’s fitness coach begins speaking. Wearing a high-wattage smile and a warmup suit that highlights his muscled physique, he evangelizes about self-improvement and health and wellness. Trucking is a profession with one of the highest rates of obesity and lowest life expectancies in the U.S. “I was almost an Olympic swimmer,” the trainer says. “That was my dream. What’s yours?”