Being a professional truck driver can be a dangerous and unhealthy occupation in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trucking industry accounts for nearly 15% of the nation’s work-related deaths due to accidents alone.
In addition, because of the physical demands placed upon them, truck drivers also report more on-the-job injuries, such as sprains and back and neck trouble, than workers in any other category, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
Added to the obvious physical danger that operating such a large piece of machinery poses are the many corresponding health problems inherent to the job.
Driving is often a sedentary occupation, requiring truckers to spend several hours a day in the cab and leaving limited hours to devote to their families or personal lives. In addition, the job is a highly stressful one. Most drivers are on the road, pushing to meet very tight delivery schedules, for up to three or four weeks at a time — sometimes more.
Science says sitting is the “new smoking” Why is sitting so bad? Here’s what happens when you spend too much time sitting:
- Blood flow slows down. This can more easily allow fatty acids to build up in the blood vessels, leading to heart disease.
- Regularly sitting for extended periods of time may lead to insulin resistance, which can cause Type 2 diabetes and obesity — two major risk factors for heart disease.
- The risk of blood clots increases. A 2018 study found 82% of people who suffer from blood clots sat for a significantly greater amount of time than the remaining 18%. Blood clots can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
- The body’s ability to process fats is slowed. When you sit, your body’s production of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme
essential for breaking down fat) drops by about 90%. When your body can’t break down fat, the fat is stored instead, leading to weight gain — which can contribute to hypertension, heart disease and premature death.
More work needs to be done to make truck driving careers healthier as well as safer. I believe we need more support from motor carriers to provide drivers with education. Driving awareness + accessibility to health screenings = results for drivers.
I believe more work needs to be done to make the occupation of professional driver healthier as well as safer. We need more support from motor carriers to provide education to drive awareness as well as accessibility to health screenings. Doing this will produce healthier outcomes for drivers.
Because of an unhealthy lifestyle and lack of good nutritional options while traveling, truck drivers are categorically one of the unhealthiest populations in our country. Several challenges are faced by this population.
It’s been noted in Global Insight that the average life expectancy of drivers is 61 years. Statistics from the National Institute of Health show that more than 50% of truck drivers are obese, compared to the national obesity rate of 26.7%. Compared to the general population, the prevalence of diabetes among truck drivers is 50% higher, and 87% of drivers have hypertension or pre-hypertension, compared to the national average of 58.3%, according to the Journal of Occupational Medicine.
Among the general adult population, 21% and 49% exercise regularly. Now, let’s look at the truck-driving population, where 54% smoke cigarettes and only 8% exercise. With the proper lifestyle choices, these drivers can reduce their risk of disease, and also increase their life expectancy and improve their quality of life.
These issues place additional stress on the drivers’ families as well.
What happens when the driver loses his or her ability drive, either because of failing health or a failed re-cert exam? Their livelihoods are in great danger with that loss of income.
We as an industry lose too. Why? Drivers are forced to find new occupations, leaving the trucking industry altogether. More times than not, these are skilled drivers — but they’re not so skilled at managing their health while living on the road.
This is where I believe carriers need to do more to make driving a safer, healthier job. If we want healthier, safer drivers and lower turnover, we must change the industry culture — and that starts at the top.
Most carriers think of nothing on spending thousands of dollars on truck technology to warn drivers of a potential engine breakdown on the road. It’s about time to allocate some of those dollars in driver health technology.
Known as The Trucker Trainer, Bob Perry has played a critical role in the paradigm shift of regulatory agencies, private and public sector entities, and consumers to understand the driver health challenge. Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.