Driving a 60,000-pound vehicle down the highway at 65 mph is certainly a dangerous job. Combine that with hazardous road conditions plus four-wheelers that are always in the way and simply keeping the truck on the highway becomes an ominous task. These are some of the reasons that there were 660 truckers killed in road accidents in 2016.
Although highway accidents definitely do occur quite frequently, there is one attribute of the job that is often overlooked but equally as dangerous as crashes; health. Truck driver health is something that is often ignored in today’s media coverage of the trucking industry. Instead, you see articles about those often-annoying ELDs, the driver shortage, and pay. Let’s take a minute and look at the stats to show that truck driver health is a pressing issue that needs to be acknowledged more.
How truck drivers compare to the rest of the U.S. workforce
It may come as no surprise that America is not the healthiest country. After all, we did invent fast food and eat it at staggering rates. In fact, 40% of Americans eat fast food every single day. Fast food’s low prices, taste, and availability make it hard to pass up on. So how does the health of truckers, who encounter fast food at almost every truck stop, compare to the health of the rest of the U.S. workforce? Let’s take a look at the stats to find out.
In 2010, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) surveyed 1,265 long-haul truck drivers at 32 different truck stops throughout the continental United States. The objective of this survey was “to provide baseline data about long-haul truck drivers’ health and safety, including the prevalence of selected health conditions and risk factors.” Furthermore, the NIOSH aimed to “describe prevalence of risk factors associated with poor health and safety outcomes within the long-haul truck driver population.” Here’s what they found:
As you can see, the health of long-haul truck drivers is worse than that of the national working population. Obesity rates are almost twice as high for long-haul truckers(69% vs. 31%). Morbid obesity rates are also higher (17% vs. 7%), the percentage of current smokers is drastically greater (51% vs. 19%), and the rate of diabetes among truckers is twice as high(14% vs. 7%). To make matters worse, 38% of the long-haul truckers interviewed have no health care, which means it is very difficult for them to afford medical treatment for some of the health conditions that come with life on the road.
Disease Risk for Long-Haul Truck Drivers
It may not come as a surprise that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found long-haul truck drivers to be at high risk for certain diseases that come with an unhealthy lifestyle.
“Our survey found a constellation of chronic disease risk factors to be present among LHTD (Long-Haul Truck Drivers). These included hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, and sleep duration.” — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Even with all of the high risk of chronic diseases, 83% of truck drivers “perceived their health to be excellent, very good, or good.” This suggests that many of the drivers are not accepting or acknowledging they are in bad health. Importantly, having certain diseases or health conditions can disqualify a driver from holding a CDL license.
“To meet medical certification, they (truck drivers) must undergo at least biennial (every other year) physical examinations as part of a medical screening process. Disqualifying conditions include diabetes mellitus (although there are ways around this), a history of heart disease severe enough to cause syncope or other serious symptoms, epilepsy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and addiction to illicit drugs or alcohol.” — CDC
Being able to keep their license should be enough of a reason for truck drivers to stay on top of their health. Furthermore, these conditions can be life-threatening in the long-term, but here’s the good news: these diseases are preventable. All it takes is a healthy diet, a workout plan, and, most importantly, commitment.
Curious to find out how you can lose weight, eat healthier, and have more energy while on the road? Stay tuned for our next article that will cover workouts and healthy eating tips for truckers.
Have you been able to lose weight by maintaining a healthy lifestyle while out on the road? Truck Driver Power wants to hear from you! Reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below.
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Lastly, thank you for reading and if you would like to reach out to me personally you can do so on Twitter @CharleyMeyer6. Be safe, be healthy, and keep on trucking.