Recently there’s been a rash of articles about big rig drivers and the poor state of driver health. In addition to the physical toll on drivers, these findings have been cited as factors for the driver shortage, carrier productivity and highway safety.
Item: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a study indicating long haul truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese as the rest of the U.S. adult working population. In “Obesity and other risk factors: The National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury”, 69 percent of the drivers surveyed were said to be obese.
To make things worse, 88 percent of the drivers who took the survey said they had at least one risk factor for chronic disease, things like smoking and high-blood pressure.
Item: TheTrucker.com reported that in Washington State, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor
Surveillance System conducted a multi-year study of occupations and found that truck drivers had the highest level of obesity of any occupation.
Item: In a January editorial entitled Trucker Health and Wellness, Transport Topics began with “Perhaps in addition to reviewing trucking companies’ financial performance, it would be worthwhile to measure such things as the health of their drivers.” They went on to cite examples of carriers who proactively assisted drivers to improve and to maintain their health. “The need for additional strides in driver health” was endorsed.
Item: Anne S. Ferro, Administrator of FMCSA, has expressed concern over the high rates of driver obesity, sleep disorders, hypertension, smoking, heart issues and other health conditions. She indicated these conditions affect highway safety and contribute to a lower life expectancy for drivers long-term. She wants to improve the quality of life for drivers, she said, and went on a ride-along with an owner operator in November to see issues firsthand.
Drivers face several obstacles: long hours sitting; limited healthy food choices; sleep issues, noisy truck stops; tension from heavy traffic and bad road conditions; very few opportunities for exercise; hours that go against our normal body rhythms; time away from family and friends; etc. Doubtless, you can name more.
These articles raise some interesting questions. In a profession that’s known to attract men and women who believe in self-reliance, how welcome is healthy lifestyle advice? Are these numbers overblown? What should the role of carriers be in promoting a healthy lifestyle and how far is too far? If you agree that carriers have a role, then what’s the best way to promote healthy lifestyles to drivers?
These questions and others are in our online survey of professionals in trucking. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and Avatar Fleet will publish the results in March.
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