One of the most important aspects of being a professional truck driver is staying healthy. If your health is compromised, you aren’t able to handle your loads and deliver freight on a timely schedule. More importantly, if you develop certain medical conditions or health problems you may not be able to keep your commercial driver’s license. This is also the case for truck drivers who are put on certain types of medications to battle health issues. One way to be proactive about your health is to understand which medical conditions are more likely to effect you due to your occupation as a truck driver.
Most Common Health Concerns
Truck drivers operate on unpredictable schedules and work long hours, which makes it difficult to study this population. So for this study only 1,670 truckers working long haul trucking jobs were interviewed at random at 32 truck stops in the US. This is important to note, considering there are nearly 1.8 million truck driving jobs among heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The sample size is a very small number in comparison to how many long haul truckers there are over the road.
Furthermore, the study doesn’t indicate the haul types of this sample, nor does it note if the drivers are hauling for trucking companies like Mesilla Valley Transportation, P&S Transportation and Poly Trucking, or as independent truck drivers and owner operators. As you know some of the best paying trucking companies also offer health benefits, wellness programs, smoking cessation services, and weight loss competitions. Additionally, truck drivers have access to health and wellness services at truck stops across the US with walking trails, basketball courts, and gyms. So there are ways that truck drivers can be proactive about their health if they choose to be.
However, the study titled “Obesity and Other Risk Factors: The National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury” published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, does document certain conditions are more likely to be noted in long haul truck drivers. These include:
- Tobacco smoking
- Hypertension and heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Less than 6 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle
If you are a truck driver you already know this. Being in a sedentary occupation where you are sitting behind the wheel for 8 hours a day is akin to being an office worker sitting in front of a computer. You are going to suffer health problems because of this, no matter if you are an OTR trucker or office worker. Obesity comes from a lack of physical activity, which is the natural result of sitting in the same seat for hours on end.
Following along is the health problems associated with a lack of exercise and obesity—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. If you smoke cigarettes to help you stay alert due to a lack of sleep, then that only adds to your health problems. Speaking of a lack of sleep, getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep adds to your risk of health problems since you’re not giving your body time to recover during a full night’s sleep. It is a cycle that you can easily slip into if you are a long haul trucker working a steady trucking job.
Solutions to Trucker Health Concerns
While hours of service regulations and the electronic logging device rule are not the most popular government mandates among truckers, these come with their benefits. Hours of service regulations provide some enforcement of health safety for drivers that they may otherwise overlook. For example, the hours of service limits the amount of time you can be behind the wheel in between resting periods. It also enforces break times so that you have time to get out of your seat and get to moving.
Now for the ELD rule the safety benefits for truckers are still hotly debatable. Yet the main reason for these devices is to make sure truck drivers aren’t bending the hours of service rules to accommodate their delivery schedules. The idea behind the ELD rule is to prevent truckers from altering their paper logs so they can get more hours behind the wheel within a 24-hour period. After all, for truck drivers the sooner they can make a delivery, the quicker they can get paid and move on to the next money making load. At the same time, when truckers are doing this everywhere, it reduces the benefits of the hours of service rules, which are also enforced to keep truckers out from behind the wheel for long periods of time.
Truck drivers don’t want to hear about the benefits of compliance requirements for hours of service rules or electronic logging devices. Yet the reality is these two regulations were designed to reduce the most common health problems associated with the trucking occupation. If truckers are going to be required to use ELDs and this slows these drivers down, there will be negative consequences on the economy. However, for the truckers this should help to slow down the health costs of being a truck driver. And as a truck driver money might be important, but your health is the most important aspect of all.