Truckers’ Health Problems Create Roadway Risks
- February 17
- Evans & Herlihy
- Vehicle Accidents
Long hours, poor diet, a lack of exercise, and irregular sleep patterns put truckers at risk for a variety of illnesses. In fact, the occurrence of diabetes among truck drivers is 50 percent higher than it is in the general population.
When managed well, diabetes alone may not interfere with a trucker’s ability to drive safely. But some complications of this illness can make driving dangerous, and when a truck driver also has another health problem, such as hypertension, the risks increase for being involved in a crash.
A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that among all truck drivers, the rate of crashes with injuries was 29 per 100 million miles traveled. Drivers with three or more specific health problems experienced crashes resulting in injury at a rate of 93 per 100 million miles traveled.
The Prevalence of Illness
In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration interviewed 1,670 drivers at 32 truck stops in the United States. The results of those interviews were published in the FMCSA’s National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury, and some of the findings show just how unhealthy many truckers are:
- 69 percent were clinically obese, compared to 31 percent of the general population.
- 17 percent were morbidly obese, compared to 7 percent of the general population.
- 51 percent were cigarette-smokers, compared to 19 percent of the general population.
Interviewers also found that 38 percent of truckers had no health care insurance.
The Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Obesity and smoking are both risk factors for sleep apnea, which interrupts breathing when asleep.
Side effects of sleep apnea include:
- Concentration and memory problems
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irritability and/or depression.
The railroad industry may be one step ahead of the trucking industry, in terms of identifying sleep apnea as a safety risk and looking for possible solutions.
The Federal Railroad Administration issued a safety advisory, urging railroads to test train operators for sleep apnea in December 2016, following a fatal train crash in which the driver suffered from the disorder. Sleep apnea was also a factor in deadly train crash in 2013.
Federal law requires truckers who drive across state lines to undergo a medical exam that proves they’re fit to drive. Drivers diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea are forbidden from driving until they can show treatment has successfully resolved symptoms. Truckers engaged only in intrastate commerce may or may not be required to undergo a medical exam, depending on state law.
Managing Health Problems
With guidance from a healthcare provider and medications, truckers may be able to manage the effects of major illnesses. But when truckers don’t have health insurance, they may forego regular medical care. And the CEO of a health care company told Fleet Owner magazine that only 50 to 60 percent of truckers with diabetes take their medication as directed, due either to their erratic schedule or oversights such as leaving medicine at home.
High blood pressure, diabetes, and other progressive illnesses, when untreated or poorly managed, can cause a rapid deterioration in health. Those illnesses pose a risk not only to truckers, but to the safety of other motorists.
If you’ve suffered an injury in a crash caused by a commercial truck, contact one of the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at 1-855-414-1012 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.