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Driver health still needs ‘intervention,’ according to survey of truck drivers

The news wasn’t all bad. The reported prevalence of health professional-diagnosed heart disease was significantly lower for truckers than for the U.S. adult working population (4.4 percent compared with 6.7 percent).

The Trucker Staff

1/15/2014

A study on the health of truck drivers published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that over two-thirds of truckers participating in the study were obese while 17 percent were deemed “morbidly obese.”

Also, 51 percent were cigarette smokers, compared with 19 percent of the non-trucking workforce, and 61 percent reported having two or more of health risk factors such as hypertension, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, no physical activity, and six or fewer hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

All of which led researchers to conclude that there is a “need for targeted interventions and continued surveillance for long-haul truck drivers.”

The news wasn’t all bad. The reported prevalence of health professional-diagnosed heart disease was significantly lower for truckers than for the U.S. adult working population (4.4 percent compared with 6.7 percent). And the amount of hypertension was about the same, (26.3 percent versus 24.1 percent in the general working sector).

But, there were more reported diabetes cases among the 1,670 truck drivers interviewed than in the general working population, 14.4 percent compared with 6.8 percent.

And only 51 percent of the truckers interviewed reported getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night compared with 64 percent of the rest of the working population, while 27 percent said they receive 6 or less hours of sleep a night compared with 30 percent of other workers. However, 22 percent said they get more than 8 hours of sleep compared with only 5 percent of other workers.

The study found that 34 percent of drivers fall asleep or nod off while driving, while 7 percent admitted they feel drowsy nearly every day, with researchers concluding that 15 percent of respondents showed signs of sleep apnea and 59 percent showing some sign of respiratory problem.

Truck drivers were eligible for the survey if they: (1) had driven a truck with three or more axles as their main job for 12 months or more, and (2) took at least one mandatory 10-hour rest period away from home during each delivery run.

Eligible drivers were administered the personal interview and measurements were taken. If drivers were not willing to participate in the full-length interview due to time or other constraints, interviewers administered a short non-respondent interview collecting eligibility and basic demographic information (gender, age, perceived health status, type of driver, smoking status, self-reported height, and weight).

Interviewers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) talked with truckers along both low- and high-flow traffic routes and at 32 truck stops in 20 states.

The data on the truckers was compared with data collected yearly by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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