Unhealthy Truckers Pose an Even Greater Risk for Fellow Motorists
November 17, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- For most jobs, it is not important to be in tip-top shape. Many of the country's office, retail, administrative and public service workers are overweight or dealing with some sort of chronic health issue like heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or arthritis, and can still perform their jobs well. The risk to the general public is lower, however, for clerical or retail jobs preformed by employees in poor health than it is to for a long-haul trucker.
Long-haul truckers (also called over-the-road truckers) are some of the unhealthiest people in the American workforce. Studies performed by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine show that roughly, 85 percent of long-haul truck drivers were overweight, and more than half of all drivers are considered obese.
Studies by the American Dietetic Association and the University of Utah revealed more bad health news for commercial vehicle operators: obesity among long-haul truckers was much more prevalent than in the general population, and the percent of long-haul truckers who smoke--68 percent-- was also much higher than in other vocations.
The Risks Posed by Obese Truckers
Why does it matter if truck drivers are obese and smoke? In a word: safety. Overweight people are at higher risk for heart disease (which can lead to sudden cardiac issues like heart attacks), strokes, and premature death, which can be hastened by the high-fat, high-calorie fare sold at most truck stops. Smoking, as we all know, leads to a number of cardiac and pulmonary issues like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Furthermore, the sedentary nature of truck driving itself, sitting for long periods of time with a minimum of breaks (because the drivers want to cover as much ground as possible before they have to take federally mandated rest periods), can allow blood clots to develop that can move to the lungs, causing a condition known as pulmonary embolism, where a blood clot blocks arteries in the lung and prevents oxygen flow to the body.
Another risk factor for overweight drivers is a condition known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is usually associated with obesity, and it results in a number of oxygen flow stops during the night.
Each momentary loss of oxygen causes a corollary awakening of the brain, resulting in disrupted sleep that does not fully rejuvenate the body. Sleep apnea causes sufferers to be perpetually tired, chronically fatigued and prone to periods of extreme drowsiness, none of which is desirable for a person operating a multi-ton vehicle at high-speed, down a roadway filled with other motorists.
Change in the Works?
Commercial freight carriers are slowly coming to realize the importance of well-rested, healthy drivers. They are offering incentives like cheaper health insurance rates and bonuses for drivers who make positive changes like losing weight, stopping smoking and committing to an exercise regimen. Truck stops are cooperating as well, offering more healthy food options and some even setting up gym facilities that truckers can utilize while on breaks from driving.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is also getting involved, and is considering a rule change that would require drivers with a body mass index of 35 or greater (indicating obesity) to undergo testing for sleep apnea and, if apnea is diagnosed, requiring appropriate treatment for the condition.
While the commercial trucking industry and the federal regulators are making strides to combat unhealthy behaviors common among truckers, it may take time for improvements to be seen in the rate of truck accidents.
No one would dispute unhealthy drivers with chronic health conditions could cause accidents that injure or kill fellow motorists. If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision with a semi truck or other commercial vehicle, seek the advice of a personal injury attorney with the knowledge of truck accident cases to learn more about your legal rights and options.