More Bad News on the Health Risks of Truck Driving

by Terry Bryant

Trucking companies are competing for the best drivers as a shortage of over-the-road interstate truckers in the U.S. persists. In 2018, the industry reached a 20-year peak for tonnage hauled, according to the American Trucking Association. Despite employing 3.5 million truck drivers, they estimate there is a shortage of 50,000 drivers. The pressure of delivering goods cross-country to meet “just in time” inventory schedules makes things even tougher for truckers. How can all of this not affect their health?

It’s a fact that long-haul truckers run a very high risk of developing health problems for no other reason than their work environment. There are serious medical conditions (obesity, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes to name a few) which affect many truckers’ ability to drive and could ultimately cost them their commercial driving license.

A legacy series of surveys over the past several years by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that long-haul truck drivers are more likely to smoke and be overweight and less likely to be physically active, compared to other U.S. workers.

NIOSH’s initial 2010 trucker health survey served as the foundation for a recent study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School, published in December 2018. The UAB researchers interviewed 1,300 drivers across the country. They learned that an elevated number of sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries reported by long-haul truck drivers are to their arms, backs, or necks. The surveyors were careful to single-out only long-haul truckers.

Results showed that 26% of drivers (the largest group of those surveyed) reported musculoskeletal injuries to their arms. Neck or back injuries came in second at 21%. The most common types of injuries were muscle sprains and ligament strains (60%) and fractures (11%). Most drivers (39%) said they were hurt because of a fall or due to contact with an object or equipment (34%). Of those injured, 53% had to take time off from work.

Other surveys by NIOSH in the last 10 years concluded that:

Sleeping Problems are Also a Way of Life for Truckers

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder which forces those who have it to repeatedly start and stop their breathing while asleep. Though there are several different manifestations of sleep apnea, OSA is the most frequent.

Factors contributing to virtually all sleep apneas can be checked-off from the list we provided above for trucker health risks: obesity, poor physical fitness, bad diet, smoking, and poor sleep patterns. Complications include fatigue, cardiovascular problems, eye troubles, and issues with medications after surgery. The immediate risk with truckers who suffer from sleep apnea is that they could become drowsy while driving, nod off for only a second, and cause a wreck.

Truck drivers with OSA who don’t get treatment have a rate of preventable crashes which are five times higher than truckers without the ailment, according to a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers recently estimated that up to one in five of all large-truck crashes results from drowsy or fatigued driving. Railroad engineers – who deal with the same challenges as truckers – are also especially susceptible to OSA.

With all that pressure which must be dealt with, maybe transport owners should focus as much on getting their drivers to destinations in one healthy and happy piece as the best way to deliver their loads on time and completely intact.

Those of you who have any questions about your truck accident can contact Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law anytime day or night. Reach out by phone (713-973-8888, or toll-free 800-444-5000) or the “contact us” feature on this web page to book your free case evaluation and learn how we can help you bring all negligent parties which are responsible for your injuries to justice.