We all know that truck driving isn’t the healthiest profession. Unfortunately, hours of sitting in a cab with little access to healthy food can lead to several health problems. While there has been a recent push in the trucking industry to provide drivers with more resources and opportunities to be healthier on the road, it’s still important to understand what health problems truck drivers are prone to.
We talked with Bob Perry, the Trucker Trainer , about the most significant health risks currently facing truck drivers and what causes them.
Bob shared, “Being a Professional Truck or Bus Driver is not the healthiest job. The combination of too much sitting, too little exercise, and an unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep disorders, heart conditions, and more. This can make passing the DOT re-certification exam daunting without education and support. After spending the last several months talking with TPA’s, clinics, carriers, and drivers to gather the most current DOT Exam results from the National Registry, the results we’ve found are very concerning.”
Bob continued, “What we’ve learned is that over 50% of our current drivers are on short-term cards, one year or less. Even more alarming is that over 300,000 drivers are disqualified each year from health issues. In most cases, these include 1. hypertension, 2. prediabetes, and 3. sleep disorders. How do these short-term cards and disqualified drivers affect our industry? We keep hearing about the 80,000-driver shortage, but what if we spent 25% of recruiting budgets on providing the resources to educate and rebuild our skilled driver’s health? Could we save 10% of our drivers? That 80,000 driver short-fall would look different.”
Obesity is one of the biggest issues facing truck drivers right now, and it’s associated with almost every other health problem on this list. According to the CDC, truck drivers are twice as likely to struggle with obesity than other US workers. Obesity can make it difficult to pass a DOT Physical, taking it from a strictly health problem to a financial one. Luckily, there are many things drivers can do to combat obesity while on the road. Consider packing healthy meals in advance while you’re at home, instead of relying on rest stops and fast food. Even small changes like using your mandated DOT break to do some light exercises or go for a walk can have great results.
The CDC found that truck drivers are 50% more susceptible to diabetes than the national average. A healthy diet and exercise are the best ways to avoid diabetes, but any driver over 45 who has a family history of diabetes is at a higher risk for it. Visit your doctor promptly if you start to exhibit any of the early signs of it.
It’s common knowledge that smoking is linked to numerous health problems, including heart disease and, of course, cancer. But did you know that truck drivers are twice as likely to smoke than other workers?
There are several reasons why a driver might pick up smoking, whether they feel it helps with fatigue, weight loss, or boredom. But, the risks heavily outweigh whatever benefits there might be. Of course, the obvious answer here is to quit smoking, but that’s much easier said than done. Luckily, more resources are available for drivers who want to quit than there used to be. Nicotine patches, prescription drugs, and behavioral therapy are all proven ways to help truck drivers stop smoking. Even vaping is a better alternative, though it’s not entirely nicotine free.
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is when a person’s blood pressure rises and stays risen for an extended period. On average, truck drivers are more prone to hypertension than the average person, and it can be caused by several things, including an unhealthy diet high in salt. Like many things on this list, making an active effort to eat better is the best way for drivers to avoid hypertension or keep it in check.
5. Sleep Disorders
Sleep problems, including insomnia and sleep apnea, are common in truck drivers. Unfortunately, they’re also deadly if gone untreated. If you’re not getting the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep a night, your body will try and compensate by “microsleeping” or sleeping in extremely small quantities (between 1-30 seconds) without warning. This is just an annoyance for most people but can be deadly when it happens to someone who’s on the road driving a 15-ton semi-truck.
Fortunately, modern medicine gives drivers many different ways to get a good night’s sleep while on the road. Depending on the problem, a CPAP machine or melatonin may do the trick, but visiting your doctor is always the first step. While truck drivers face more health problems than average Americans, these can be mostly be avoided through a proper balance of diet and exercise. Some issues, like diabetes and hypertension may be linked to family history, which is why having regular visits with your doctor is important.