Government numbers reveal that truckers suffer the most fatalities of all occupations, and not all of them from traffic accidents. Medical conditions account for some 20 percent of the deaths, and the latest research from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) points a finger at human factors linked to the on-the-road lifestyle. A recent survey suggests the industry is starting to help drivers mend their ways.
The research, due to be re-released later in July, shows obesity is rampant. Reporting on the research, the Associated Press (AP) noted that many truckers don’t wear seatbelts because their stomachs get in the way. About one in four have sleep apnea. Half of them smoke, compared to about one-fifth of all Americans. These are risk factors for high blood pressure and chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Truck drivers also report more injuries, such as sprains, than workers in any other category, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Many of them unload the goods they carry, risking back injuries.
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Regulations that would test the health of truckers as often as driving ability are now being considered, but Gerald P. Krueger, the Transportation Board psychologist who compiled the research, sees education, not regulation, as the answer. In an interview reported by television network WNBC, he said younger drivers know more about healthy behaviors because they’ve heard it in school. But the problem lies in convincing the drivers already on the road that they need to exercise, see a doctor regularly and eat better. He has spent decades researching occupational medicine and he’s heard all sorts of excuses, especially from drivers. He said his favorite line is, “Dr. Krueger, I get off work at 3 in the morning. You want me to go to Gold’s Gym and do what?"’
It takes a while to undo years and years and years of unhealthy behavior," Christie Cullinan of the American Trucking Associations told AP, "but I think companies are having to look at this because of the skyrocketing health care costs and related workers compensation costs."
An AP survey showed some companies have started to help themselves by helping their drivers stay healthy, introducing weight-loss programs, healthier vending machines choices and free blood pressure and cholesterol checks. It also shows some drivers are taking the initiative, by exercising during truck stops and cooking for themselves.
Source: Associated Press; WNBC