Licensed to Long Haul: Healthy Truck Drivers Becoming Federal Lawby Jana Ritter - Published: 10/31/2012
The push for healthier truck drivers is going a lot further than the incentive programs being established over the last few years, a new federal law is changing the standards of medical certification required to get any commercial driver's license. According to the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commercial drivers are involved in more than 4000 fatal accidents every year and almost 15% caused by driver fatigue or other health related issues. The demanding nature of work is reflected by the constant demand for truck-drivers on websites such as Truckingunlimited.com, but this new law demands a picture of health for future truck-drivers getting hired at all.
The new regulations are putting restrictions on the medical evaluation certification process for commercial driver's license applicants. Not only does this mean a more intense, thorough medical exam but certification based only upon health care providers specifically trained to do so. This federal law will make it more difficult for the drivers who “doctor shop” in order to pass their medical exams and the doctors more accountable for qualifying the drivers they shouldn't. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates 40,000 qualified medical examiners will be needed to perform roughly 3 million exams a year when the regulations take effect, May 2014.
Dr. Cowl, practicing Preventative, Occupation and Aerospace medicine at the Mayo clinic, is leading a group of specialty colleagues in establishing the training programs to certify medical examiners under the new federal law. Not only does he see this as a way to reduce the number of road related fatalities, but an opportunity to provide truck-drivers with the preventative care for good health over all. “I view this as an opportunity for health care providers to make a difference in their lives. It's their chance to emphasize the importance of preventive health care and get them pointed in the right direction in terms of pursuing healthier lifestyles.”
In addition to the long-term health problems that go along with the sedentary lifestyle of truck drivers who are more commonly smokers and fast food eaters as well, it has also been found that obese truck drivers are more likely to get in an accident within the first two years on the job.
Travel Centers of America, who own many of the highways truck stops and affiliated websites such as TheHealthyTrucker.net have already been finding a variety of other incentives instilling truck-drivers with a new healthier lifestyle. The TCS has installed gyms at 42 of the nation's highway truck stops and plan to add 240 more. Healthier menus are replacing the typically “greasy spoon” truck-stop diners and there are even new phone apps being developed for truck drivers to look-up healthy food choices and download maps of walking routes anywhere along the road.
While many truck drivers have already taken the initiative to benefit from these programs on their own, the new federal law will give them no choice but to be healthy if they want any truck driving jobs at all.