Truck Driver Health Study Reveals Good and Bad News

by Jana Ritter - Published: 1/14/2014

Truck drivers got mixed health reviews in a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.  Truck drivers were eligible for the survey if they had driven a truck with three or more axles as their main job for 12 months or more, and took at least one mandatory 10-hour rest period away from home during each delivery run. Interviewers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) talked with truckers along major traffic routes and at 32 truck stops in 20 states.

Driver exercising

The good news is that US truckers reported a significantly lower amount of diagnosed heart disease compared to the rest of the adult working population (4.4 percent compared with 6.7 percent) and less hypertension as well (26.3 percent versus 24.1 percent of the general working population).

However, it was also found that over two-thirds of truckers participating in the study were obese with 17 percent considered “morbidly obese.” Not surprisingly then, there were more reported diabetes cases among the truck drivers interviewed than in the general working population, (14.4 percent compared with 6.8 percent.). More bad news, is that over half of truck drivers interviewed were smokers compared to only 19 percent of the non-trucking population and 

Another big concern is that only 51 percent of the truckers interviewed reported getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night compared with 64 percent of the rest of the working population. However, only 27 percent said they receive 6 or less hours of sleep a night compared with 30 percent of other workers who get less than 6 hours per night. Perhaps the biggest concern in this area was that 34 percent of drivers admitted they fall asleep or nod off while driving. Researchers concluded that 15 percent of respondents showed signs of sleep apnea and 59 percent indicated some sign of respiratory problems.

While the trucking industry has embraced a number of effective strategies to give the truck driver lifestyle a healthy overhaul, the study researchers conclude that there is still a “need for targeted interventions and continued surveillance for long-haul truck drivers.”

Eligible drivers were administered the personal interview and measurements were taken. If drivers were not willing to participate in the full-length interview due to time or other constraints, interviewers administered a short non-respondent interview collecting eligibility and basic demographic information (gender, age, perceived health status, type of driver, smoking status, self-reported height, and weight).

The data on the truckers was compared with data collected yearly by the National Center for Health Statistics.