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Overall health of truck drivers poses risk to all on the road

We previously wrote a blog discussing the tragic June truck accident that claimed the life of comedian Jimmy McNair and in which actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was seriously injured. Since this accident, there have been many news reports about the dangers of fatigued driving and whether the trucking industry is doing enough to intervene and ensure truckers are complying with federal Hours of Service regulations.

While restrictions on the number of hours and times of day truckers are allowed to drive may help reduce some instances of fatigued driving, findings from a recent study indicate more needs to be done to address the overall health and wellness of commercial truck drivers.

In 2012 alone, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported that more than 3,900 people died in truck accidents. Fatigue is believed to be a factor in 31 percent of truck accidents. While there's no doubt that driving long distances can lead a driver to become fatigued, industry statistics indicate other health problems are also likely contributing to fatigued driving by truck drivers. 

A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reports that roughly 86 percent of truck drivers are considered to be obese or morbidly obese. More than 50 percent also smoke and more than 17 percent are diabetic. These negative health indicators combined with long inactive days behind the wheel increase the likelihood that a truck driver may not only fall asleep, but also suffer a heart attack or some other adverse health event while behind the wheel.

To address growing concerns over the health and wellbeing of truckers, some trucking companies have instituted wellness campaigns. Additionally some trucking travel centers now offer fitness centers. Despite these improvements, more needs to be done with regard to prevention, education and health screening to improve the health and lives of truck drivers and improve the safety of other drivers and passengers.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Long-Haul Truckers: Mobile Wellness for Mobile Workers," Shaan Gandhi, Aug. 12, 2014

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