Long Haul Driver Health Needs Improvement

Longhaul and over-the-road truck drivers increasingly are unhealthy, a University of Utah occupational epidemiologist told researchers attending a Jan. 11 session at the 2020 Transportation Research Board. 

Using commercial motor vehicle driver medical examination data from 2005 to 2018, the presenter, Matthew Thiese, said he and his co-authors’ 2018 study of 88,000 drivers concluded that 53% of those drivers were either obese or morbidly obese — and only just over 15% were of normal body weight. The study data, taken from 48 states, involved medical exams by hundreds of examiners, Thiese said. 

It concluded that in recent years drivers have exhibited “meaningful increases” in potentially disqualifying medical conditions ranging from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to sleep disorders and high blood pressure. “In my mind there is no question that drivers are becoming less healthy,” said Thiese, also CEO of SafeLane Health Inc., a Salt Lake City-based company that provides software to help trucking managers assess their employees’ health. Specifically, the cross-sectional study concluded that eight of the 13 potentially serious conditions significantly increased among drivers from 2005 to 2012. 

“Prevalence of multiple concomitant conditions also increased, with prevalence odds ratios as high as 7.39 for four or more conditions in 2018 as compared with 2015,” the study concluded. Asked to explain the rapid increase in poor health among truck drivers, Thiese responded, “I don’t have a great explanation for it.” 

Thiese said he and his colleagues are nearing completion of research attempting to determine the relationship between driver health and crash risk.

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