The open road, the hum of a powerful engine, and the vast landscapes stretching out in every direction – this is the life of a longhaul and over-the-road truck driver. But beneath the romanticized image of trucking lies a concerning reality. At a recent session of the 2023 Transportation Research Board held on January 11th, a startling revelation was made about the health of these road warriors.
Matthew Thiese, an esteemed occupational epidemiologist from the University of Utah, presented findings that painted a grim picture of the health trends among truck drivers. Drawing from an extensive dataset spanning from 2015 to 2022, Thiese and his team delved into the medical examination records of commercial motor vehicle drivers. Their research, which encompassed data from 48 states and involved medical evaluations by numerous examiners, was nothing short of comprehensive.
The results? A staggering 53% of the 88,000 drivers studied were categorized as either obese or morbidly obese. In contrast, a mere 15% fell within the normal body weight range. But the revelations didn’t stop there. Over the years, there has been a marked surge in potentially disqualifying medical conditions among drivers. From diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders to high blood pressure, the list is worryingly extensive. Thiese, who also holds the position of CEO at SafeLane Health Inc., a pioneering company based in Salt Lake City that offers software solutions to assist trucking managers in evaluating their employees’ health, expressed his concerns unequivocally. “In my perspective, it’s undeniable that the health of drivers is on a decline,” he remarked.
The study further highlighted that between 2017 and 2022, eight out of thirteen potentially severe health conditions saw a significant uptick among drivers. By 2020, the prevalence of multiple concurrent conditions had also risen, with the odds of drivers having four or more conditions being 7.39 times higher than in 2017.
But what could be the driving force behind this rapid deterioration in health among truck drivers? When posed with this question, Thiese candidly admitted, “I don’t have a definitive explanation for it.” However, he hinted at the broader societal issues, lifestyle choices, and the demanding nature of the job as potential contributors.
In a bid to further understand the implications of these health trends, Thiese and his team are on the brink of completing another groundbreaking study. This research aims to unravel the correlation between the declining health of drivers and the risk of crashes. The findings of this study could have profound implications for the trucking industry, emphasizing the need for proactive health interventions and policies.
In conclusion, while the allure of the open road remains unchanged, the health of those who traverse it is under siege. As the backbone of our nation’s commerce, the well-being of truck drivers is not just an individual concern but a collective one. It’s high time we shift gears and steer towards a healthier future for our road heroes.