Are Drivers’ Health Problems Causing More Truck Accidents?

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Fatal Truck Accident

A shortage of drivers has been plaguing the trucking industry for the past couple of years, and there is little evidence that it will get better in the near future. Fewer drivers in the industry means that seasoned drivers are asked to work longer hours, and new drivers are sent on long hauls before they are really ready to be on their own. Both of these situations may lead to more truck accidents. One reason for this driver shortage is the high rate of health problems among truckers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Health problems, low pay and difficult hours are among the top reasons truck drivers give for changing professions or leaving the trucking industry. A study conducted in 2014 found that a staggering 88 percent of truckers are dealing with health issues that could lead to serious, chronic conditions. Sitting in a truck for hours at a time can cause hypertension and obesity, among other things, and experts say that the nature of the job often prevents drivers from sticking to a good diet and exercise regimen. Increased stress and fatigue can combine with these other health conditions to create a deadly driving situation.

How Are Health Problems Causing More Truck Accidents?

Often, health problems like obesity and even smoking can lead to more serious conditions down the road. Diabetes and high blood pressure can increase a driver’s risk for heart attacks and sleep apnea. Fatigue is also a major contributor to long term health problems in truck drivers. According to NIOSH, 27 percent of truck drivers get fewer than six hours of sleep a night when they are on long hauls. This can result in drowsy driving and risky maneuvers, which can cause deadly truck accidents.

To combat the increasing risk of major health problems among professional truck drivers, some companies have started offering incentive programs and education courses to their employees. These include weight-loss plans, portable exercise equipment, healthcare memberships and programs to help drivers stop smoking. Since more than half of all truckers smoke and nearly 40 percent do not get healthcare benefits through their work, these programs can significantly increase drivers’ health. Improving the health of truck drivers not only helps keep the roads safe from drowsy and distracted driving, but might encourage more people to get into the industry, ending the driver shortage.

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