Health Concerns of Long-Distance Truck Drivers and the Risks They Pose for Other Drivers
Across the United States, a 40-hour work week is typical for full-time employees. Part-time employees may work less, and employers may require occasional extra hours from their full-time workers. However, eight hours a day for five days a week is pretty common…that is, unless you’re a truck driver.
Although you may not appreciate your job 100% of the time, you can put it out of your mind after your shift and go home to your loved ones. Unfortunately, truckers don’t have that option. When your workday consists of driving through state after state in a big rig, your “shift” becomes more of a lifestyle…and a dangerous one at that.
Increased Health Risks for Truckers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) frequently conducts studies to improve safety standards in the trucking industry. One correlation that they’ve discovered through their studies is the connection between a truck driver’s quality of life and the causes of truck accidents. In essence, a truck driver’s day-to-day living conditions affects his physical and mental health, which in turn, affects his ability to operate a large truck safely.
These risky health changes include:
- Diet. As a result of the limited food and meal options available on the road, truck drivers tend to have extremely poor diets. Truck stops and fast-food restaurants may serve large portions of unhealthy food, which do not provide truckers with the nutrition they need to focus, while also putting added strain on their hearts and overall health.
- Lack of exercise. The sedentary nature of the job—sitting in a truck for hours on end without access to fitness facilities—can wreak havoc on a trucker’s body. Common injuries that result from lack of exercise include hip, knee, and joint pain, liver and kidney disease, constipation, and even nerve damage (the sciatic and vagus nerves are especially vulnerable).
- Rest. The strict deadlines forced on truck drivers encourages them to ignore breaks and to drive through fatigue in order to make their destination on time. Unfortunately, the longer a driver goes without sleep, the more risk he takes for causing an accident.
- Sociability. Feelings of loneliness or sadness after driving alone for days and weeks can lead to drivers suffering from depression, anxiety, or another type of mental illness.
When truck drivers are unable to maintain their health, they also compromise their job performance. Unfortunately, even when they’re not feeling one-hundred percent, their jobs still involve driving huge tractor-trailers thousands of miles. If they can’t deal with their pain and anxiety, how are they supposed to care about the drivers around them?
Evaluating Health for Driver Safety
In order to decrease the apparent risks of poor trucker health and driving safety concerns, the FMCSA has worked to change regulations to require more efficient and accurate physicals for truck drivers. The new program went into effect in 2014, and mandates the following:
- All new U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) physicals must be performed by a qualified health professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
- All medical professionals who perform commercial driver physicals must be certified and able to prove that they have passed the standardized testing for commercial driver evaluations.
- All medical professionals must evaluate certain health concerns during the examination. Evaluations should include testing of vision, hearing, respiratory functions, muscular functions, and cardiovascular health.
- Once the evaluations are completed, the medical examiner can determine if a commercial motor vehicle driver is healthy and able to operate his vehicle safely.
For more information on truck driver safety, or to speak to an attorney about your options after suffering a recent truck accident, contact our office today. Attorney Steve Lee has over 30 years of experience handling truck accident cases. Let his knowledge and insights work for you: call 713-921-4171 today!