Study of truck driver health shows cluster of high-risk factors for chronic diseases

| January 17, 2014
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Truck drivers, according to a survey from NIOSH, are more likely to smoke and have other high-risk factors — like hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity — for chronic diseases.

A survey of nearly 1,700 long-haul truck drivers showed a “constellation of chronic disease risk factors” in long-haul drivers, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity and sleep duration.  

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health performed the study, results of which were published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine this month.


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Dubbed “Obesity and other risk factors: The National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury”, the study shows that truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese as the rest of the U.S. adult working population, as 69 percent of the drivers surveyed for the study were obese (relative to their body mass index), according to the survey’s results. Seventeen percent were deemed to be morbidly obese.

Moreover, 88 percent of the drivers surveyed said they had at least one risk factor — high-blood pressure, smoking, obesity, etc. — for chronic disease, compared to 54 percent of the general U.S. adult working population. 

A total of 3,759 drivers were actually surveyed for the study at truck stops around the country, and 1,670 qualified as long-haul drivers, which the study intended to focus on. 


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Of those, 64.5 percent reported being company drivers, while 35.5 reported being owner-operators, and 90 percent of them worked in the for-hire industry. More than 60 percent were between the ages of 40 and 59, and 17 percent were between 30-39. Another 14.8 percent were between 60 and 69. 

In addition the conclusion of the many high-risk factors truck drivers tend to have for chronic diseases, the study “suggests a need for targeted interventions to meet the health needs of [long-haul drivers] and surveillance through repeated data collections to track progress in meeting those health needs.” 

The NIOSH says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provided support for the study. 

“Truck drivers serve a vital role in our nation’s economy, ensuring the safe and timely delivery of goods across the U.S.,” said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard. “This initial survey helps us work collaboratively with the trucking industry on understanding how to improve the lives of truckers both on the road and at home.”

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  • Truckertwotimes

    I didn’t see anything in this article about ptsd from overpopulation on the highways

  • g

    Stress of all types is growing rapidly for truck drivers…ya cant even move without filling out a form or getting approval from a COP. lol

  • Gary Hull

    There was a couple of things about this survey. 1. It was done in a truckstop. Now in a truckstop when a driver would have time to answer a number of questions would be while they are eating. Most driver who try to stay healthy will not eat inside a truckstop. They will eat in their truck. A number of years ago I lost almost 40 lbs just by eating in the truck.

    Now if they want drivers to be healthier, they need to figure a way to get the desired results with positive motivation. The reason is simple. The harder the feds make it to be a trucker, the less experience there will be on the road. I like to put it this way. If you are driving down I-95 in a very bad snow storm, do you want that big rig next to you driven by some chap who is very healthy but is experiencing his first winter. Or some old fellow to may have some heart disease, and a little high blood pressure, that is under control. But he has 1.5 million miles of experience. Question: Who has the best chance of doing it right and keeping his rig where it belongs? The bottom line is the more regulations, the more experience will leave.

  • Hammerhead

    I think the Federal motor carrier safety Administration should Build Better Places That We Can Stop At. So We Can Get Out Of Are Trucks And Move Around Build Restaurants With Good HEALTY Food And Fitness Place Movie Theaters. Just A Place To Relex….

  • Bobb

    I say change the Body Mass Index to reflect what real people look like.

  • g

    Truck Drivers can almost NEVER get to a scheduled Doctor Appt…we are always on the ROAD…with little time off…Average trucker DIES at age 61. That is 15 years earlier than most. Truckstops have ELIMINATED restaurants with Salad Bar and healthy food….for CHEAP fast food dumps.
    The industry kills its own…in so MANY ways.

  • g

    Yea…like more Mustang Ranches! With swimming pools and jogging trails…excercise rooms and “massages” for relaxing….plus ample Truck Parking!! What a Pardise!!!

  • Ken Nilsen

    When the truck driver wants to change they will. If they are lazy they will not. I walk every day. It is an option open to every truck driver that stops somewhere. You can walk at the truckstop, just start slow and do at least 20 minutes per day. Walk 10 minutes at a rest area, walk at the shipper or wherever you load or unload. Just doing this can get you started on a healthier track. Start buying fruit at the truckstop instead of chips and a soda. Start drinking water that has the added benefit of being free. There are a ton of options out there for drivers who are willing to do what it takes to get healthy.

  • Jerry

    The Questions Carriers should be responding to: how many drivers reach pensionable age. (one study states, 11%). From the group of drivers whom began trucking before age 31 how many reached pensionable age. (one study states not one driver reached pensionable age.) From the group of drivers whom began driving before 41 years how many reached pensionable age.
    HOW many drivers with 18 years experience left driving with some form of disability. (one study states, 90% of the drivers left.) That study noted these disabilities: Cardiovascular 32%, back, tendons & joints 20%, psychosomatic disorders 21%.

  • jerry

    Roy Garber, star of A&E reality show Shipping Wars and long-time transporter on uShip, has died of a heart attack; Cardiovascular issues, are a real problem for truck drivers. Exercise alone, is not enuff. Emissions reductions, by newer motors will help decrease cardiovascular problems. But, these motors are too new & possessing a small percentage of new engines when compared to the total number of trucks on the road to date to have any meaningful affect. (With the exception, to that single driver.)

  • Ken Nilsen

    Congratulations on the big weight loss! I am headed that way myself!

    I fully agree with the first paragraph you have written. Those who are not lazy and care about their health will eat primarily in their trucks. I am currently doing that and walking everyday when I get the chance.

    I think paragraph 2 has nothing to do with the substance of the article. Regulations have done nothing to harm the health of drivers. Drivers are simply a snapshot of society. As society has gotten lazier so has the workforce. Blaming others and making excuses just makes it more of a problem and is an admission of laziness.

    Oh, and as a sidenote. 23 plus years here in the industry. If it is as you say “a very bad snowstorm”, I’m smart and not out in it. I see just as many “experienced” drivers in the ditch as I have rookies.

  • Lester Maloon

    Yeah these new engines are the answer all right they spend more time in the shop then on the road so Guess thats better health for the driver less miles less money to spend on food so you may be onto something here..RIP Roy Garber

  • Lester Maloon

    How about if the FMCSA Gives us a list of food we can eat and then make us log what we ate… If they they want to see if we are incompliance well we all know what that means LOL Just tired of all these studies that attack us good grief how about a study on this Anne Ferro character she looks a little out of shape her self and maybe she isnt fit for her job either Ya know with all the new regs she must be bushed at the end of the day.

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  • Truckertwotimes

    Psychosomatic, that’s me… although I didn’t look it up it just sounds fitting after dodging all the fools on the roads for so long.

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  • truckergirl

    Yes sometimes it’s hard to find healthy things at truck stops,and fast food dominates. The healthy items are there though. The truck stop doesn’t care about ur healthy they care about money. So if their veggie trays sell and their fast food doesn’t, they will bring in more veggies. It’s all supply and demand. We often choose fast food over healthy options cause we like it more and it’s cheaper. So let’s not blame the truck stops. there are more petros with fitness rooms now, but guess what they are always empty while the theater is full.If u wanna live healthy u can, u kinda need the right job though. Im a newbie, I drive less miles, make more money and take time off. Trucking doesn’t dictate my life, I dictate trucking! I bring fruit and veggies with me all the time. Yogurt, milk bread and sandwich meat are always in my fridge. I bring home cooked dinners. I go for runs. I go sight seeing, attend church on the road. I’m rarely stressed cause if I am I will stress dispatch back. I’m not gonna wreck myself driving around this consume crazy societies shit. Every job is what u make it. I’m staying emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. And if I wouldn’t I’ll quit! Because I can! And if u go on to tell me know u got bills to pay and need the money? What do u need it for? The big house that ur never in and ur wife sits around in alone? Ur new car that u never drive more than twice a month? Stop driving ur ass off to to buy stuff that u are to busy to ever enjoy. Live life better. Love life more! Work less, be healthier! U guys are all doing a great job!!!

  • GJ

    My husband drives otr and only home on weekends….I make his meals for the road and freeze them and all he has to is heat them up. He seldom eats fast food unless they keep him out 2 weeks…then he will find a Wal-Mart and get food there. Agreed that truck stops need to have healthier foods instead of grab and go junk

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