A health case for hours of service change

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Updated Nov 23, 2023

With the introduction of the 14-hour rule more than a decade ago, and its more rigid application with the electronic-logging-device mandate within the last year, it’s no secret many drivers are feeling pushed and rushed to complete the miles necessary to make a decent paycheck. The pressures on drivers are massive: complete on-time deliveries, finish the turnaround so they can find parking or return home before the clock runs out. The rush-and-push dynamic leaves little time for healthy eating and proper exercise.

To alleviate demands upon drivers’ time, many truck stops have long moved toward menus dominated by fast food, leaving little healthy options. This is all quickly driving trucking’s main commodity to an early grave. The average life expectancy of a truck driver in the United States by some estimates lags well behind that of most men in the United States.

With average life expectancy in the United States falling for the second year in a row recently, if an oft-repeated 17-year differential holds true today, that would make the average life expectancy of a trucker 59 years of age. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a driver today is 55.

Those who make the case for the hours of service status quo ignore the health and well-being of an American icon, the over-the-road truck driver, in favor of maintenance of the bottom line. Would it not be productive and cost-effective to reevaluate the hours of service rules and allow drivers the appropriate flexibility to make time for proper eating and exercise?

If the industry continues to kill off the golden goose, rush-and-push could lead to what no one wants – a rise fatalities on the road.

A fast-food diet can yield several detrimental effects on the body, a point underscored by this post on the Healthline.com website. Fast food is generally high in carbohydrates, with a minimum amount of fiber. Excessive carb consumption can repeatedly spike blood sugar, ultimately causing normal insulin reactions to fail, increasing weight gain and taking risk for development of type 2 diabetes to high levels.

Fast food is also high in trans fats that increase LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, escalating the risk of heart disease and again multiplying your risk for type 2 diabetes.

One of the ways the fast food industry makes its products more appealing is by adding sodium, a dangerous prospect for those with high blood pressure. High sodium levels can also lead to water retention, leaving you feeling puffy, bloated and/or swollen after intake. Overeating, too, often results from excess sodium consumption, leading weight gain and perpetuating a vicious cycle.

The complications from excessive fast food eating are many and extend through obesity to cardiovascular and respiratory issues and so much more.

I question why trucking companies and truck stop operators seem to ignore an ever-escalating problem. Why are fast food menus pushed upon drivers? Why do regulators, as well as our government representatives, seem to do nothing more than look for ways to drive out experienced haulers in favor of the untested new, thus conditioning the inexperienced to these realities – or, worse yet, moving hard to eventually replace the lot of them with automated trucks?

Carrier-written blog posts and truck-stop PR promoting healthy eating and proper exercise are not enough. Most power units are not equipped with a kitchen, and the amenities commonly offered to drivers only increase the problems — microwave meals and sugary drinks are often used in place of a healthy alternative.

Yes, the driver must step up and take responsibility for his or her own health. However, the industry can do its part by offering better choices with availability, considering less than 10 percent of product on the shelves can be referred to as healthy.

Greater flexibility, furthermore, in hours limits could serve to dial back the rush-and-push dynamic so many are succumbing to.

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