Long-haul truck driving ranks among the deadliest professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Drivers are involved in an estimated 250,000 crashes per year, with 1- to 2 percent resulting in fatalities.
A recent study released by the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH) at the University of Utah recently identified lifestyle and occupational hazards of long-haul truck drivers and revealed they are likely contributing factors in truck accidents.
The study found increased crash and truck driver risk could be attributed to:
- High pulse pressure, which may point to cardiovascular issues,
- Fatigue, and
- Cell phone use while driving.
The nature of the job—which often involves unhealthy working conditions such as stress, long hours, heavy lifting, lack of sleep, and little exercise—plays a significant role in the poor health management of truck drivers, which is at the center of two of the risk factors.
Of truck drivers in the research, the 24 percent who were identified with high blood pressure had no previous diagnosis, nor were they medically treating the problem. The study also found that 62 percent of participants were considered obese, a number much higher than what is reported in the general population.
Authors of the study were surprised by the number of truckers who had high blood pressure, especially since they must undergo medical certification every two years.
“Conditions that are characteristic to a truck driver’s job may be putting them in danger,” says Matthew Thiese, Ph.D., first author and assistant professor of family and preventative medicine and at RMCOEH. “Being able to understand associations with crash risk, and bringing attention to them, will hopefully one day lead to fewer people getting hurt.”
In the study, “Factors Associated With Truck Crashes in Large Cross Section of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers,” researchers surveyed 797 truckers at truck shows and truck stops in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, Texas and Utah. Participants were given a basic physical exam and completed a self-reported questionnaire tracking crash history, indicators of health and mental status, working conditions, and lifestyle choices.
Statistical analyses identified factors that were significantly linked to crash histories, but additional research will need to be done to experimentally prove that the recognized factors cause an increased crash risk. The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Trucking / Inland Marine Panel Counsel Considerations
Insurance defense law firms that defend trucking companies and their insurance carriers will want to stay abreast of driver safety trends in the trucking industry.
About the Author: Law Firm Marketing Consultant Margaret Grisdela
Margaret Grisdela is president of Legal Expert Connections, Inc., a national legal marketing agency, and author of the book Courting Your Clients. She specializes in insurance defense marketing, employment law marketing, and serving as an outsourced legal marketing director. She welcomes all law firm inquiries. Connect via LinkedIn or at 561-266-1030.