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Long-Haul Truck Driver Health Survey Results

Categories: Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Smoking, Transportation, Work Schedules


The most recent issue of CDC Vital Signs highlights a few of the safety risks faced by truck drivers. Truck drivers also face health risks that can affect their livelihood. Limited illness and injury data for long-haul truck drivers prompted the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to conduct the National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Results were published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Long-haul truck drivers (LHTD) drive heavy and tractor-trailer trucks with freight delivery routes requiring them to sleep away from home most nights. In 2010, NIOSH researchers collected data from 1,670 long-haul truck drivers at 32 truck stops across the 48 contiguous United States. The survey asked questions about self-reported health conditions and health and safety risk factors.Truck_driver_infographic_12

The research revealed that over two-thirds of respondents were obese (69%), as defined by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, and 17% were morbidly obese (BMI of 40 or higher). In comparison, only one-third of U.S. working adults were reported to be obese and 7% morbidly obese. Obesity increases the chance for type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, cancer, joint and back pain, and stroke. These health conditions can disqualify a driver from receiving their commercial driver’s license and essentially take away their livelihood.

NIOSH developed an infographic to help explain these findings to truck drivers and provide helpful weight loss tips. We encourage the printing, posting and distribution of the infographic (click the image for the full size infographic).

The survey also revealed that more than half of long-haul truck drivers were current cigarette smokers —over twice the general working population (51% vs. 19%). Smoking increases the chance for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Although most drivers averaged over 6 hours of sleep per 24-hr period, 27% of drivers averaged 6 hours or less of sleep compared to 30% of working adults.

Self-reported prevalence of chronic conditions was based on whether drivers had ever been told by a health care professional that they had the condition. The prevalence of diabetes among truck drivers was than twice that of the general population (14% vs. 7%). The reported prevalence of heart disease in long-haul truck drivers was significantly lower than in the U.S. adult working population (4% vs. 7%). Twenty-two percent of long-haul truck drivers were either taking medicine for, or had been told they had, high cholesterol. Twenty-seven percent of drivers reported no moderate or vigorous physical activity of at least 30 minutes duration during the previous 7 days. There were no comparable data for the general working population.

More than half of long-haul truck drivers reported having two or more of these health conditions or unhealthy behaviors: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, limited physical activity, high cholesterol, or fewer than 6 hours of sleep. These factors increase the chance of developing preventable, long-lasting diseases.

So what do we do with this information? Findings from the survey provide baseline health and injury data that can be used to identify where intervention is needed and to guide the development of health and safety policy for long-haul truck drivers. The data can be used as benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of programs to reduce injury and illness. Our first effort involves the creation of the obesity infographic. We request your help in getting this information out to truck drivers. We value your input and welcome your ideas as well as your concerns and observations about this important occupational group.

Visit our long-haul truck driver health web page or the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector program portfolio for more information on NIOSH transportation research.

Thank you for your assistance.

Karl Sieber, Ph.D.

Karl Sieber is a NIOSH Research Health Scientist with the Surveillance Branch of the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies. He has worked in survey design and analysis and has developed approaches to collect hazard surveillance data including the collection of occupational exposure data in the indoor environment and from metalworking fluids.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. March 3, 2015 at 11:00 pm ET  -   Scott Liebert

    Finally truth be told now to fix the system
    Better pay and less hours per sleep
    Shipping and receiving no waiting

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  2. April 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm ET  -   Zach Thalman

    It is really interesting that they are monitoring the health of a truck driver. I guess it would be a concern if you were overweight because they spend a lot of time sitting. It would also be a concern because they aren’t very active. I am glad that they have taken interest because the health of your employees is going to affect the job directly.

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  3. May 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm ET  -   Rose Henderson

    They need to provide something for these truck driver to help them stay in shape. If there is a way they can give them a discount or pay for a gym membership that would be amazing. If they don’t they may end up losing a lot of their workers to these health issues. Apart from that, don’t you want your workers to be healthy anyway?

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  4. August 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm ET  -   Zach Thalman

    There are some hauling companies that require drivers to fit a certain fitness level so that they don’t get worse as they go do their work. I could see how sitting for long hours could be really bad for you. I would love to see what kinds of things they do for the drivers to help them stay in shape.

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  5. December 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm ET  -   Bob Fleming

    There are some interesting statistics in here, but there is a perspective missing. It comes down to choice. No matter how much the company or industry wants its people to be healthy, each individual must choose to be healthy.

    As somebody who spent 20 years as a professional driver, I will say that I did everything I could to stay healthy. I walked everyday, sometimes just laps of the parking lot, if that’s all that was available. I made the healthiest eating choices in the truck stops, which wasn’t always easy. Many companies offer fitness facilities at their terminals (some even get used) and have incentives for healthier lifestyles. But ultimately it comes down to choice. Each individual driver has to choose to be healthy, but it’s not the easy path, especially when on the road, so it’s not the common choice.

    Gym memberships are not practical, as there aren’t that many gyms on truck routes, or that have truck parking. I know, because I used to look for them. Many people don’t want those big scary, annoying trucks taking up their roads or parking lots at the mall.

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  6. May 14, 2016 at 9:52 am ET  -   Kathryn Clements

    Beautifully said Bob.

    Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is each American’s birthright. It’s hard to enjoy these fundamental rights without physical, spiritual and emotional health and flourishing.

    Kathryn Clements
    The Trucker’s Dietitian

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