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Long-Haul Truck Driver Health Survey Results

Posted on by Karl Sieber, Ph.D.


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.

Posted on by Karl Sieber, Ph.D.

18 comments on “Long-Haul Truck Driver Health Survey Results”

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 ».

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

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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

    You provide a valueable information about driver health they work hard to live there life and you clear that point for me.

    Appreciated and thanking you for sharing such an helpful information regard prevalence of diabetes truck driver health. Great job.

    Additional things that threaten truck drivers include “Left side skin cancer truck driver” and “whole body vibration truck driver cancer”. The left side of a driver’s face ages faster due to solar radiation, and the vibration is thought to increase prostate cancer risk and more. Google those topics for more info. ~A Truck Driver

    An element to eating healthy as a driver is having the proper equipment in the truck to do so. I have a large refrigerator/freezer/oven in my truck which allows me to purchase and prepare quality foods in the truck. Access to type of equipment is limited however, for the average driver. Also, have direct tv in the truck to fight the loneliness/boredom/stress.

    I believe supplying this type of equipment for any driver on a long haul and out on the road for weeks at a time is essential for driver health and well being. But it would take a recognition by the industry and public to treat truck drivers as members of society that are deserving of good health and happiness as society would have to bear the added cost.

    For that matter, unless society begins to recognize the plight of drivers and the sacrifices they make to deliver long haul freight and radically improve poor working and salary conditions, a current and future driver shortage will worsen to the point that freight gets undelivered and foodstuffs get left on the dock to rot.

    We need to follow such a diet plan to stay healthy and fit.Overweight is big issue now a day because continuous sitting.Keep sharing such blog

    Trucking sucks at so many levels, I to have had health problems from hours of behind the wheel driving, there is not always time to get exercise while you’re on the road for weeks at a time, always chasing the next load to make that pay check. I gained 60+ pounds in the first two years of driving. I value my health much more than the money, No more driving for me.

    Your body is your fitness center. Use your body and move as much as you can whenever you can. Make smart food choices and it can be done. Yes it is very difficult but you make the choice of what goes in your mouth and how you spend any free time you may have.

    very nice information! about truck driver’s health risks. as i am working in chemical equipment manufacturer company i am close to a number of truck drivers. they often tell me their risks and struggles. very tough job.

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