Health Problems in Trucking But Hope Exists


Substantial visibility has been placed on the high frequency of obesity that exists in the United States, and one industry in particular where the problem is tough to miss is trucking, according to an opinion piece written by Fleet Owner senior editor Sean Kilcarr.

He points to two new reports on the subject of obesity that have been released by public interest groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).

Kilcarr noted that the topic of obesity is highly contentious, as the concern is being used as a method of driving a wide range of policy changes. A perfect example is the recent regulations that New York city placed on the sale of sugary drinks.

Obesity statistics in America

The author noted that the statistics recently contained in the “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012” are worthy of perusal, since it would be alarmingly if only a fraction of them were valid. He said that the findings are worrisome in particular for people working as truck drivers, as these individuals need to work 11 hour days and spend a large fraction of that time sitting.

The report predicted that if obesity continues to grow at its current rate, 13 states will have obesity rates above 60 percent by 2030, 39 states could have a populace that is more than 50 percent obese, and all 50 states could be 44 percent obese.

The document also projected that if obesity rates continue to climb at their current rates, the number of new cases reported for type two diabetes, arthritis, coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke could increase by a factor of 10 between 2010 and 2020, and then rise at the same rate during the next decade.

Fitness and job performance

The author stated that various industry experts are worried about the fitness and health of the truck driving workforce since fitness and job performance are correlated. Rebecca Brewster, president & chief executive officer of the American Transportation Research Institute, stated in an interview with the author that “certainly, the more physically fit and healthy drivers are, the more alert and less fatigued they are.”

She added that “being physically fit also makes them less susceptible to injury as an increased fitness level gives them more body strength and flexibility – critical aspects when loading and unloading trailers, for example.”

Brewster referenced research data indicating that a few years ago, 55 percent of truck drivers were overweight and more than 50 percent smoked, which compared to a national average of 20.9 percent of Americans being overweight and 25 percent smoking, according to the news source. While this information is from the past, one would hope they would improve.

However, obesity rates are predicted to increase in the general populace during the next 18 years, which could result in a further deterioration in the health of truck drivers, the media outlet reports.

Road to success

At any rate, there is hope. TFAH executive director Jeff Levi stated that “we know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago,” according to the news source.

He added that “this report outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference.”

One example of a trucker who has opted for a healthier lifestyle is Rick Ash, who has changed his previous diet of fast food and coffee for green tea and water, according to USA Today. He has also started walking between 20 and 30 miles per week and lost 54 pounds in a year.

David Radke of Lee Trans Services