According to the CDC, the life expectancy of commercial truck drivers is 6 years old, which is 10 to 15 years younger than the average American male. This lower life expectancy is mainly due to the health issues that truck drivers develop during their lifetime–issues that they are disproportionately susceptible to because of the nature of their job.
While trucking attorneys and labor unions help fight for the rights of truck drivers, the average working environment of a truck driver is still an inherent cause for many lifestyle habits that lead to common health problems in truck drivers, such as:
Truck drivers are twice as likely to become overweight or obese than any other US worker. The reasons for this include:
Lack of healthy options. Truck drivers have limited access to healthy food options while they are on the road. Hence, they are more likely to consume food from gas stations, convenience stores, fast food joints, and other easily accessible sources. More often than not, these foods are high in calories, sugar, saturated fats, sodium, and preservatives.
Emotional eating. The stress, isolation, and lack of good sleep can lead truck drivers to eat excessively in an attempt to feel happy.
Lack of physical activity. Although the work of a truck driver is exhausting, truck drivers rarely get enough physical activity while on the job, leading to an increased risk for obesity.
Obesity can increase the risk of developing other health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, lack of libido, and more. When truck drivers become too obese, they may also become unable to work on top of having a myriad of health problems.
Studies from the CDC finds that over 70% of drivers smoke. While smoking is inherently a personal choice, many drivers find it necessary to smoke in order to stay awake and relieve stress.
Apart from cigarette smoke, drivers are constantly exposed to gasoline fumes and other harmful chemicals, thus increasing their risk of developing lung cancer.
Sleep apnea is a common health issue among truck drivers, especially those that smoke and who are obese. Sleep apnea is the condition wherein a person is unable to breathe properly while sleeping, causing unrestful sleep, loud snoring, mental issues, daytime sleepiness, etc. When the issue becomes too severe, people with sleep apnea need to sleep with a breathing apparatus so that can get restful sleep.
Truck drivers stay in the confined spaces of their cabins for hours at a time. Because of this lack of mobility, truck drivers are susceptible to all sorts of muscle pain, most especially in their neck and lower back. Moreover, truck drivers can also injure their muscles when improperly lifting heavy objects or doing strenuous activity after a long period of limited movement.
Mental health problems
The truck driver population is not only plagued by physical ailments–they are also prone to developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The common causes for this include:
Isolation. Truck drivers spend most of their time alone with little to no contact with others, leading to feelings of loneliness and depression.
Overthinking. Having no one to talk to and driving for hours on end gives one a lot of time to overthink. For some, overthinking can lead to an influx of negative thoughts which can affect one’s mental health.
Stress. Deadlines to meet, maintenance issues, problems at home–the job of a truck driver can be as stressful as any other. And without healthy outlets to relieve stress, truck drivers tend to bottle it up and let it simmer in their minds.
Another common health issue for truck drivers is dehydration. Because drivers have limited breaks, they may not be hydrating their bodies enough. Moreover, many drivers would choose not to drink at all to avoid having to pull over and cause delays in their trip, hence not enough water in their systems.
Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and increased sleepiness. In the long-term, constant dehydration can lead to kidney stones, hypovolemic shock, seizures, and even renal failure.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase one’s risk of developing heart disease. Given that many truck drivers are obese and smoke cigarettes, they are prone to developing heart conditions like heart attacks, coronary artery disease, and heart failure, just to name a few.
The best way to avoid these health problems is to have a holistic approach towards health. Considering the risk factors of these problems, truck drivers can reduce their risk by eating a balanced diet, getting regular health assessments, and exercising at least thirty minutes every day. They should also keep in touch with loved ones and avoid smoking as well as drinking alcoholic beverages.