Truck drivers operate heavy machinery in traffic for long hours at a time. They encounter weather conditions that are difficult to navigate, such as heavy rain, high winds, and icy roads. They have to quickly react to other vehicles on the road that may stop short or cut into lanes without signaling. However, the less obvious issue of driver health can be one of the most important safety risks. Sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and diabetes are three prevalent health problems that can compromise driving ability.
The most common health issue doctors see in truck drivers is sleep apnea, which can be a direct cause of extreme fatigue. When a person has sleep apnea it means that when they sleep, the upper airway collapses, blocking the airway and therefore depriving the body of oxygen. The constant cycle of stopped and started breathing prevents quality, restorative sleep. Risk factors for developing sleep apnea include obesity, having a large neck, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, occurs when the heart has to work extra hard to force the blood against the artery walls each time the heart beats. High blood pressure isn’t always a direct cause of health problems. Rather, it can lead to a host of other more serious problems such as eye damage, stroke, and kidney disease. For these reasons, high blood pressure can prevent professional drivers from being able to get a commercial license.
In fact, until recently, federal regulations wouldn’t even allow most diabetics to be commercial drivers. If a person needed insulin therapy, they simply weren’t allowed to drive a truck for a living. Diabetes is the body’s inability to turn sugar into energy. Insulin is a hormone the body makes to transfer glucose from the blood into the cells; in the most common type of diabetes (Type 2), insulin is produced, but it’s defective. Uncontrolled diabetes can affect driving skills in a number of ways, including weakness, fatigue, confusion, and vision problems. Type 2 diabetes develops over time, and when a driver is diagnosed, they are required to take a break from work to start their insulin therapy. These days, if they can prove they can manage the disease while on the road constantly, they can apply for a waiver and hope to be granted permission to continue working.
Fortunately, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes are usually preventable conditions. Unfortunately, the risk factors for developing all three are common among truck drivers due in part to their sedentary lifestyle and tendency to eat unhealthy fast food regularly while on the road. Genetics probably plays some role, but all of these conditions can be reversed by making healthy lifestyle changes.
Poor personal health can have far-reaching consequences. If you have been injured in a truck accident or you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the personal injury attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm. We have years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Our knowledgeable legal team will work closely with you every step of the way and will fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Based in Pikeville, KY, we proudly serve communities throughout the Bluegrass State. Contact us today by filling out this evaluation form or calling us at 1-606-433-0682.