Being an over-the-road truck driver is not an easy job, especially when it comes to the effects on health. Truckers are sitting behind the wheel for long hours and have few opportunities to stretch their legs or even get a minimal amount of exercise. Sitting too long often leads to a variety of health problems, as does stress caused by the deadlines they must meet; after working for a few years, they often find their health begins to suffer. Poor health can significantly increase the risk of accidents, posing a threat to both the drivers themselves and other road users.
Large trucks are difficult to maneuver; when loaded with freight, they may take 20 to 40 percent longer to stop than a car. Commercial vehicle truck drivers are required to have special training and skills. They need to have good reflexes, be alert and able to focus, and be aware of what is going on around them at all times to prevent accidents. When health issues keep drivers from being at their best, devastating accidents can occur.
What are Health Conditions that Lead to Truck Accidents?
A 2014 study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health revealed that 88 percent of long-haul truckers reported having at least one risk factor (such as hypertension and obesity) for chronic disease, compared to only 54 percent of the general U.S. adult working population. When you combine obesity, hypertension, and a lifestyle that includes little, if any, exercise, the risk of Type 2 diabetes is all but assured. Throw in smoking — which close to half of OTR truckers say they do — and the long-term outlook for a trucker’s health can look awfully dim.
The following are some health problems that can contribute to truck accidents:
1. Fatigue and Sleep Disorders:
One of the primary health-related issues affecting truck drivers is fatigue. Long hours on the road, irregular sleep patterns, and demanding schedules can lead to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Drivers with untreated sleep disorders are more likely to experience drowsiness while driving, impairing their reaction times and decision-making abilities.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has hours-of service regulations for interstate truck drivers for the purpose of combating driver fatigue. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long drivers may be behind the wheel, to ensure that they stay awake and alert while driving. Drivers must follow three maximum duty limits at all times. They are the 14-hour “driving window” limit, 11-hour driving limit, and 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits.
Drivers are allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. Drivers are not allowed to drive a commercial motor vehicle after being on duty 60 hours during any 7 consecutive days or for 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days. If more than 8 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty (or sleeper-berth) period of at least half an hour, a driver must take an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes before driving.
2. Cardiovascular Health and High Blood Pressure:
Truck driving is a sedentary occupation, often involving extended periods of sitting. Truckers therefore must incorporate a movement break every 30 minutes, even if it’s just for five minutes, but they often fail to do so. Sitting too long often leads to a variety of health problems. There’s a reason it’s colloquially referred to as “the new smoking.”
Abnormally high blood pressure (150 or higher systolic) is a symptom of hypertension, or unusually high blood pressure. Poor cardiovascular health, exacerbated by a lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits, can lead to conditions such as hypertension and heart disease. These conditions can result in sudden medical emergencies like heart attacks or attacks of angina or atrial fibrillation, putting the driver and others at risk.
3. Mental Health Issues:
Truck driving is often a lonely job, and the isolation and stress associated with long-haul trucking can contribute to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. According to a trucking mental health disorders survey, almost 28% of truckers surveyed reported suffering from loneliness on the road, while 27% reported depression, 21% reported chronic sleep disturbances, 14.5% reported anxiety, and 13% reported other emotional difficulties. Truck drivers dealing with mental health issues may struggle with concentration, focus, and overall cognitive function, increasing the likelihood of accidents on the road.
4. Vision and Hearing Impairments:
Noise pollution, whether from listening to loud music in headphones or being exposed to loud traffic, can approach harmful intervals and cause hearing damage for truckers. Prolonged periods of focusing on the road can lead to eye fatigue, dry eyes, and, in some cases, a condition known as “highway hypnosis,” which may affect visual acuity and focus. Impaired vision or hearing can compromise a driver’s ability to perceive and respond to on-road hazards, increasing the risk of accidents.
5. Medication Side Effects:
Some truck drivers may be on medication for various health conditions; others may take stimulants to keep from feeling fatigued. Some medications can cause drowsiness, dizziness, impair judgment or have other side effects that impact a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Failure to disclose or manage these side effects can lead to accidents.
6. Substance Abuse:
Unfortunately, substance abuse issues are not uncommon among truck drivers. Drug or alcohol abuse can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times, significantly increasing the chances of a severe accident.
Truck drivers often experience stress from pressure by their transport employers to reach their destination and make deliveries on time. This can impair judgment and cause them to speed and take chances that increase the risk of accidents.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, over-the-road truck drivers experience injuries and illnesses that force them to take days away from work at a rate of 298.7 incidences per 10,000 full-time workers. This number is about double the rate of other hazardous professions, and these injuries and illnesses can increase the chances of a vehicle crash.
Get Help for Bad Health Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died in a vehicle accident with a large truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses through insurance or a lawsuit. However, Kentucky laws for personal injury are complicated, and trucking companies and their insurers and lawyers will attempt to get you to settle for the lowest amount possible. Going up against them is not something you should attempt on your own, but an experienced Kentucky truck accident lawyer at the Billy Johnson Law Firm in Pikeville, Kentucky, can fight for your rights and a fair settlement.
Call us today at 606-437-4488 for a free case evaluation so we can determine the best way to help.
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