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Common Illnesses of Truck Drivers

The job demands of a trucker make them more likely to develop common illnesses. What are these common illnesses, how do they compare to the national average, and what are the contributing factors?

The nature of a trucker’s job contributes to a high rate of common illnesses among truck drivers that often produce adverse long-term effects and even disability and wage loss. In this article, you will learn the most common illnesses long-haul truckers face, how they compare to the national average, the main factors contributing to these illnesses, and trucker health insurance options.

Most Common Illnesses Long-Haul Truckers Face and How They Compare to the National Average

Because of the environment that long-haul truck drivers operate in, they are more prone to common illnesses than the average person. For example, truck drivers have to deal with long, stressful shifts that can be very boring and lonely, affecting their overall health.

Obesity

Truck drivers often struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and tend to be overweight or obese. The CDC even found that compared to the average US worker, truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese. Often, obesity leads to other problems, such as high blood pressure, which can damage the heart.

obese man grabbing his gut.
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Diabetes

Besides obesity, an unhealthy lifestyle and diet increase the risk of developing diabetes. People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin to properly deal with the glucose in their blood, which can lead to additional health problems like heart disease and kidney failure. Around 14% of truck drivers claim to have diabetes, double the percentage of US workers with diabetes(cdc.gov, 2018).

Lung Cancer

Truck drivers are often exposed to large amounts of air pollution from cigarette smoke, as a large percentage of them are smokers, and to toxins from other cars and trucks on the road. Given these circumstances, truck drivers are more susceptible to developing lung cancer than the average person.

Sleep Problems

Many long-haul truck drivers develop sleep problems such as sleep apnea and insomnia, which can affect not only their health but the safety of others on the road. Poor sleep quality can hinder one’s ability to focus and stay awake while driving, ultimately putting others at risk. Studies show that 27.5% of truck drivers reported insomnia, and 25.8-51% reported sleep apnea.

Musculoskeletal Injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries refer to injuries affecting the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Truck drivers spend long hours inside their trucks without getting up and moving around. Sitting in one place leads to back and neck pain and can cause spasms. Back pain is one of the most common complaints of long-haul truckers and makes up one-quarter of workers’ compensation claims.

Primary Contributing Factors of These Common Illnesses

Truck drivers are faced with extended hours on the road and often develop habits that can be detrimental to their overall health and well-being. The demands of being a truck driver can make it hard to mitigate these common illnesses.

Unhealthy Diets

A primary cause of obesity and diabetes is the lack of a well-balanced diet. Truck drivers are on strict schedules and frequently need to eat on the go. Fast food is the easiest option for most drivers; however, these high-fat and high-sugar meals increase the risk of health problems.

Smoking

The CDC has found that twice as many truck drivers smoke compared to the average US worker. Smoking drastically increases the odds of lung cancer and can affect heart health. A survey from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) showed that 51% of long-haul truck drivers are smokers compared to 19% of the general population(blogs.cdc.gov, 2015). Truck drivers smoke for many reasons, including stress relief, fatigue, and boredom.

hand tapping cigarette over ashtray and cigarette butts

Low Physical Activity

Long-haul truck drivers tend to sit in one place for a long time and rarely get the recommended amount of exercise per day. Due to time constraints and difficulty finding parking, truck drivers often lack the opportunity to exercise. Physical activity helps manage weight, increase energy, prevent disease, and regulate sleep.

Insufficient Sleep

In many cases, truck drivers lack a sufficient amount of sleep which affects their mental and physical health. Truck drivers often chase a deadline to ensure they stay on schedule, creating irregular sleep patterns. Getting the proper amount of sleep helps maintain our immune systems, vital to staying healthy and preventing illnesses.

Trucker Health Insurance Options

Access to healthcare is essential in preventing these common illnesses truck drivers face. Based on their circumstances, truck drivers have different options for what insurance best fits their needs.  

Individual or Family Plan

Independent truckers can opt for an individual or family plan, also referred to as the Affordable Care Act(ACA) plan. These plans are acquired through exchanges with brokers or the government.

Short Term

Short-term plans provide less coverage than ACA plans; however, they are more affordable. However, these plans do not cover past injuries and illness and are intended for truck drivers that are currently in healthy condition. 

Organizational

Another health insurance option for truck drivers is to join an organization such as the Owner-Operator Independent Health Insurance (OOIDA) or the National Independent Truckers Insurance Company (NITIC). These organizations offer a variety of medical benefits at different price points to protect and insure truckers in instances of injuries and accidents.

Med Sharing

Med Sharing is a great way to cover doctor visits, preventative care, and medication. Medsharing uses a third party, or escrow account, to manage all covered premiums. Payments are sent to these escrow accounts and are often available to purchase all year.

Conclusion

The job requirements and long hours on the road make truck drivers more susceptible to common illnesses than the average US worker. Truck workers are prone to obesity, diabetes, lung cancer, trouble sleeping, and other physical problems. These illnesses are often the result of the high percentage of drivers that smoke and eat fast food and the lack of proper diet and sleep.

A little preventive maintenance goes a long way. Regular exercise and health checkups may prevent a host of issues. Coupled with good health insurance, truckers can put themselves in the driver’s seat for a long and fruitful life.