A recent study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and American Transportation Research Institute showed that one in three truck drivers experiences sleep apnea symptoms. Not only does sleep apnea pose a serious risk while driving, it can lead to other health problems for drivers.
Truckers jobs are considered sedentary as they do need to sit for several hours a day. Many truckers are experiencing mental health symptoms due to extreme isolation and long hours on the road.
We’ve compiled a list of six frequently linked health problems to truck drivers.
Truck drivers sit for hours on end, rarely finding time to get in the recommended number of daily steps, let alone vigorous exercise. Whether the truck driver grabs a quick meal from a fast food joint or a processed snack from the gas station, they’re often consuming unhealthy options — and snacking in place of nutrient-dense meals. This sedentary lifestyle coupled with poor eating habits often leads to weight gain, and sometimes, obesity. If their eating habits and lifestyle don’t shift, obesity can lead to other health problems like diabetes, coronary disease, and sleep apnea.
Driving a truck can be an extraordinarily lonesome and isolating job. It takes you away from your friends and family with little opportunity to interact with others throughout the day, especially for long-haul truck drivers. Over time, this isolation can lead to negative thoughts and depression.
To prevent negative feelings from creeping in, truck drivers need to find ways to stay connected to their loved ones, keep their minds active with audiobooks or podcasts, or seek professional help when needed.
Because truck drivers are prone to lung problems and obesity, they’re at a high risk of experiencing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that makes it difficult for a person to keep breathing throughout the night, causing them to stop breathing on multiple occasions. This happens because the soft tissues in their neck collapse or their tongue falls back and blocks the airway. Because the truck driver gasps for air numerous times a night, they’re often left feeling tired and unrested even if they received a full night’s sleep. Sleep apnea can be extremely dangerous to truck drivers if left untreated, which is why truck drivers must undergo a sleep study before starting the job.
A recent study found that 67% of long haul truck drivers smoke. Apart from smoking’s detrimental side effects, truck drivers are also regularly exposed to diesel fumes and hazardous chemicals. Over time, this exposure can lead to lung cancer or other chemical-induced chronic lung issues.
A lot of truck drivers will also experience skin cancer because of their constant exposure to the sun. Although they’re sitting within the truck, their face and arms (especially on the left side) are regularly exposed to the damaging rays of the sun. This prolonged exposure can lead to sunburns, and over time, skin cancer. Even though truck drivers spend their days “indoors,” they should be using sunscreen to protect their skin from sun exposure.
When racing against the clock getting to a destination on time, many truckers restrict their number of stops. Because of their desire to limit their breaks, they may opt to reduce the amount of liquid they’re consuming throughout the day to prevent bathroom breaks. Additionally, many truck drivers opt for soda to accompany their fast food meal or a quick coffee from the rest stop, not providing their bodies with enough water to stay properly hydrated.