Truck drivers who deliver virtually everything we purchase account for nearly 15% of all work related deaths, and are more at risk than other Americans for a wide variety of health problems.  With a largely sedentary lifestyle, generally alone on the road, many have poor access to — and give low priority to —  healthy diet and exercise. 

When I’m on the road I often visit truck stops to get a small taste of the lives of truckers – some of whom I represent, and some of whom I sue.  The food available at truck stops is generally high in fat, sodium, sugar  and/or cholesterol.   Exercise facilities are  generally non-existent.  They are essentially fast food / convenience stores with showers, video games, diesel fuel pumps, and a lot of merchandise specific to trucking.  Truckers who spend nearly all their time on the road, pushed to make deliveries on sometimes impossible schedules, generally have little access to anything better.

Partially as a result,  obesity is rampant. Many do not bother to wear seatbelts because their stomachs get in the way. About one in four have sleep apnea. Half of truckers smoke.

Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering tightening its rules for conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.  That’s a drop in the bucket.

Some of the larger trucking companies have begun serious wellness programs.  Celcedon stations nurses at terminals to administer blood pressure and cholesterol checks.  Melton promotes a 12-week weight loss program and replaced soft drinks with green tea, water and diet drinks in vending machines at its terminals. Con-way cut workers comp claims 75% after instituting a wellness program.  Schneider screened its drivers for sleep apnea and provided air masks for those who tested positive to help them get quality sleep. 

Of course, all this relates not only to the health of truck drivers but also to the safety of others on the road.  A truck driver with sleep apnea pushing to drive long hours is a distinct hazard on the road.  So is a trucker with medical conditions and/or medications that may affect alertness and judgment.

So what should a truck driver do to establish better health habits, for himself, his family, and the safety of others on the road? Here is a link to truck driver health tips, including diet, exercise, smoking cessation, limiting caffeine and sodium.  Some now carry weights in their trucks and jog every day. (32 laps around an 18 wheeler equals one mile.) It would also make a lot of sense to stock up on healthy food — fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, water, etc. — every week rather than relying upon the junk food available at truck stops.  See A Survival Guide for Truck Drivers: Tips From the Trenches.

The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.