For years, we have heard that truck drivers have a life expectancy rate that is ten to sixteen years shorter than the average person. The phrase, “studies have shown” is all across the internet and publications alike. The problem however, is the inability to locate the actual studies. The FMCSA, along with Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, have both stated that truckers live 16 years shorter than the average population.
Comments such as this are largely attributed to a “study” performed by Dr. Moore-Ede, a professor at Harvard Medical School for 23 years. The only problem is . . . Dr. Moore-Ede never performed such a study.
There have been other “studies” as well which have concluded that professional truck drivers suffer from various health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, low back pain and ulcers. There is no disputing the effects of a life in trucking and its toll it takes on the human body. However, there is no such study that I have ever been able to locate that specifically details any findings to conclude the lower life expectancy rate for truck drivers. Thankfully, that may be changing . . .
A $2.6-million study is being funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association over three years, and will be conducted by Michel Johnson, a New Brunswick professor. Johnson, who has stated, “Trucking companies are worried about losing experienced drivers in the prime of their life due to health problems”, will examine the health habits of 1,000 truck drivers in Atlantic Canada, and notes that it will be the largest study of its kind in the world. It is good to know that trucking companies are “worried” about us . . .
I have a problem with these so-called studies. It seems that the money involved always leads to the desired results wanted. We have seen doctored studies and results before in this country by the FMCSA such as the sleep apnea studies which we reported on in our Sleep Apnea Mandate post. Most recently, a report by Edgeworth Economics found that the FMCSA used questionable data in an attempt to justify its proposed changes to the HOS rules. In a report by Truckers News Magazine, an Edgeworth spokesperson stated, “Many of FMCSA’s new approaches rely on misapplication of available data, use outdated information or lack empirical support entirely.”
With reports flying all over the place stating that truck drivers now have a life expectancy of 61 years . . . I just do not buy it. Logic tells us all that the lifestyle of the professional trucker is one of poor eating habits, lack of exercise and terrible sleep habits. The majority of health problems that truck drivers face are largely due to poor diet and the lack of proper rest and sleep.
Between the years of 1992 and 1996, nearly 3,000 truckers died due to work related issues. During this same time period, truck drivers experienced the most fatalities of all vocations, resulting in a recorded 12% of all work-related deaths. In 1995, U. S. truckers also experienced more non-fatal injuries than workers in any other occupation, a number reaching over 150,000.
If truck drivers are living shorter lives than others, is it because of health issues associated with the trucking lifestyle, or is it due more to the dangers and hazards of life on the road or a combination of the two? Hopefully, this new “study” will settle the truck driver life expectancy rate once and for all and will not doctor the numbers to satisfy desired results.
My next question would be, “What will the benefits be from this study?” In the past, when I have brought up the work-load placed on drivers, the response I received from some trucking companies have been, “Well, find another job.” If the study does prove for once and for all, that truck drivers live shorter lives, will the FMCSA place further regulations on companies and drivers for the sake of their health?
The lifestyle of the professional trucker is obviously the culprit for poor health, but will this new study change anything? Will truck stops change their menus toward a healthier food choice? Will companies stop pushing their drivers beyond human capabilities? How will the results of the study prevent truck drivers from receiving an average of five hours sleep per day? Will the results actually change the trucker’s lifestyle?
Of course drivers have health issues . . . look at the lifestyle, but these professionals have chosen the lifestyle and accept the complications in order to provide for their families. Health problems come with the job, but I for one, would like to finally see an actual study proving that their life expectancy is 16 years shorter than the average person. If so, and the study is completely unbiased and accurate, I will then like to see what the industry has in mind to improve the lifestyle of the professional trucker; or they can just send me the $2.6 million and I’ll provide the answers to the “study” in about ten minutes.
© 2011, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.